Covid-19 has been a complicating factor for businesses all across the world, if not a death sentence for many. Even some of the biggest enterprises have had to approach with caution, such as the NFL, with many acknowledging that the uncertainty facing the 2020 season and beyond has largely put getting deals done at a standstill.
While things have started to change—we have seen some major deals get done lately with players like Patrick Mahomes, Myles Garrett, and Joey Bosa, for example—there are a lot of players who reside more in the middle or upper middle class of the league who have been stuck in limbo.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have more than a few of those players who are set to play out the final years of their deal, like JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, and Mike Hilton, all of whom are starters and have been primary starters for multiple seasons. Of course, there is also Cameron Heyward, though I still expect an extension to be reached.
Pittsburgh isn’t the only team in the same boat. The Cincinnati Bengals are just one of many. Right now, for example, they have A.J. Green scheduled to play under the franchise tag. Meanwhile, former second-round running back Joe Mixon is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Not that it is their intention to keep it that way. Earlier this week, director of player personnel Duke Tobin told reporters that Mixon is “an important part of our team”, and “a piece that we’d like to get extended and have around here a long time. He added, “typically, our extensions have gotten done during camp at some point”.
The Steelers, as with most teams, also get the majority of their contract extensions done over the course of training camp, with the exception of some particularly high-profile players, as when they got an extension done for Ben Roethlisberger early last year.
Over the past two seasons, Mixon has rushed for 2305 yards with 13 touchdowns on 515 attempts. He has also caught 78 passes for 583 yards while adding another four touchdowns. The team still believes that he is more talented than he has been able to show behind a makeshift offensive line that they hope they have been able to address.
That includes the debut of Jonah Williams, who was their first-round pick in 2019, but missed the entirety of his rookie season due to injury. He is expected to take over the left tackle position, which has been a source of instability since they allowed Andrew Whitworth to leave in free agency.