The opt out deadline came and went in the NFL and 67 players decided it was best for their safety, and that of their family’s, to remain off the football field this year. The deadline came in the midst of major outbreaks across baseball teams in the MLB, which likely influenced individual player decisions. Despite safety protocols and frequent testing, the MLB is on a dangerous path that has left many wondering if the shortened season will make it to the end.
The NFL, and prominent names throughout the league, have had similar shifts in thinking as just over a month ago the league was “optimistic”, but now respected league veterans like Mike Tomlin are “not extremely confident” the league can make it through a full 16 games. Why would they be, after all?
The Steelers were fortunate to avoid any opt outs as many other teams around the league can not say the same. In this series, I will highlight the key opposing players of the Steelers 2020 season that opted out and what the projected match ups look like barring injury or further high-risk opt outs.
Week 7 & 12 vs. Ravens:
Offensive Tackle – Andre Smith
The Ravens came away from the opt out period relatively unscathed, but did lose a couple key role players. Andre Smith is a veteran presence along the offensive line entering his 12th season in the NFL. He is a familiar name spending almost a decade in Cincinnati with the Bengals. Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. will get the starting positions, but the plan was for Andre Smith to serve as the primary backup. Now the backup will be rookie 3rd round selection Tyre Phillips and 4th year player, Will Holden. Holden does have a handful of starts under his belt, but is viewed as more of a reserve lineman.
Wide Receiver/Kick Returner – De’Anthony Thomas
De’Anthony Thomas provides more value as a returner for the Ravens than he does as a receiver. Still, this loss will make their return unit a little bit less of a threat. Thomas joined the Ravens in the middle of the 2019 season logging 13 punt returns for 93 yards as well as 10 kickoff returns for 166 yards. These duties are expected to be handled by rookie receivers James Proche and Devin Duvernay.