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 14 vs. Buffalo Bills
Defensive Tackle – Star Lotulelei
The Bills were one of many teams who had their defensive tackles opt out. Star Lotulelei was set to be the starting defensive tackle alongside Ed Oliver. After his opt out, Vernon Butler, is set to start in his place. Butler was signed on a two year contract worth $15 million this past offseason, so the Bills are well covered in this situation. Vernon Butler spent his rookie contract on the Carolina Panthers, not playing much of a role until the 2019 season where he logged 9 starts tallying 6 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.
If he is able to put up similar numbers in 2020, it would actually out-perform Lotulelei’s production in 2019. Butler is on the depth chart as the left defensive tackle in their 4-3 defensive front, which would have him going up against Matt Feiler. This is a different type of player than Feiler would be used to going against. As a right tackle, he would deal with taller, but leaner defensive ends and linebackers. Vernon Butler is listed at 6’4″ 330 pounds – at least something to watch as Feiler goes against much larger and more compact competition than he has in previous seasons.
Vernon Butler vs. Matt Feiler