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 6 & 17 vs. Browns:
Defensive Tackle – Andrew Billings
Andrew Billings, who logged 30 games with the Cincinnati Bengals over the last two seasons, was signed by the Browns on a one year prove it deal to shore up the middle of their defensive line. The Browns will instead roll out Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi as their defensive tackles. This is the same pair from a year ago that allowed the 3rd most (144.7) rushing yards per game in the NFL. Andrew Billings was at least part of their response to the rushing defense struggles.
The Steelers are set to have David DeCastro in the right guard position for 2020. DeCastro should benefit the most from this opt out going against Ogunjobi – 6’3″ 304 lbs – rather than Andrew Billings – 6’1″ 328 lbs. That is a large difference as Billings is shorter and heavier, ideal for a defensive tackle, similar in the mold of Casey Hampton.
David DeCastro vs. Larry Ogunjobi
Guard – Drew Forbes
Guard – Colby Gossett
Guard – Malcolm Pridgeon
Drew Forbes is the biggest name in this slew of Guards that opted out for the Browns in 2020. Forbes was set to compete for a starting position or for the primary interior swing lineman spot. Regardless, the depth is now completely decimated in the interior line. Its a good bet that at some point in the season, whether due to injury or the covid reserve list, that the depth will become necessary.
While these opt outs may not effect the Steelers matchup with the Browns in week 6, the Browns will be just one injury away from an unenviable position. Steeler-turned-Browns player, Chris Hubbard, will likely assume the swing interior role and be the primary backup all across the interior offensive line.