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 11 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars:
Cornerback – Rashaan Melvin
The Jaguars lost three players to opt outs and lost their two most veteran defensive starters, Rashaan Melvin being one of them. Melvin is a league journeyman at this stage of his career, having played for 6 teams in the NFL. He was signed to the Jaguars earlier this offseason, likely as a stop-gap starter while they drafted a replacement for Jalen Ramsey.
With Melvin opting out, 1st round draft pick CJ Henderson will be forced into starting action as a rookie in an unfriendly 2020 rookie environment.
CJ Henderson vs. Diontae Johnson/James Washington
Defensive Tackle – Al Woods
Al Woods is a familiar name to the Steelers, having played for them in the the ’12 and ’13 seasons. He is the oldest player on this defense and brings a lot of experience to the table. Jacksonville declined Marcell Dareus’ 2020 option, so Al Woods was meant to serve as the veteran starter at nose tackle.
Behind him, Abry Jones and rookie DaVon Hamilton will compete for snaps this season. Abry Jones has 100 NFL games played. DaVon Hamilton was selected with the 73rd overall pick in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. By week 11 when they play the Steelers, it is entirely possible that Hamilton has taken over a good portion of the nose tackle snaps. Any injuries to this position could be troublesome for the Jaguars defense.
DaVon Hamilton/Abry Jones vs. Maurkice Pouncey