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Despite Issues, Mike Tomlin Defends Pass Interference Challenge Rule

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PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin finally got a challenge right on Monday night, snapping an 11-challenge losing streak with a pivotal challenge that overturned the spot on what would have been a Miami Dolphins fourth-down conversion.

Sunday against Indianapolis Colts, he started another losing streak.

Tomlin challenged two plays in the Steelers’ 26-24 victory, both of them on the Colts’ final drive and both of them as part of the league’s new rule that allows coaches to challenge for pass interference.

The first was a defensive pass interference call against Steelers cornerback Steve Nelson. Nelson got tangled with Colts receiver Zach Pascal, giving the Colts 35 yards. The second, Tomlin challenged that Pascal pushed off against Nelson for a 19-yard gain.

Neither was overturned.

In many ways, that result is unsurprising. The league has adjusted the standard for what it takes to overturn a pass interference call in-season, making for what Tomlin has called a “moving target.” Right now, that seems overwhelmingly skewed toward sticking with the call on the field.

The Colts were also victimized by the same theory in a call that went against Marvel Tell in the fourth quarter. Tomlin is aware of the current trend, but says his challenges were still worth the risk of losing a timeout.

“I know I’m running on the beach in that regard, but given the circumstances and the gravity of those plays, it was worth the risk,” Tomlin said. “Though the risk, I acknowledge, was extremely high.”
If All Pro kicker Adam Vinatieri had made his 42-yard field goal at the game’s end, the Steelers would have had just 1:11 and one timeout to attempt a game-winning drive. Enough time, but certainly cutting it close.

While the calls on the final drive didn’t go Tomlin’s way, the stands behind the decision made by the NFL competition committee to allow challenges on pass interference, stemming from a blown call in the NFC Championship Game in January. Tomlin is a part of that committee.

“We all agreed that something needed to be done based on what transpired in January football,” he said. “We have all be very transparent about that. That has been written and talked about over and over again. And so, my position doesn’t change based on what happens in the stadiums here moving forward. We made the right decisions, we did the things that we needed to do to preserve the integrity of the game, to safe guard the game in the appropriate ways.

“It didn’t fall in my favor today. Such is life.”

Steelers

Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp

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There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.

“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”

Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.

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NFL Network Analysts Call Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 3rd-Best in AFC North

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It appears that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, with both Roethlisberger’s agent and team president Art Rooney II making public statements that each party desires a return for 2021 this week.

But how much of a difference-maker will Roethlisberger be? That depends on his level of play this coming season.

NFL Network analysts and former NFL players Willie McGinest and LaDainian Tomlinson each ranked the quarterbacks of the AFC North and both said they think Roethlisberger is the third-best quarterback in the division, behind Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.

“I’m not taking anything away from Ben,” McGinest said. “Lamar Jackson is special and I put Baker in front of Ben because of what we’ve seen in the progression of Baker the last couple of years. … I see him getting better and Ben fighting father time, with the skills diminishing just a little bit.”

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve seen, in spurts, Big Ben play well. He started out hot. But he didn’t finish so well. … He looked old and beat up toward the end of the season. I’m just not sure that improves.”

Statistically, Roethlisberger finished first amongst the four AFC North passers in completion percentage, but he was fourth in yards per attempt and third in passer rating and QBR. Pro Football Focus ranked Roethlisberger last of the division’s four starters in 2020.

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NFL Head Coach: Bud Dupree’s Injury Cause for Uncertainty Entering Free Agency

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Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is set to hit free agency in a matter of weeks, but one head coach believes he could be waiting a while to sign.

Speaking with FanSided’s Matt Lombardo, an NFL head coach, speaking anonymously, said Dupree’s season-ending knee injury has made his free agency outlook uncertain.

“Bud Dupree is someone that is a real question mark for me,” the head coach told FanSided. “If he was healthy, he’s easily the top pass-rusher hitting the open market, and teams would pay a king’s ransom to sign him. But, with him coming off a torn ACL, what exactly are you committing to? Does he want to go back to Pittsburgh? Who knows, but he’s someone that I think will wind up having to wait a while to sign.”

Lombardo compares Dupree’s situation to Tennessee Titans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney last offseason.

While he had not suffered a significant injury the season prior with the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks, Clowney signed with Tennessee on just a one-year, $12-million deal. He had been expected to be paid handsomely on a lengthier contract, which obviously did not come to fruition.

Clowney was virtually invisible for the Titans, recording no sacks in eight games before being placed on injured reserve in November.

Due to his torn ACL, Dupree could find himself having to settle on a cheaper, one-year “prove it” deal as well. Ideally he would then cash in during the 2022 free agency period is all goes as planned.

Dupree was having another stellar season before tearing his ACL in the Steelers’ Week 12 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He had eight sacks, eight tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hits and a pair of forced fumbles through eleven games.

After playing last season under the franchise tag, which paid Dupree $15.828 million, the Steelers’ dire salary cap situation will most likely prevent them from bringing him back. Still, the brass of the organization has expressed their desire to do so if circumstances were different.

While the knee injury remains a concern, Dupree shared he was ahead of schedule in his recovery when he joined NFL Network’s Good Morning Football late last month.

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