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End of an Era: Steelers Brace for Offseason of Change

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PITTSBURGH — On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers season ended, with the team suffered an embarrassing upset at the hands of divisional rivals Cleveland at Heinz Field in prime time.

Every sporting team’s season ends at some point, and most of the team, that means an unhappy ending except for the champions of the league.

The 2020 Steelers were no exception to that rule, as teammates like Maurkice Pouncey, Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster embraced on the field on Sunday night knowing that their time together this season had come to an end.

For this year’s Steelers team, the end is even more finite. While every team goes through its offseason changes, the Steelers are a stable franchise run by a family that values consistency above almost anything else.

“It’s tough,” Smith-Schuster said. “I sat on the field just taking it all in. You see Ben and you see guys who I’ve been with for the last four years, tremendous guys, not just players but guys off the field. I’ve learned so much and so thankful to be part of them and it means so much.”

And so the Steelers have been built over years, slowly and methodically, with players coming and going as a slow ebb and flow.

The 2021 offseason, however, may be a tidal wave.

The Steelers have 26 free agents this offseason and 21 of them are of the unrestricted variety. Before any of those players can be signed, the team will have to trim an estimated $40 million from its salary cap. That could lead to a lot of departures this offseason.

“Teams are never the same, whether it’s free agents, draft picks, trades, whatever it is,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s the hardest thing about this business. You lose some really good friends. Things always look different. Yeah, we anticipate it looking different.”

The uncertainty about what the future holds does not just lie in those without a contract, or even those without a large role. Defensive captain Cam Heyward said he feels that even his role for 2021 is not secure at this point.

“I don’t know,” Heyward said. “It’s totally possible that I could be gone next year. I don’t know what to expect. We are in uncharted territory to say the least, and changes have to be made. That’s part of the game. We all have to deal with this.”
Here is the full list of Steelers’ free agents:

UFA

DL Tyson Alualu
RT Zach Banner
P Jordan Berry
RB James Conner
SS Jordan Dangerfield
S Sean Davis
QB Josh Dobbs
OLB Bud Dupree
OLB Jayrone Elliott
OL Matt Feiler
OT Jerald Hawkins
NB Mike Hilton
OG Danny Isidora
OLB Cassius Marsh
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
DB Cam Sutton
LT Alejandro Villanueva
ILB Avery Williamson
DL Chris Wormley

SFA

RB Trey Edmunds
ILB Tegray Scales
OT Jarron Jones

RFA

WR/KR Ray-Ray McCloud
OLB Ola Adeniyi

ERFA

ILB Marcus Allen
C/G J.C. Hassenauer
ILB Robert Spillane

Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette Makes Hall of Fame Case for Former Steelers Guard Alan Faneca

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As the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee met Tuesday, The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette made the case for former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca.

Bouchette listed Faneca’s career accomplishments, of which there are many, and compared him to others league-wide and at his positions with similar credentials, demonstrating how it is long past time the six-time All-Pro received the football’s highest honor.

Selected in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft out of LSU, Faneca spent the first decade of his career in Pittsburgh before closing with the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.

Faneca missed just two games over his 13-year career, was selected to nine-straight Pro Bowls and named First-Team All-Pro six times. He was also named to the All-Decade team of the 2000s and won Super Bowl XL with the Steelers.

The Class of 2021 will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 8, 2021.

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Pro Football Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame Selector Bill Polian Makes Case for Former Steelers Scout Bill Nunn

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With the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee meeting Tuesday to determine the next group legends to be enshrined, Hall of Famer and former general manager Bill Polian made the case for Pittsburgh Steelers scout Bill Nunn.

In his presentation, Polian especially highlighted Nunn’s impact as a revolutionary in the scouting process targeting historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Nunn’s vital scouting these underrepresented players and institutions proved vital in crafting the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s.

“He was the authority, while working for the (Pittsburgh) Courier, on HBCU football. He might well have been termed the Scout-in-Chief of HBCU football,” Polian said. “Bill Nunn helped create one of the greatest teams of all time.”

A Pittsburgh native, Nunn attended Westinghouse high school and West Virginia State College before embarking on a journalism career with the Pittsburgh Courier. Eventually becoming the managing editor of the paper, Nunn gained notoriety for his black college All-American teams, highlighting relatively unknown players at HBCUs.

Nunn’s expertise translated to his career with the Steelers, where his scouting led the organization to draft a number of legends form HBCUs, including L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount, Ernie Holmes, John Stallworth and Donnie Shell.

Nunn would become the first Steelers nominated as a contributor if selected. Executives Art and Dan Rooney were inducted prior to the designation in 1964 and 2000, respectively.

The Class of 2021 will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 8, 2021.

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Steelers

Steelers WR Chase Claypool Named to PFWA NFL All-Rookie Team

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Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool has been named to the 2020 Pro Football Writers of America NFL All-Rookie team.

Claypool was honored along with Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson as the top 2020 rookies at the position. 

The Notre Dame product caught 62 passes for 873 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He also rushed for a pair of scores, tying Louis Lipps for the most touchdowns scored by a Steelers rookie with 11 total.

Claypool was the 11th wide receiver selected in the 2020 NFL Draft when the Steelers took him with the 49th overall selection. 

Claypool previously won the Joe Greene Great Performance Award as the Steelers’ rookie of the year.

This is the second straight season the Steelers had a PFWA All-Rookie member, as linebacker Devin Bush was a part of the 2019 squad. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and linebacker T.J. Watt were awarded in 2017.

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