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From the Locker Room: Hodges, DeCastro on Dealing with Loss of Rudolph

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PITTSBURGH – The Steelers were left with a sense of loss that goes well beyond just the final score following their 26-23 defeat at the hands of Baltimore on Sunday at Heinz Field. Mason Rudolph, who had been starting admirably for the injured Ben Roethlisberger, left the game with a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Earl Thomas. Pittsburgh’s next man up mentality was on display yet again when Devlin Hodges came in and replaced Rudolph.

All of a sudden Hodges found himself going from the practice squad the playing in an NFL regular season game against a hated rival. Hodges detailed his thought process when he saw his teammate laying on the field and how comfortable he is with the offensive game plan.

David DeCastro put everything into perspective for reporters while explaining the risk each player takes by just being out there on the field. DeCastro also touched on the decision to defer, putting the defense on the field first to start overtime.

While it won’t be easy, especially with seemingly every obstacle possible having occurred to this point, veterans like DeCastro will now face the challenge of keeping this team focused on what’s ahead. Next up for Pittsburgh is Philip Rivers and the Chargers in Los Angeles.

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Steelers Place Samuels, Washington on COVID-19 List, Release 8

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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels and wide receiver James Washington have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced Sunday.

This brings the team total to four players on the reserve/COVID-19. Pittsburgh placed defensive backs Justin Layne and Arrion Springs on the list last week.

The team also announced the release of eight players on Sunday. Quarterback J.T. Barrett, running back Ralph Webb, returner Quadree Henderson, offensive lineman Christian Montano, long snapper Christian Kuntz, defensive end Dewayne Hendrix, safety Tyree Kinnel and defensive end Josiah Coatney were all waived. Henderson and Hendrix were former standouts at Pitt, while Kuntz played his college ball at Duquesne.

The reserve/COVID-19 designation was created for players who have either tested positive for the virus, or have been in close contact with an infected individual. Players can be removed from the list once they have been medically cleared. There is no limit to the amount of players a club can place on the list.

A second-round pick in 2018 out of Oklahoma State, Washington is coming off a productive sophomore season that saw him catch 44 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns. He played in 15 games last year, starting ten.

Selected in the fifth round of the same draft out of NC State, Samuels has turned into a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield, snagging 47 receptions for 305 yards and a score in 2019. He also carried the ball 66 times for 175 yards and a touchdown.

While they are not the first Steelers to receive the designation, Samuels and Washington are definitely more crucial to the team’s immediate plans than Layne and Springs. Getting them healthy and back on the field will be paramount, as the Steelers look to improve on their disastrous offensive output from a year ago with the return of a healthy Ben Roethlisberger.

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Steelers, Heyward Have Made Little Progress Towards Extension, Per Agent

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The Pittsburgh Steelers and defensive end Cam Heyward are no closer to agreeing to a long-term contract extension, according to the star’s agent.

Speaking with ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Heyward’s agent Michael Perrett of Element Sports Group divulged that the team and his client have made no significant advances towards a new deal.

Perrett reaffirmed that Heyward still wants to retire as a Steeler, but acknowledged that COVID-19 has made the path to an agreement more challenging.

“I thought we’d be further along in the process. In a normal year, we might be,” he told ESPN. “The current situation has led to a lot of uncertainty, but NFL business is still moving forward. Cam would love to retire a Steeler, but at this point, he just doesn’t know how all of this is going to play out.”

According to Fowler, Heyward is not considering holding out, mainly because of his position in the team as a captain and player rep.

Heyward, 31, is coming off one of the best seasons of his career in 2019. With nine sacks, eleven tackles-for-loss and 23 quarterback hits, Heyward earned Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors a year ago. His 79 tackles-for-loss are the fourth-most in franchise history.

While other high-profile pass rushers have signed new deals this offseason, including the Chiefs’ Chris Jones, the Browns’ Myles Garrett and the Chargers’ Joey Bosa, Heyward still waits.

Even though the Steelers tend to avoid in-season contract negotiations and little progress has been made thus far, the two sides still have the month of August to work out a deal.

Still, if they are not able to get something prior to the season opener, you would think the organization would make an exception for Heyward, considering his desirable combination of leadership and ability.

He has remained consistent that he wants to retire in Pittsburgh. The Steelers would be wise to make his wish a reality.

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Mike Tomlin on Rookie Development Under COVID Restrictions

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Steelers HC Mike Tomlin made no excuses while explaining the difficulty in developing rookies under the COVID guidelines.

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