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Henry Mondeaux Another Steelers Fill-In That Has Exceeded Expectations

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In the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ win over the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux scraped off a block, shuffled to his right and absolutely planted Dallas running back Tony Pollard.

It was a solid play from the fill-in lineman that was on the Steelers’ practice squad just a couple weeks ago, and the big man with the long hair gave a little fist pump after recording his first NFL tackle.

Mondeaux, a second-year man out of Oregon spent the entire 2019 season on the practice squad, got asked to come back for another offseason and was one of the team’s final cuts on the defensive line in 2020.

So it’s not totally unexpected that after injuries to Chris Wormley and Tyson Alualu, the Steelers have been able to turn to Mondeaux, along with 2019 sixth-round Isaiah Buggs and 2020 seventh-round pick Carlos Davis, for depth on the defensive line.

What’s somewhat surprising is that they’ve been able to make those wholesale replacements mid-pandemic.

Players on the practice squad don’t get to make hits like Mondeaux’s pop on Pollard. In practice, they’re tackling the team’s starters, if they’re tackling at all, and so they may get them to the ground, but no one is out there trying to hurt the team’s starting running backs.

This season was played without a preseason, so it’s been an awful long time since Mondeaux hit someone in anger.

“You know, it’s very hard to simulate game speed in practice and especially this year without the preseason,” Mondeux admitted on Monday. “It had been a while for me. Definitely. But we did incorporate a lot of live tackling drills and I think we do a good job our look teams in practice giving game-like, scenarios and hits. But yeah, it’s a balance between, you know, you can’t be hitting like that every day.”

The defensive line isn’t the only place the Steelers have had fill-in success. Little-used linebacker Robert Spillane has taken over for former first-round pick Devin Bush at inside linebacker. Fourth-round rookie Kevin Dotson has twice spilled David DeCastro at right guard, prompting the team to released veteran Stefen Wisniewski last week.

From an outside perspective, that might seem like an unlikely combination, especially during the pandemic-modified 2020 season. But for undrafted free agents and late-round rookies, guys on the practice squad, this is what they spend their entire lives preparing for.

“I actually lived with Robert Spillane all last year, and we were talking about moments like this all last year preparing,” Mondeaux said. “We were both on the practice squad last year, and it’s been part of our plan, you know, doing what we can, stepping into the game. So, I think it’s definitely something that we had prepared for and it’s what guys on our team prepare for if they’re not in the positions they are when the season starts. They’re all getting ready, whether it’s on the practice squad or an inactive spot. We try and get guys ready to play and I don’t think anyone bats an eye when people go down. We know we have guys that will step up and take on some of those loads.”

The Steelers have a veteran line with seventh-year vet Stephon Tuitt as the youngest member of the starting three. Alualu is only expected to be missing for a few weeks, while it seems the Wormley’s injury could be more serious, which despite Mondeaux’s efforts has put a significant strain on the Steelers’ run defense.

“It’s a big challenge when a guy like Tyson goes down because he’s such a good player, especially stopping the run,” Mondeaux said. “He’s a veteran and he does a great job. I think me and Buggs and Carlos Davis this last game, have stepped in and helped out as much as we can. We played two great running opponents. It’s always a tough challenge when you go against the Cowboys offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott, and then you have the Ravens with Lamar and all their options running the ball. So I think we’re doing our best and we’re trying to fill some big shoes from a guy that’s been playing for a long time.”

For the Steelers, it’s also a good chance to see what they’ve got in three younger, but unheralded players. Though the three starters on the Pittsburgh line were all first-round draft picks, one doesn’t have to look far back in the Steelers’ history to find some diamonds in the rough that became significant contributors on the defensive line.

Aaron Smith was a fourth-round pick. Brett Keisel was a seventh-rounder. Chris Hoke was an undrafted free agent. The Steelers can use this opportunity to see if they another unheralded gem on the defensive line.

Steelers

How Have Previous 10-0 Teams Fared?

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The Steelers are 10-0 after Sunday’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, extending their best start in team history and accomplishing a feat that’s been done just 17 times in NFL history.

The first 10-0 team was the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went on to win all 14 regular season games and the Super Bowl, a season that still stands alone in NFL history as the lone unblemished campaign.

The 2007 New England Patriots also went on to finish an unbeaten regular season, going 16-0 before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

What has happened to the other 16 squads that started out with wins in their first 10 games?

All 16 made the postseason and did so as a division winner.

Twelve won an 11th game and kept the winning streak alive, with just four falling to 10-1.

Ten advanced all the way to the Super Bowl, and six have won it.

In 1990 and 2009, there were multiple 10-0 teams, with one eliminating the other in the playoffs. At least the Steelers don’t have to worry about that this year.

Here’s a breakdown of how all the 10-0 teams finished their seasons:

1972 Miami Dolphins
Game 11: 31-10 win over St. Louis Cardinals
Finished regular season 14-0
Won Super Bowl VII

1975 Minnesota Vikings
Game 11: 30-31 loss at Washington Redskins
Finished regular season 12-2
Lost in Divisional Playoffs

1984 Miami Dolphins
Game 11: 28-34 loss at San Diego Chargers
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost in Super Bowl XIX

1985 Chicago Bears
Game 11: 44-0 win at Dallas Cowboys
Finished regular season: 15-1
Won Super Bowl XX

1990 New York Giants
Game 11: 20-0 win over Detroit Lions
Finished regular season: 13-3
Won Super Bowl XXV

1990 San Francisco 49ers
Game 11: 17-28 loss to Los Angeles Rams
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost in NFC Championship Game

1991 Washington Redskins
Game 11: 56-17 win over Atlanta Falcons
Finished regular season: 14-2
Won Super Bowl XXVI

1998 Denver Broncos
Game 11: 40-14 win at Kansas City Chiefs
Finished regular season: 14-2
Won Super Bowl XXXIII

2005 Indianapolis Colts
Game 11: 26-18 win at Jacksonville Jaguars
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost in Divisional Playoff to Pittsburgh Steelers

2007 New England Patriots
Game 11: 31-28 win over Philadelphia Eagles
Finished regular season: 16-0
Lost Super Bowl XLII

2008 Tennessee Titans
Game 11: 24-14 win at Jacksonville Jaguars
Finished regular season: 13-3
Lost in Divisional Playoff

2009 Indianapolis Colts
Game 11: 35-27 win at Houston Texans
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost Super Bowl XLIV

2009 New Orleans Saints
Game 11: 38-17 win over New England Patriots
Finished regular season: 14-2
Won Super Bowl XLIV

2011 Green Bay Packers
Game 11: 27-15 win at Detroit Lions
Finished regular season: 15-1
Lost in Divisional Playoff

2015 Carolina Panthers
Game 11: 33-14 win at Dallas Cowboys
Finished regular season: 15-1
Lost in Super Bowl 50

2015 New England Patriots
Game 11: 24-30 overtime loss at Denver Broncos
Finished regular season: 12-4
Lost in AFC Championship

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Steelers to Wear Color Rush Uniforms vs. Ravens

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The Steelers will wear their all-black Color Rush uniforms on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, the team announced on Monday night.

The team made the decision after getting input from the players and the fanbase. It will be the first time the team has worn the uniforms this season.

“I love them. I really love them,” cornerback Joe Haden said to Steelers.com. “They look sick. And we play well in them. You look good, you feel good, and you play good. I just really love them and am excited we get to wear them.”

“I like those. I think it’s a good change,” added James Conner. “When we have one style of game pants, everyone is so used to seeing us in black and gold at home. When it goes all black, I think it looks solid. It’s like the Dark Knight.”

The Steelers are 5-1 all-time in the uniforms, which were introduced in 2016 in a Christmas Day win over the Baltimore Ravens. This will be the second time they’ve worn the uniform against the Ravens.

The team wore the uniforms twice in 2019, a win over the Miami Dolphins and a loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Compared to the Steelers’ usual uniform, the Color Rush getups swap white, italic uniform numbers for block, gold digits and the white, intermediary stripes in the team’s five-striped sleeve design also swap white for gold.

The team’s usual gold pants with a thick black stripe are exchanged for the inverse, black pants with a gold side stripe. The team keeps its usual all-black socks for a head-to-toe black-and-gold look.

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Steelers Reduce Future Capacity to 2,500 to Comply with Gov. Wolf’s Modified COVID-19 Policy

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The Steelers will reduce the number of fans they can host at Heinz Field in the month of December in order to comply with adjusted COVID-19 mitigation guidelines released by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Monday.

The Steelers will host no more than 2,500 fans per game beginning with their Dec. 6 home game against Washington. Thursday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens will not be impacted by the change. The Steelers had been hosting as many 5,500 fans for home games in the months of October and November after playing without fans in September.

With just a 2,500-person capacity, fans in the seating bowl against Washington will be limited to family and friends of players and the organization.

“Our priority remains the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff , gameday workers, and our fans,” team spokesman Burt Lauten said in a statement. “We will adhere to the original protocols for games with fans at Heinz Field and expect approximately 5,550 fans in attendance for Thursday’s game versus the Ravens.”

Wolf did not specifically cite reasons for modifying the limits on event capacity, but explained that the series of changes made to the mitigation rules on Tuesday are in response to growing numbers of positive cases and hospitalizations in the state.

“In December, projections show upwards of 22,000 new COVID cases per day in Pennsylvania, Wolf said. “And we are projected to run out of ICU beds. We must take action to protect our health care system from being compromised.”

The Pitt Panthers, who share Heinz Field with the Steelers, have ended the home portion of their 2020 schedule.

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