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JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mason Rudolph Throwing in California

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Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and quarterback Mason Rudolph were getting some offseason work in yesterday from sunny Southern California, courtesy of videos shared on the former’s Instagram.

After finishing last season on IR with a shoulder injury, the Instagram stories from mark the first time Rudolph has thrown in a public setting. While none of the videos show Rudolph driving the ball downfield farther than about 15 yards, it is still a good sign that he is making progress and likely close to full health.

While appearing to not be running routes full speed yet, Smith-Schuster seems to be recovering nicely from the knee and foot injuries that he struggled with much of last season. Throw in the concussion he suffered and the inconsistent quarterback play, and you can see why Smith-Schuster’s numbers took the dip they did in 2019.

Although it is exciting for Steelers fans to see two of the team’s young contributors getting some work in together, they are not exactly following the indefinite stay-at-home order instituted by the state of California amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, according to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, “the workout had fewer than ten people participating and everyone took precautions.”

Rudolph is coming off a season where he went 5-3 as a starter, tossing 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He threw for just over 176 yards per game, completing 62% of his passes. Based on everything that has come out of the Steelers organization this offseason, Rudolph seems firmly entrenched as the team’s backup quarterback heading into 2020.

After an exceptional sophomore season where he caught 111 passes and was named to his first Pro Bowl, Smith-Schuster saw his production drop drastically last year. He played in 12 games, catching just 42 passes for three touchdowns. A fully healthy Smith-Schuster should bounce back in a big way in 2020 with the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

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Should Steelers Sign Zach Banner to be Starter in 2021?

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Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault.

He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. With Banner expected to be ready for a return next season, should the Steelers sign the 27-year-old with the anticipation that he could be a key piece to bolster the offensive line that was missing during the 2020 season?

Do you believe in Zach Banner? Comment below with why or why not.

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Steelers

Zach Banner Announces Self-imposed Social Media Ban Until he Signs New Deal

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Zach Banner is sending a clear message about his priorities ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Banner, who is a free agent and looking for a new deal with the Steelers, tweeted that he is going to stay off social media until he officially signs on the dotted line.

Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault. He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. Banner now hopes to return to Pittsburgh and be the missing piece the Steelers offensive line desperately needs.

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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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