As of now, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still set to open up the 2020 NFL season at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants on Sept. 14, but they will be doing so without fans in attendance.
As the country continues to battle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy informed both franchises Monday that his latest executive orders limiting outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people would include Jets and Giants home games in East Rutherford, as well as Rutgers University football.
“My administration has been working in close coordination with professional sports and college teams to determine how to proceed safely with games at their stadiums amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Murphy said in a statement obtained by NJ.com. “While we look forward to the day we can return to games as normal and cheer from the stands, continued concerns for the health and safety of fans, team members, and staff dictate that our executive order limiting outdoor gatherings does apply to sporting events, including training camp.”
Both franchises were set to begin their training camp programs this week, but Murphy appear to apply only to fan attendance, which the league already closed to the public months ago.
The Giants and Jets released a joint statement Monday, expressing their disappointment, but understanding and support of the Governor’s decision.
“We support Governor Murphy’s decision in the interest of public health and safety and, until circumstances change, both the Giants and Jets will play our games without the benefit of fans in attendance,” the clubs said. “Although we would prefer to have fans at MetLife Stadium for our games, we will continue to work with Governor Murphy’s office and will provide updates if necessary.”
Joint Statement from the Giants and Jets pic.twitter.com/e8MGmXpimv— New York Giants (@Giants) July 20, 2020
While the Steelers are supposed to open up the season on the road against the Giants, they are scheduled to travel to New Jersey even earlier when they play their second and final preseason game against the Jets. The league cut the preseason slate in half three weeks ago, opting to just play the second and third games.
Still, it seems increasingly unlikely that the league will be playing an preseason games at all, as the NFL and its player continue to clash over the number of exhibitions that will actually take place. The players do not want to play any.
Today’s news marks the first instance where the Steelers will play a game without fans this season, and it probably will not be the last.
Pennsylvania nor Pittsburgh have made any decision yet regarding fan attendance this fall. The city of Philadelphia did announce last week that Eagles games will be played sans fans this season, part of their plan to limit outdoor events with more the 50 people.
The Steelers are currently selling a limited number of their local ticket allotment in anticipation of social distancing guidelines, while also offering season ticket holders the option of a full refund, with the opportunity to renew for 2021.
NFL Hosting Women’s Careers in Football Forum
The NFL is hosting its fifth annual Women’s Careers in Football Forum from Feb. 24-25, the league announced in a press release Tuesday.
The event will be held virtually and “connect 40 women, 75% of whom are women of color, with leaders in professional football to help those women network and build relationships in the areas of coaching, scouting and football operations.”
Those participating in the event will join panel discussions, breakout sessions and have networking opportunities with industry leaders, such as head coaches and team executives. All portions of the event are aimed at building connections that will result in hirings and subsequent representation.
Since its inception in 2017, the two-day event has assisted in developing “a more diverse talent pipeline by connecting high-potential women to career opportunities in football.” According to the league, 118 opportunities for women in football have been created as a result.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and wife Jane Skinner Goodell will speak, as well as NFL Chief Football Administrative Officer Dawn Aponte. In addition, three owners, seven head coaches and six general managers will also join the conversation.
Sarah Thomas made history earlier this month becoming the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. The champion Tamp Bay Buccaneers also had a record number of women on their coaching staff this past season.
Report: 2021 NFL Salary Cap Expected at $182-183 Million
The 2021 NFL salary cap is expected to be around $182 or $183 million, according to a report by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
That is just slightly above the bare-minimum figure of $180 million agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA last week, and aligns with Steelers Now sources that predict the cap will fall between $180 and $185 million.
The Steelers are one of several teams that will be significantly over the salary cap, regardless of what figure is.
According to Pro Football Talk, those teams have been lobbying to increase the 2021 salary cap at the expense of future years to minimize the impact the pandemic has had on NFL operations.
Doing so would essentially amount to an interest-free loan given by the owners to the players, something that some owners have balked at.
That final figure could still be impacted by the league signing new television contracts for the 2022 season before the salary cap is finalized, which is expected some time in March.
The new league year starts on March 17, which is the day that all teams must be under the new salary cap.
Will James Conner Ever Reach 1,000 Yards in a Season?
Some feel he doesn’t get the credit he deserves while others think James Conner is just simply not NFL featured back material.
Either way, it’s very possible Conner has played his final game as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He accumulated 721 yards on 169 carries for an average of 4.3 yards per carry and 6 touchdowns in 13 games during the 2020 season. Conner’s highest yardage total and best overall season came in 2018 when he compiled 973 yards off 215 carries, equaling 4.5 yards per. The Pitt product, who the Steelers kept in Pittsburgh by drafting in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, was selected to his only Pro Bowl for his surprise success in 2018.
Since 2018, it’s been a roller coaster ride of injuries and inconsistency for Conner. The 2018 season remains the only year Conner even flirted with the 1,000 yard mark. With his professional future currently in doubt, the question now becomes – will Conner ever accomplish an 1,000 yard season in the NFL, either with the Steelers or wherever he ends up?