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.
Mic Drop: Antonio Brown Suspended, Steelers Coverage, Keys to Season
Mike Asti discussed a gauntlet of topics, including the announcement of Antonio Brown’s suspension, the keys to the upcoming season and who’s facing the most pressure. Asti also pulled back the curtain and explained the perimeters to covering the Steelers in the midst of a global pandemic like COVID-19.
Giants LT Nate Solder Opts Out of 2020 Season
New York Giants left tackle Nate Solder has opted out of the 2020 season, he announced Wednesday on Twitter.
Solder cited the health of his family as his main reasoning to sit out this year. His son Hudson has been battling cancer for the last four years, and he is a cancer survivor himself. He and his wife Lexi also have a newborn, their son Emerson who was born this spring.
“With fear and trembling, we struggle to keep our priorities in order and, for us, our children’s health and the health of our neighbors comes before football,” Solder said in a statement.
Solder is one of the highest-profile players yet to opt out this season. Other notables include New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Both players also have newborns at home and referenced preexisting conditions in their families.
While Solder’s absence will be a loss for the Giants, it will be the Steelers’ gain. Pittsburgh opens up the 2020 season on the road against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Without Solder, the Giants may be starting two rookies at tackle when the teams meet on Sept. 14 in first-rounder Andrew Thomas and third-rounder Matt Peart. That is far from an ideal scenario when T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree are coming off the edge, a duo that combined for 26 sacks a year ago.
So, Nate Solder, the Giants LT, has now opted out of the season.— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) July 29, 2020
Andrew Thomas is a rookie on the other side. Matt Peart, another rookie, may be the day one starter now too.
TJ Watt and Bud Dupree are licking their lips looking at that Week 1 matchup for both of them.
Solder is the fourth-highest paid left tackle in the league, according to Spotrac. He was set to make $9.9 million in base salary this year, and count $19.5 million against the Giants’ salary cap.
Former Steeler Dr. Myron Rolle Says it is Unsafe for NFL Season to Start
Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety and current neurosurgeon Dr. Myron Rolle says it is unsafe for the NFL season start, and that more time is needed before professional football can return in full.
Joining CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night, Rolle expressed his concerns as players around the league arrive at team facilities for training camps amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He thinks the best option is to postpone, or even cancel the season all together.
“I do not think it’s safe to return right now,” Rolle told CNN. “I think the NFL should delay the sport or cancel it this year to allow the wonderful women and men on the front lines to really get ahead of this pandemic and make it safe for everyone to come back to the sport.”
Rolle says the safest path for football to return requires a significant reduction in the numbers of cases across the country. While some states have found a way to slow the virus, that is not the case elsewhere, with hotspots in Arizona, Florida and Texas still raging. Rolle added that football is not a sport that necessarily lends itself to social distancing.
“When you have states that are hot beds and players coming from these places, I think it’s very difficult to sort of say, ‘I want to social distance,’ in a sport that’s inherently close,” Rolle explained, citing the “need to be cohesive in the locker room and in the huddle and walk-throughs close together.”
“It’s actually encouraged to be physical. It’s encouraged to have hand fighting at the line of scrimmage to tackle a player,” Rolle continued. “And as a football player, if you’re thinking about trying to keep yourself safe in the midst of a game that inches matter, one step too slow, one step too late, that’s the touchdown. That’s a win versus a loss.”
Rolle also called out the NFL directly, saying that if they really are the American institution and community leader they claim to be, they should be setting an example instead of trying to be the exception. He wants the league to “be a leader at the forefront and put the players’ safety and their families’ safety as a premium.”
“If the NFL wants to be part of the community, I think it needs to be responsible and think about what is actually happening in the community right now,” Rolle said. “A pandemic happening and infection rates going up and hospitalizations occurring, PPE at high demand.”
Drafted in the sixth round out of Florida State back in 2010, Rolle spent time with the Tennessee Titans and Steelers before leaving the NFL to attend medical school in 2013. He is currently a third-year neurosurgeon resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.
While the coronavirus situation across the U.S. does not seem to be showing much improvement, the NFL is moving forward as planned. Players arrived at training camp this week, and the league still intends to kick off the 2020 season on Sept. 10 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.