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Report: Le’Veon Bell Narrows Choice to 3 Teams, Steelers Reunion Unlikely



Free agent running back Le’Veon Bell has reportedly narrowed his options to three teams, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are not one of them.

According to a report by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Bell is planning to decide between the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins as his next team, and he could make a decision as early as today. A reunion with the Steelers is considered unlikely at this stage.

The Chiefs and Bills are the most intriguing potential destinations with both teams sitting at 4-1 atop their respective divisions, providing Bell his best chances to win a championship. While the Dolphins are clearly at a different stage in their franchise, Miami can offer him the lifestyle and a clear starting role.

In addition, all three teams play the Jets at some point this season, providing Bell with an immediate opportunity to stick it to his former organization.

With his desire to remain a feature back and the messy end to his Steelers career, a reunion with Pittsburgh seemed unlikely from the start, as the team would have likely wanted him to share carries with starting running back James Conner. Still, the Steelers are 4-0 for the first time since 1979, so they should be just fine without adding Bell.

Bell was released by the Jets on Tuesday night after a disastrous year-and-a-half in New York. The former star rushed for just 863 yards and four touchdowns through 17 games. He had no rushes over 19 yards while playing under Jets head coach Adam Gase, and did not post a single 100-yard rushing performance.

Bell began his career in Pittsburgh before signing with the Jets as a free agent back in 2019. He is fourth in Steelers history with 5,335 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns. He was just as impactful as a receiver, catching 312 passes for 2,660 yards and seven touchdowns as a Steeler, with receptions and yards the most by a running back in team history. Bell was selected to three Pro Bowls and was twice named First-Team All-Pro over his Pittsburgh tenure.


NFL Planning for Another Offseason Impacted by COVID-19



The NFL is bracing for another disrupted offseason, as the prospects of having players and coaches vaccinated in time for a normal minicamp and OTA process seems bleak, NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith said on Tuesday.

The start of training camps could once again be impacted, as well.

Smith, in a conference call with NFL agents, said there is no “rosy outlook” on widespread vaccinations being available for players and team staff before August, as reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

“We’re planning for an offseason that looks a lot like [the 2020] offseason,” Smith said.

The NFL has not updated its offseason calendar beyond the 2021 NFL Draft, which is scheduled to be held in Cleveland April 29-May 1.

After that, would normally come rookie camps, organized team activities and minicamps in short order, but like last season, it appears most of that will either not take place or take place virtually.

Through the 2020 season, 262 NFL Players and 460 team personnel tested positive for COVID-19, even with enhanced health and safety protocols that included holding many meetings virtually and closing the facilities on non-essential days.

The Pittsburgh Steelers moved their training camp to Heinz Field in 2020 due to health and safety rules that would have prevented fans from attending if held as typically at St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Steelers president Art Rooney II has stated his desire to return to Latrobe for 2021. It’s not clear if the team would do that if they once again had to abide by pandemic-related health and safety protocols.

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Philip Rivers Retires; Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger Last of 2004 QB Class



Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday, leaving Ben Roethlisberger as the last player standing from the legendary 2004 quarterback draft class.

Rivers, 39, spent 16 seasons with the Chargers before joining Indianapolis for the 2020 season. He finishes his career with 63,440 yards, which had been third amongst active players and fifth overall in NFL history. Rivers threw for 421 touchdowns and 209 interceptions.

Seven times, Rivers led his team to the postseason, where he compiled a 5-7 record, but never was able to lead a team to the Super Bowl. Rivers was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2013, led the NFL in passing yards in 2010 and touchdowns and passer rating in 2008.

He was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft out of NC State, and was immediately traded by the New York Giants to the San Diego Chargers for No. 1 choice Eli Manning. Roethlisberger was taken with the 11th overall pick by the Steelers. Matt Schaub and Luke McCown were taken in later rounds, giving the class five quarterbacks that spent over a decade in the NFL.

All three players threw for over 50,000 yards in their careers, all three played at least 15 seasons, with Manning and Roethlisberger combining to win four Super Bowls.

Just five players in total from the class played in 2020, including Rivers, Roethlisberger, Schaub, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and San Francisco 49ers punter Andy Lee.

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Sarah Thomas to Become First Woman to Officiate Super Bowl



Sarah Thomas will become the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl during Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida on Feb. 7, the NFL announced on Tuesday.

Thomas just finished her sixth season as an NFL official and will be working in her fifth playoff game.

“Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official,” NFL executive vice president for football operations Troy Vincent said in a press release. “Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl. Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honor.”

A native of Pascagoula, Mississippi, Thomas has already been the first female official to work a college bowl game and in 2015, the first to work an NFL game.

Thomas, 47, got her start in the NFL as a line judge in 2015. In 2017, she was promoted she was promoted to head linesman, a move which coincided with the NFL replacing that term with the gender-neutral down judge. She worked her first playoff game in 2019.

Thomas wears uniform number 53. For the first time this season, she was permitted to wear a snap-back hat, allowing her pony tail to be visible from underneath her hat as she works.

The NFL picks the official at every position that grades the best throughout the season as officials for the Super Bowl. In addition to Thomas, Carl Cheffers will referee, Fred Bryan will be the umpire, Rusty Barnes the line judge, James Coleman the field judge, Eugene Hall the side judge and Dino Paganelli the back judge. Thomas and Coleman will be making their Super Bowl debuts.

“Their body of work over the course of a 17-game season has earned them the honor of officiating the biggest game on the world’s biggest stage,” said Vincent. “They are the best of the best.”

Click for more of Steelers Now’s coverage of Super Bowl LV.

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