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Steelers Coaches Return to Team Facility

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With the NFL announcing that coaching staffs can return to team facilities, the Steelers wasted no time getting back to work.

Steelers coaches, including head coach Mike Tomlin, returned to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Friday morning.

With Pennsylvania switching over to the “Green Phase” of its COVID-19 reopening plan Friday, the Steelers were one of the organization permitted to welcome back their staffs, but only if they adhere to local and state guidelines.

The team shared a few photos of Tomlin entering the facility, including an image of the 14-year head coach getting his temperature taken in the lobby. Daily checks are clearly part of the league’s protocols with regards to reopening.

To this point, the bulk of the NFL’s offseason has been conducted remotely, including the Draft and free agency.

Tomlin is most likely excited to return to some sense of normalcy. He discussed how challenging the adjustment had been on a conference call last month.

“We face a lot of challenges, my mentality, and the group mentality is going to be they are challenges that everyone faces,” said Tomlin. “From that standpoint it’s going to be fair and the playing field is going to be level. We have to be light on our feet. There is going to be a period of adjustment from a scheduling standpoint as we gain our footing in terms of logistics of what day-to-day looks like and things of that nature.”

“The entire National Football League will be going through it and I just think if we perform relatively better than others, we put ourselves in position to be that team at the end of the journey. That is always our mentality regarding the start of a season.”

The only team employees that had previously been allowed in facilities were athletic trainers and rehabbing players.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has not yet announced when all player will be permitted to return, but did note in his memo to clubs Thursday that the league is first attempting to finalize their COVID-19 testing program.

Steelers

Report: Bud Dupree Files Grievance over Franchise Tag Position

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Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree has filed a grievance through the NFLPA over his positional designation with regards to his franchise tender with the team, according to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

The Steelers list Dupree as an outside linebacker in their base 3-4 alignment, but when the Steelers play their 4-2 Nickel defense, which was their most-used alignment in 2019, Dupree lines up as a defensive end.

The difference could be a significant one.

Franchise tags are paid based on the average of the top five salaries of players at the same position. The linebacker franchise tag is expected to be valued at $15.8 million, while the same tag for a defensive end would cost the Steelers $17.8 million, so Dupree’s grievance is over $2 million. Tampa Bay Buccaneers edge rusher Shaq Barrett has filed a similar motion.

Dupree has already signed his franchise tender, so he is committed to playing for the team in 2020 no matter his salary.

Dupree and the Steelers can also continue to negotiate a long-term contract extension through July 15, when Dupree will be locked into his one-year franchise contract, at whichever value prevails.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has repeatedly said that he wants Dupree to finish his career in Pittsburgh, but Rapoport said the sides are “far apart” on an extension with five days until the deadline.

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NFL

Chase Claypool’s Madden 21 Rating Released

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As is tradition, the Madden video game franchise has begun releasing rookie ratings for the 2020 iteration of the game, including for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool.

Claypool clocks in at 70 overall, which is solid for a second-round wideout. He is ranked as the seventh-best rookie receiver in the game, tied with four others.

Still, the true story with Claypool’s rating requires a little deeper digging. By the look of his attributes, it appears EA believes Claypool will be a mismatch on the real and virtual gridirons this season.

The Notre Dame-product received a speed rating of 92, along with 89 acceleration. At 6-foot-4, 238-pounds, Claypool’s combination of size and speed has Madden players salivating, and hopefully is an indication of what he will provide to the actual Steelers in 2020.

Known for his ability to win high-point balls at his impressive height, Claypool holds the highest jump attribute among all rookie wide receivers at 95.

Claypool also holds the second-highest strength and run blocking ratings in the class at 71 and 56, respectively, which were to be expected considering his imposing frame and elite blocking shown on film.

With regards to receiver specific stats, Claypool received some average, but solid marks. He boasts a 79 catch rating, along with good spectacular catch and catch-in-traffic numbers at 84. Still, his route running leaves some room for improvement with a 73 on short and deep routes, and a 71 on intermediate patterns.

Overall, Claypool’s Madden 21 rating is a strong debut, and his unique skill set should make him a fun player for gamers to utilize all season.

Steelers fans and Madden junkies alike can check out all of Claypool’s ratings and compare him with the rest of the 2020 rookie wide receivers here.

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Steelers Will Require Fans to Wear Masks, Announce Season Ticket Refund Option

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The Pittsburgh Steelers announced in an email to season ticket holders Wednesday evening they will provide a full-refund option for the 2020 campaign. The team also said that fans will be required to wear masks at Heinz Field if they are in attendance this year.

In addition to offering a full refund, the Steelers stated that season ticket holders will not lose their ability renew their seat locations for the 2021 season.

The organization is still optimistic fans will be in attendance at Heinz Field this year, stating they are “working with both the NFL and public health officials on how fans can attend games in a safe manner.”

While the team would prefer to have the stands full in 2020, the Steelers anticipate “working with a reduced capacity scenario,” as well as the mask requirement. They did not provide an estimate of what the reduced attendance figure would ultimately be.

“Our goal is to still have fans at Heinz Field this year with the understanding that social distancing, as well as all fans being required to wear masks, will play a role in the capacity to ensure a safe atmosphere,” Steelers Director of Communications Burt Lauten said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the NFL and public health officials to finalize plans for fans to attend our home games.”

With rumors that the 2020 preseason slate will be shortened, the Steelers will also refund fans who purchased tickets for any preseason games that do end up being cancelled.

While season tickets are usually sent out in late July, the team will “employ a digital ticketing solution to allow for flexibility” as they and the league navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are communicating with our season ticket holders to make them aware of the digital ticketing process we will employ this season at Heinz Field for a more flexible solution as we prepare for potential reduced capacity,” Lauten added. “We will continue the process of allowing our fans to opt out of their 2020 season tickets if they feel they are uniquely affected by the current situation.”

Pittsburgh’s update comes just hours after the rival Baltimore Ravens released contingencies of their own for a potentially coronavirus-altered 2020 season. The Ravens plan to limit available seating to 14,000 per game if fans are allowed to attend in adherence of social distancing guidelines.

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