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Steelers Now Staff Super Bowl Picks, Predictions

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We are now only a handful of days away from Super Bowl LIII, as the New England Patriots will look to win their sixth Lombardi Trophy, a record that would tie them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most Super Bowl victories all-time. The Los Angeles Rams could have something to say about that, however. The Rams would earn a second Super Bowl title with a win over New England and their first since the “greatest show on turf” beat the Tennessee Titans after the 1999 season.

It’s a battle of old vs. new, as a young and vibrant Rams team look to dethrone a Patriots dynasty that is possibly the greatest ever in sporting history. The fresh faces of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald are experiencing their first Super Bowl, while the duo of Tom Brady/Bill Belichick will have played in their ninth championship contest when the ball kicks off.

The big game figures to be close, as the Rams and Patriots match-up well. Two superstars to watch are LA’s Todd Gurley and New England’s Rob Gronkowski, both of whom are the best at their position, but have only been a shell of their former selves as of late. Both the Rams and Patriots run the ball extremely well (only three touchdown passes between the two teams this postseason) and have needed game winning drives to get to this point.

So who will emerge victorious? We asked our staff here at SteelersNow.com to break out their crystal balls and throw their two cents in on the big game, and some of their predictions may surprise you.

Mike Asti: There’s no denying the Rams have the better team on paper, but the same has been said before about teams Bill Belichick and Tom Brady end up beating. Darnold, Suh and crew will likely frustrate Brady with pressure, but if he can manage to still complete passes, the Patriots offense can still get down the field against the Rams secondary. Brady does just enough to win a close game and the Patriots defense forces turnovers to help the cause. Patriots claim a 6th Lombardi Trophy with a 27-23 win, which ties the Steelers for the most in history. Both Belichick and Brady further cement their legacies, although win or lose, the Patriots are still the greatest dynasty in NFL history.

Joe Steigerwald: The Rams will get pressure up the middle and harass Brady enough to keep it a relatively low-scoring affair, but the Patriots defense will shut down the Rams’ running attack forcing Jared Goff to win the game, which he wont. I really hope I’m wrong, but Patriots 24-19.

Alan Saunders: For everything that gets said about Bill Belichick, his ability as a defensive coach doesn’t get brought up enough. Yes, he has Tom Brady and that’s an advantage, but to me, an under-appreciated reason for New England’s success is Belichick’s ability to game-plan around imperfect offenses, and the Rams’ unit is far from perfect. Todd Gurley is great, but the passing game combo of Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods is far from awe-inspiring. Without Cooper Kupp or any tight end presence underneath, its easy to envision New England stuffing Gurley, playing off the outside speedsters and keeping everything in front of them until Goff makes a mistake. As a Super Bowl rookie, that sounds like a good bet. New England 35, Los Angeles 20.

Donnie Druin: This game figures to be a close battle, should the Rams offensive firepower decide to show up. It feels like we’re watching a movie where we know the ending, and that involves Tom Brady holding up a sixth Lombardi trophy. The Rams need Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers to show up on the defensive line, as Aaron Donald will be double-teamed on nearly every play by the Patriots dominant interior line. The game will ultimately be decided by the Rams secondary. Can they limit Brady and disrupt the timing of his throws? We all know Bill Belichick plays chess and constantly is evaluating his game-plan, will Sean McVay be able to match him? I’ve learned it’s wise not to bet against the equivalent of the dark side, no matter the strength of the Jedi. Patriots 26, Rams 17.

Mike Vukovcan: Rams 31, Patriots 28.

 

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NFL Announces Coaches can Return to Team Facilities

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that coaching staffs may return to team facilities Friday, June 5 in a memo issued to teams Thursday morning.

Staying consistent with their message throughout the reopening process, coaches may return only if clubs have “received necessary permission from state and local governments.”

Clubs were informed last week that coaches will count towards the maximum number of employees permitted in facilities, but the total number allowed will increase from 75 to 100 tomorrow as well.

While Goodell has not yet announced when all players will be cleared to return, he did add that the league is still working “with clubs medical staffs to implement a program of COVID-19 testing” prior to players coming back.

Injured and rehabbing players were some of the first who received the green light to return to team facilities, and have been back for a few weeks now.

Club facilities were initially closed by the league back on March 25 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While coaches are likely eager to return to their team facilities, they should make themselves comfortable for the long haul.

Goodell’s memo comes a day after multiple reports that the league informed franchises they must conduct training camp from their practice facilities this August.

This would mean the Steelers will be prepping for the season on the South Side, instead of making a 55th-consecutive trip to St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

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Roger Goodell Continues NFL Reopening; Expects Coaches in Facilities Next Week

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced the next phase of league reopenings in a memo to teams Thursday.

Starting Monday, June 1, clubs will be permitted to reopen box offices, retail shops and other “customer-facing” locations “as long as the operation of such facilities fully complies with state and local regulation.”

Employees working in these newly opened location will count towards the limit per team set by the league. Clubs are permitted 50 percent of their normal staff, and cannot exceed 75 employees in facilities.

Rehabbing players will continue to be allowed access to team facilities, but healthy players and coaches are still not in the clear to return. Goodell added that the expectation is that coaching staffs can come back to facilities next week.

“We are actively working with Governors and other state and local authorities in those states that have not yet definitive plans and will confirm the precise date on which coaches can return to the facility as soon as possible,” Goodell said.

Coaches have been barred from team facilities in an attempt to ensure competitive equity around the league, considering different states are at different stages in their respective reopening processes.

Goodell added that the league is working alongside the NFLPA to develop protocols that would allow players to return to club facilities in a limited fashion.

The first phase of reopening began on May 19, and it appears to have been successful thus far.

“Clubs that have reopened their facilities have done so in a safe and effective way,” Goodell said.

The league is utilizing three different criteria as it continues with its reopening plan: state and local regulations must be followed, reopening must be consistent with protocols created by NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills and competitive fairness must be a priority throughout the process.

The NFL has not yet made announcements regarding training camps, or if games will be played without fans during the 2020 season.

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NFL Adds to League Officiating Department; Alberto Riveron Remains Top Replay Official

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The NFL has drastically altered the structure of its officiating office, but Alberto Riveron will remain the man in charge of league replay reviews.

The league announced on Thursday that longtime referee Walt Anderson and former NFL coach Perry Fewell have joined the NFL officiating department.

Fewell, 57, will oversee the officiating department, including communications with head coaches and general mangers, and be the league’s liaison to the NFL Referee Association and the NCAA.

He joins the league office after last serving as the Carolina Panthers’ interim head coach in 2019. He was also interim head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2009. Fewell was the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills from 2006-09 and New York Giants from 2010-14 and was a defensive backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars (1998-02 and 2017-18), the St. Louis Rams (20030-04), Chicago Bears (2005), Washington Redskins (2015-16) and Carolina Panthers (2019). Fewell also worked as a collegiate assistant at North Carolina, Army, Kent State and Vanderbilt.

Anderson, 67, spent 24 years as an NFL official and the last 17 seasons as a referee before moving into the league office as senior vice president of officiating training and development, where one will oversee game officials, their development, training, education, recruitment and more.

That will leave less on the able other than his role as the league’s lead replay official, a role he will return to for his eighth season.

Each of Anderson, Fewell and Riveron will report directly to NFL executive vice president of of football operations Troy Vincent.

“Our intentions are to implement meaningful improvements to the game and officiating,” Vincent said in a press release. “We will continue to make every effort to improve officiating and pursue officiating excellence.”

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