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How the Steelers Offensive Position Groups Have Changed Going into 2020

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Every team has turnover from one season to the next and the Steelers are no exception.

The team will feel radically different thanks to the return of Ben Roethlisberger, but the roster is mostly intact. Gone are some backups and veterans, a few underperforming defensive backs, and a couple of special teams aces, but that’s it.

This year, the Steelers have had a pretty active offseason, bringing in tight end Eric Ebron, offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski and defensive tackle Chris Wormley along with multiple former XFL players and the team’s 2020 NFL Draft haul, albeit one that’s smaller than usual thanks to their lack of a first-round pick. The team also recently added 10 undrafted free agents. With the Steelers track record on the matter, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of them make a splash down the line.

On offense, the Steelers will return over 96% of their on-field production from 2019 and will be bolstered by the signing of Ebron.

Quarterback

Returning:

Ben Roethlisberger
Mason Rudolph
Devlin Hodges
J.T. Barrett
Paxton Lynch

New: 

None

Losses:

None

It’s just going to feel like the Steelers added to their quarterback room in 2019 with the return of Roethlisberger from injury. The team opted not to draft a successor for Roethlisberger and will go with Rudolph as the de facto No. 2 to start next season.

Running Back

Returning:

James Conner
Benny Snell Jr.
Jaylen Samuels
Trey Edmunds
Ralph Webb
Kerrith Whyte

New:

Anthony McFarland Jr.

Losses:

Tony Brooks-James

The Steelers drafted McFarland with their first of two fourth-round selections. He will join a crowded Steelers backfield lead by Conner and Snell, neither of which produced much last year. Conner lead all backs with 715 total yards and seven touchdowns but dealt with injuries most of the year. Expect to see more of a rotation with Conner, Snell and McFarland likely receiving the bulk of the carries. The only loss is Tony Brooks-James, who had 7 yards in 2019.

JACKSONVILLE, FL – DECEMBER 08: Los Angeles Chargers Fullback Derek Watt (34) during the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 8, 2019 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)

Fullback

Returning:

None

New:

Derek Watt
Spencer Nigh

Losses:

Roosevelt Nix

The Steelers replaced Rosie Nix with the third Watt brother, Derek Watt.

Wide Receiver

Returning:

JuJu Smith-Schuster
James Washington
Diontae Johnson
Deon Cain
Ryan Switzer
Amara Darboh

New: 

Chase Claypool
Saeed Blacknall
Anthony Johnson
Quadree Henderson

Losses:

Tevin Jones
Johnny Holton
Donte Moncrief

Donte Moncrief is long gone, so really the Steelers are only losing Tevin Jones and Johnny Holton, who combined for 91 yards in 2019. The Steelers have added former XFL-er Saeed Blacknall and 2nd round pick Chase Claypool to young receiver room that has lots of talent, if not experience.

Tight End

Returning:

Vance McDonald
Zach Gentry
Kevin Rader
Christian Scotland-Williamson

New: 

Eric Ebron

Losses:

Nick Vannett
Xavier Grimble

The disappointing Nick Vannet and Xavier Grimble are both gone, but the Steelers prize offseason acquisition, Eric Ebron, should more than make up for their losses. Behind Ebron and McDonald, however, it’s a very thin group. Kevin Rader and Christian Scotland-Williamson are probably practice squad members and Zach Gentry is still extremely raw. It will be interesting to see if the former fifth-round pick shows much progression.

Offensive Line

Returning:

Maurkice Pouncey
David DeCastro
Alejandro Villaneuva
Zach Banner
Matt Feiler
Derwin Gray
Chukwuma Okorafor
Christian DiLauro
J.C. Hassenauer

New:
Stefen Wisniewski
Kevin Dotson
Jarron Jones
Christian Montano
Anthony Coyle
John Keenoy

Losses:

Ramon Foster
B.J. Finney

With Foster’s retirement the team loses some experience, but that is likely negated by two-time Super Bowl winner Stefen Wisniewski. The Steelers let backup B.J. Finney walk, but he only played 33% of the team’s snaps in 2019. The Steelers received lots of praise for their fourth-round pick of Kevin Dotson from Louisiana and some view him as a potential long-term starter in the league.

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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NFL

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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