Despite an offseason full of questions, the outlook for the Pittsburgh Steelers is still positive amongst the staffers at NFL.com
In their latest power rankings, coming after the end of the 2020 season with Super Bowl LV on Sunday, the staff ranked the Steelers as the tenth-best team entering the 2021 offseason.
The Steelers’ previously had been ranked 12th after their loss to the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the playoffs. They had finished the regular season ranked No. 4.
But the team will look significantly different in 2021, including at quarterback, where the future of Ben Roethlisberger remains up in the air.
“We have — for the first time in a long time — drama at the quarterback position in Pittsburgh,” NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus wrote. “Fresh off the 2020 campaign’s team-wide collapse, Steelers president Art Rooney II said there would have to be “significant concessions” for Ben Roethlisberger to return for an 18th season, and the soon-to-be 39-year-old quarterback replied by telling The Athletic he didn’t care how much the Steelers paid him in 2021. It all points to a reunion of the two sides for one last rodeo, but you wonder if team brass and Mike Tomlin will seriously ponder having a new QB option in the mix come September.”
The Steelers are rated as the fifth-best team in the AFC, but the third-best team in the AFC North, as the Baltimore Ravens checked in at No. 5 and the Cleveland Browns are No. 9. The Kansas City Chiefs (2) and Buffalo Bills (4) are also ahead of the Steelers in the rankings from the AFC, with the Bucs (1), Green Bay Packers (3), New Orleans Saints (6), Seattle Seahawks (7) and Los Angeles Rams (8) rounding out the top 10.
The Steelers will play at Buffalo, Green Bay and Kansas City in 2021 in addition to two games each against Baltimore and Cleveland.
NFL Head Coach: Bud Dupree’s Injury Cause for Uncertainty Entering Free Agency
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is set to hit free agency in a matter of weeks, but one head coach believes he could be waiting a while to sign.
Speaking with FanSided’s Matt Lombardo, an NFL head coach, speaking anonymously, said Dupree’s season-ending knee injury has made his free agency outlook uncertain.
“Bud Dupree is someone that is a real question mark for me,” the head coach told FanSided. “If he was healthy, he’s easily the top pass-rusher hitting the open market, and teams would pay a king’s ransom to sign him. But, with him coming off a torn ACL, what exactly are you committing to? Does he want to go back to Pittsburgh? Who knows, but he’s someone that I think will wind up having to wait a while to sign.”
Lombardo compares Dupree’s situation to Tennessee Titans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney last offseason.
While he had not suffered a significant injury the season prior with the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks, Clowney signed with Tennessee on just a one-year, $12-million deal. He had been expected to be paid handsomely on a lengthier contract, which obviously did not come to fruition.
Clowney was virtually invisible for the Titans, recording no sacks in eight games before being placed on injured reserve in November.
Due to his torn ACL, Dupree could find himself having to settle on a cheaper, one-year “prove it” deal as well. Ideally he would then cash in during the 2022 free agency period is all goes as planned.
Dupree was having another stellar season before tearing his ACL in the Steelers’ Week 12 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He had eight sacks, eight tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hits and a pair of forced fumbles through eleven games.
After playing last season under the franchise tag, which paid Dupree $15.828 million, the Steelers’ dire salary cap situation will most likely prevent them from bringing him back. Still, the brass of the organization has expressed their desire to do so if circumstances were different.
While the knee injury remains a concern, Dupree shared he was ahead of schedule in his recovery when he joined NFL Network’s Good Morning Football late last month.
Steelers, Giant Eagle Teaming Up for Mass Vaccination Site at Heinz Field
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Giant Eagle are joining forces to establish a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Heinz Field.
Set to begin on Tuesday, March 2, the initiative will run the length of the week, with plans to have additional vaccination days throughout the month.
“The Steelers have had a long relationship, a long partnership, with Giant Eagle going back decades now,” Team President Art Rooney II told Steelers.com, “and so when Giant Eagle Pharmacy wanted to set up a vaccination site at Heinz Field we thought it was a great idea. A great opportunity to really help them serve the community, and so we’re excited it’s going to happen.”
Giant Eagle pharmacists will be administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Heinz Field. With the vaccine requiring two separate doses of the shot spaces 21 day apart, recipients will be scheduled for a follow-up appointment.
“They need a large venue,” Rooney said. “They’re going to try to vaccinate thousands of people over the course of a week, and so they need a large venue to accomplish that. Obviously, ample parking is available (around Heinz Field) at this time of the year, so it really is a perfect fit for Heinz Field and Giant Eagle at this point.”
Vaccinations at Heinz Field will be by appointment only and administered in the PNC Champions Club. To check eligibility and make an appointment, those interested can do both at GiantEagle.com.
“We’re going through unusual times, to say the least,” Rooney said, “and so being able to help with probably the most important thing we’re doing right now in this community, which is trying to get everybody vaccinated, trying to get everybody that kind of protection, I really can’t think of anything more important that we could be doing right now than to partner with Giant Eagle to do this.”
According to Rooney, Heinz Field will be utilized as long as Giant Eagle’s vaccine supplies last.
“It all depends on the supply to Giant Eagle. I think it’s going to go on for weeks,” Rooney said. “That’s what they have in mind here, but all we’ve been told so far is next week Heinz Field will be scheduled for the whole week and then we expect there will be additional weeks, but we don’t have those specifics yet.”
After a 2020 season largely without fans, the Steelers and Giant Eagle are doing their part to help ensure Heinz Field is packed in the fall of 2021.
Art Rooney II Provides Further Details on Ben Roethlisberger Negotiations
It is no secret the future of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has dominated the early weeks of the NFL offseason.
While Steelers president Art Rooney II shared updates on the ongoing negotiations between Roethlisberger and the club in a statement Wednesday, he provided further details to Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola on Friday.
“We have been in communication with Ben throughout the offseason, and we have been clear that we would like him back but we needed to do something with the contract,” Rooney told Steelers.com. “We’re getting to that point now where the time is right. We have a better idea of where the salary cap is going to be, which is an important component of the decision. It just felt like it was time to sit down with Ben and have a good discussion, make sure the lines of communication are open. We had a good, productive discussion, and I assured him we would like to have him back, and he assured me that he wants to come back and play. And so we both left it that we know we have to try to get something worked out on the contract.”
The new league year officially begins on Wednesday, March 17. Not only is that the start of free agency and the deadline for salary cap compliance, but it is also the cutoff for Roethlisberger contract negotiations.
“Hopefully we’ll work something out before that,” said Rooney, “But certainly if you want to say there’s a hard deadline, March 17 would be it.”
Rooney also reaffirmed the discussions regarding Roethlisberger’s future have nothing to with the quarterback’s performance, but more his hefty $41 million cap hit.
“We think Ben played at a high level last year,” Rooney said. “We won our division and set a franchise record for most consecutive wins to open a season, so there was a lot of good stuff. Ben was as disappointed as anybody the way it ended. That last game is just hard to swallow, and I think in part Ben wants to come back and leave on a high note. We’re still confident he has the ability to do that. His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever, so I think he’s certainly capable of getting the job done. Part of the concern is putting a (competitive) team around him, and we had a good discussion about that. We know there are still a lot of pieces to the puzzle that still have to fall into place this season, and we’re hard at work trying to make that happen.”
Roethlisberger’s $41 million cap hit is the largest in the league entering the 2021 season, which poses a significant challenge for Pittsburgh. He could forgo up to nearly $19 million of his salary for this upcoming season to provide the team some much-needed flexibility.
Roethlisberger finished with a successful season statistically in 2020, but was tormented by inconsistency, as the Steelers dropped five of six following an 11-0 start.
Roethlisberger is set to turn 39 years old on March 2. The two-time Super Bowl champion passed for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions, but saw his play drop over the latter half of the year.