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Steelers RB James Conner Nominated for Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award

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Steelers running back James Conner has been nominated for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, the team announced on Thursday.

The award, which has been given to an NFL player annually since 2016, has never been given to a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is awarded annually to the player that demonstrates “qualities of great sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for opponents, and integrity in competition.”

“It is gratifying that sportsmanship is the category,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II when the award was first announced. “It’s appropriate. I like to think of my grandfather as someone who truly was a good sport, somebody who cared about the respect and the integrity of the game. The fact it’s being voted on by the players, well, the recipient can feel good about it because it’s voted on by his peers.”


Conner is among 32 nominees, one from each team, that will narrowed down to eight finalists by the NFL Legends Community. Current players will vote on the winner out of the eight finalists, but cannot vote for a teammate.

The winner will be announced the night before Super Bowl LIV and the winner of the award is also granted a $25,000 donation to a charity of his choice.


“Art Rooney is an iconic figure in NFL history,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the time the award was introduced. “It is appropriate that we honor his legacy in this way and recognize NFL players for one of the important values that Mr. Rooney represented so well.”

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees won the award in 2018. Conner’s fellow Pitt alumnus Larry Fitzgerald won the inaugural award in 2014.

Steelers Transactions

Report: Steelers Restructure Contract of DL Cam Heyward

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The Steelers have restructured the contract of veteran defensive lineman Cam Heyward, according to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Heyward is entering the first season of a four-year, $71.4 million contact extension that he signed last September.

His contract calls for a $4.5 million salary and a $6 million roster bonus for the 2021 season, along with $4.05 million of prorated signing bonus for a total salary cap hit of $14.55 million.

With a full restructure, all of Heyward’s roster bonus and his salary for 2021, save for the $1.075 veteran minimum, will be converted into a signing bonus, paid out now and spread out of the four years of the contract for salary cap purposes.

That will make Heyward’s salary cap hit for 2021 $7.481 million, a savings of nearly $7 million.

Heyward is one of only a couple players the Steelers can restructure this offseason, along with fellow defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt and kicker Chris Bowell. The team is not expected to be able to get under the salary cap with restructures alone, and releasing or extending players may also be required.

Heyward, 31, started 15 games for the Steelers in 2020, recording 54 tackles, seven for a loss and four sacks. He also had 19 quarterback hits, three passes defended and an interception.

After the season, Heyward was named second-team Associated Press NFL All-Pro, the third time in his career he’s been named an All-Pro player. He was also selected to the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl, the fourth straight season he was elected to play in that game.

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Steelers Transactions

Steelers Sign OT Aviante Collins to Future Contract

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The Steelers have signed free agent tackle Aviante Collins to a future contract for the 2021 season, the team announced on Tuesday.

Collins, 27, visited with the Steelers on Jan. 22. He spent the last four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings after joining that team as an undrafted free agent out of TCU in 2017.

Collins played in three games in 2017 and two in 2019 for the Vikings, and spent all of the 2020 season on the practice squad, except for a one-week elevation in Week 11, in which he did not play.

The 6-foot-4, 292-pound tackle its a free agent after the Vikings decided to allow his practice squad contract to expire at the end of the season.

The Steelers have several free agents at the tackle position, including longtime starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, 2019 starting right tackle Matt Feiler and 2020 starting right tackle Zach Banner and backup Jerald Hawkins.

The Steelers have 2020 starting right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor under contract and Anthony Coyle, Jarron Jones, John Leglue and Brandon Walton signed to futures contract.

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Steelers Transactions

Former Steelers QB Devlin Hodges Signs with LA Rams

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Former Steelers starting quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges has signed a future contract with the Los Angeles Rams for the 2021 season, he announced on Twitter on Sunday.

Hodges signed with the Steelers in 2019 on a rookie camp tryout out of Samford. He earned a contract at rookie camp and impressed in training camp, causing the team to feel comfortable trading third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs to Jacksonville.

After injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph, Hodges was pushing into service, playing in eight games and starting six for the team in 2019.

Hodges threw for 1,063 yards while completing 62.5% of his passes. He threw for five touchdowns and eight interceptions for a 71.4 quarterback rating. The Steelers went 3-3 in games Hodges started.

After the Steelers re-acquired Josh Dobbs in the 2020 offseason, Hodges was bumped to fourth on the team’s depth chart and was not activated at any point during the 2020 season.

The Steelers replaced Hodges by signing former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins to a reserve/future contract last week.

Hodges, wide receiver Deon Cain, running back Wendell Smallwood and kicker Matthew Wright were the only four players that finished the season on the Steelers’ practice squad that were not retained by the team.

Cain has signed with the Baltimore Ravens, while Wright has inked a contract to join then Detroit Lions.

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