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Steelers Release Mark Barron, Johnny Holton to Continue Salary Cap Purge

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The Steelers have released inside linebacker Mark Barron and wide receiver Johnny Holton, in addition to releasing outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, the team announced on Monday.

Barron, 30, was set to count for $8.125 million against the Steelers’ salary cap in 2020 on the second season of a two-year free agent contract signed in 2019. Barron’s release will leave the Steelers with a $2.875 million dead cap hit, allowing the team to realize $5.25 million in salary cap savings.

Holton, 28, would have earned $825,000 in the second season of a two-year free agent contract and will leave the Steelers without a dead cap hit.

The combine releases of Barron, Chickillo and Holton will save the Steelers a total of $11.075 million. The team will still need to make more cuts and/or re-negotiate contracts in order to become salary cap compliant before the top 51 rule goes into effect on Wednesday.

The Steelers were already over the cap before placing a nearly $16 million franchise tender on linebacker Bud Dupree on Monday.

Barron came to the Steelers from the Los Angeles Rams in 2019. He played in 15 games and started nine while splitting time with Vince Williams and rookie Devin Bush in the middle of the Steelers’ defense. A converted safety, Barron was a sub-package specialist.

In 15 games, he recorded 82 tackles, which was third on the team, and also had three sacks, am interception and a fumble recovery.

Holton signed with the Steelers just before the 2019 season after spending his first three NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders. He started out as the team’s No. 5 receiver, but injuries pushed him up the depth chart and Holton ended up starting three games while playing in all 16.

At inside linebacker, 2019 draft pick Ulysees Gilbert III will become the top backup, as fellow 2019 backup Tyler Matakevich is currently slated to become an unrestricted free agent.

At wide receiver, in-season pickups Deon Cain and Amara Darboh could vie for a depth spoit.

Steelers

Zach Banner Announces Self-imposed Social Media Ban Until he Signs New Deal

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Zach Banner is sending a clear message about his priorities ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Banner, who is a free agent and looking for a new deal with the Steelers, tweeted that he is going to stay off social media until he officially signs on the dotted line.

Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault. He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. Banner now hopes to return to Pittsburgh and be the missing piece the Steelers offensive line desperately needs.

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Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp

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There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.

“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”

Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.

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NFL Network Analysts Call Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 3rd-Best in AFC North

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It appears that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, with both Roethlisberger’s agent and team president Art Rooney II making public statements that each party desires a return for 2021 this week.

But how much of a difference-maker will Roethlisberger be? That depends on his level of play this coming season.

NFL Network analysts and former NFL players Willie McGinest and LaDainian Tomlinson each ranked the quarterbacks of the AFC North and both said they think Roethlisberger is the third-best quarterback in the division, behind Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.

“I’m not taking anything away from Ben,” McGinest said. “Lamar Jackson is special and I put Baker in front of Ben because of what we’ve seen in the progression of Baker the last couple of years. … I see him getting better and Ben fighting father time, with the skills diminishing just a little bit.”

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve seen, in spurts, Big Ben play well. He started out hot. But he didn’t finish so well. … He looked old and beat up toward the end of the season. I’m just not sure that improves.”

Statistically, Roethlisberger finished first amongst the four AFC North passers in completion percentage, but he was fourth in yards per attempt and third in passer rating and QBR. Pro Football Focus ranked Roethlisberger last of the division’s four starters in 2020.

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