It’s been an ever-changing story over the last week and a half. Once the NFL and Players Association agreed on moving forward with the 2020 season, players have been exercising their right to opt out for the year. Names have been trickling in, and Behind The Steel Curtain has been running a player tracker throughout the process. It’s been an ever-changing story.
How “ever-changing” has it been? Since Tuesday afternoon, I have had to change the title of this article several times. Additionally, there’s a fairly good chance by the time you are reading this article after it is published, the number could have changed again. But as of 11:59 PM EDT Tuesday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of four NFL teams who have yet to have a player opt out for the 2020 season.
According to my records, the NFL could have a squad complete with opt-out players as my current tally is at 54. From those 54 players, all but four teams have had at least one player take the opt out route for the upcoming season. Those four teams are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On Tuesday, the Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and Miami Dolphins all had their first players join the list.
Just because a team had a player opt out does not mean it will dramatically affect their 2020 season. Some players were questionable to even make their team’s roster. Other players were projected starters. It varies across the NFL as to how much teams were affected by the players choosing to opt out.
The team which has been affected the most has been the New England Patriots with eight players choosing not to play in 2020. Whether it be for personal reasons or safety concerns, it’s hard to say if there is a common reason between all the players. While some speculate there may not be trust in the organization to follow safety protocols (it’s not like New England has the best reputation for following the rules), or perhaps the players are used to being Super Bowl contenders each year and they are not really believing in the team, the reasons behind the opt outs may never truly come to light.
The only other teams who has more than two players currently opting out for the season are the Cleveland Browns, Las Vegas Raiders, and Dallas Cowboys. The Browns have now had four players deciding to forego the upcoming season with the Raiders and Cowboys each having three players who have opted out at this time.
But what does this say about the teams who have yet to have a player opt out? Does it have to do with the organization itself? Do the Pittsburgh Steelers players trust such a well-run franchise to do everything in their power to keep their players as safe as possible? As a card-carrying member of Steelers Nation, I hope this would be the explanation.
But who knows? Perhaps the Steelers just happen to have players in the correct situations, even though both James Conner and Cameron Heyward are more at risk when it comes to COVID-19. Perhaps the Steelers will have a slew of players opt out just before the deadline. As I said before, it’s a constantly changing story.
But for the time being, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still one of the few remaining teams with every player choosing to go forward with the 2020 season.