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Steelers News & Notes from this week

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

- On Sunday night, Cameron Heyward signed a big contract extension, five years, 75.1 million, the highest contract ever paid in NFL history for a defensive player over the age of 30. Heyward would earn $75.1 million in total if he plays through the 2024 season. Heyward, who turned 31 in May, has compiled 29 of his 54 career sacks in the past three seasons, and there have been no signs of him slowing down any time soon.

It's good to see that the Steelers got the deal done with Heyward. There were concerns about the deal getting completed, especially during this season where the NFL is losing revenue from fans not being in the stands, or a very limited capacity allowed and a cap floor of $175 million in 2021, depending on how the league's revenue looks after this season. Art Rooney II had said that getting Heyward's contract extended was one of their priorities and he got it done, pretty much solidifying that Heyward will be a Steeler for life, and deservingly so since he's a quintessential Steeler on and off the field.

- Mike Tomlin held his first press conference of the regular season with the media on Tuesday and previewed the Giants' roster in-depth and discussed some of the new acquisitions in Josh Dobbs, Sean Davis, and Dustin Colquitt since the team formed its initial 53-man roster. In addition, Tomlin said James Conner will be the Steelers' main running back, putting to bed to the notion that the Steelers will have a running back by committee.

“There is no question about who our bell cow is," Tomlin said. "Our bell cow is James Conner, and he is our primary ball-toter.”

Tomlin remarked high praise for Giants' uber-talented running back and 2018 AP Offensive Player of the Year, Saquon Barkley, which is where first and foremost the Giants' offense starts.

“Man, he’s going to be a big-time challenge for us,” Tomlin said. “I spent a great deal of time this summer studying and appreciating his tape. This is a guy that’s capable of really impacting the game in all circumstances, really in many ways. He’s got the quicks and the vision to be a quality [exterior] runner and the power, also, to be a quality interior runner. He’s got burst and acceleration and top-end speed that allows him to excel on the perimeter game and in open grass. Five to 10-yard runs can quickly become 50 and 60-yard runs when you’re facing a guy with the talent of Saquon. We are going to spend a lot of time preparing to minimize his impact.”

- On Wednesday, Ben Roethlisberger held a press conference with the media and talked about how nervous he is going into Week 1, despite it being his 17th season in the NFL.

"I was driving in (to practice) today and crossed the Veterans Bridge and was thinking to myself, man, I am already nervous for this season," said Roethlisberger. "You always have a little bit of jitters and nervousness for the first game. The way I feel now is more than how I have felt in a long time. I am sure it's going to intensify as the week goes on, then Monday night I am sure I am going to be shaking like a leaf. It's one of those things you get out there and hopefully it all comes back to me really quick.

"There is going to be rust, no doubt about it. Hopefully we can get it knocked off sooner rather than later. That is what makes it fun. If I wasn't nervous, if I didn't have that anxiousness, you shouldn't be out there. If there is not a love for the game, if you don't have that. Since I have those nerves already it shows I still love this game, I am still passionate for it. I want to go out and win for the fans, the city."

- Shortly after Roethlisberger's press conference, Ryan Shazier posted a video on Twitter that he's retired from the NFL. Shazier would later in the afternoon, hold a press conference with the media to talk about his decision to retire from the game.

"I am here today to make sure the world knows how much I still love football. How grateful I am for everything football game me. I am here today to let the world know that today I am officially retiring from the game I love so much," Shazier said in an emotional video he posted on Twitter. "It's been over 1,000 days since I first got hurt. To lose the game in a way I never envisioned has not been easy. When you play the game of football the way I did, you convince yourself you are Superman. That nothing can stop you. Then, the moment I got hurt, I stopped being Superman and that was difficult to make sense.

"The way I look at it, God put us all here for a purpose. For 20 years he let me play football, and now it's time for me to do what he wants me to do. I am going to step away from the game for a while and see what else life has to offer. I know football always will be here for me if I need it, but right now I am excited to explore some new challenges and different paths."

During the afternoon press conference, Steelers' general manager Kevin Colbert joined the session at the end and emotionally told Shazier "I want you to know, you can retire from the game of football, but you are never going to retire from being a Pittsburgh Steeler."

- There was somewhat interesting news out of Cleveland on Wednesday, if you want to call it that, and it came from Myles Garrett, public speaking again about the incident with Mason Rudolph that happened last year that resulted in Garrett ripping off Rudolph's helmet and hitting him across the head with it. Garrett now wants to meet Rudolph man-to-man to clear the air.

"I just don’t want any grudges," Garrett told Mary Cay Cabot of "I don’t have any grudge against him. I don’t have any ill intent against him. It’s not like I’d have anything against him if I saw him in public or if I saw him in a game and we were suited up. I’d just play him like I play anybody else. if I saw him in public, I’d just fist-bump and walk away just like if I saw anybody else on the street that I didn’t know personally. I don’t have a problem with that. Other than that night, before that play and after that play, I don’t think we spoke two words to each other.

"And now our fates are intertwined forever, and so I don’t think we should leave it off like that, is my opinion. I feel like we should clear the air so there’s no problems and there’s no bad blood. Between our teams and our fans, the rivalry I feel like will live off of it, but between the players, I feel like it should always be competitive but never go over the line."

For whatever reason, Garrett continues to give this story legs and really should let it go when it comes to publicly speaking about it. If he wants to privately reach out to Rudolph and try to make amends, that's fine, but I'm not sure if Rudolph would be willing to answer a call or sit down with him one-on-one to talk everything over after Garrett assaulted him and assassinated his character by alleging that he used a racial slur.

"It’d be like other instances where people agree to disagree,'' Garrett said. "Just what I heard, just what you said you said and that’s what it is. If you say you didn’t say that, that’s okay, but that’s what I heard. It is what it is at the end of the day. We’re men and it shouldn’t be one situation that keeps you from respecting each other because you can’t look past that. If he wants to hold onto it, I’m not going to have any problems with him if he still has a problem with me.

"I’m just going to keep on playing the game and keep on doing my thing because I have a team and a defense that I still need to lead and I still need to perform for, so whatever we decided to do or make of this, it is what it is."

It certainly is what it is. It's done and over with and it's best for Garrett to move on publicly speaking about this matter. He's already done enough damage to Rudolph in a number of ways.

- It turns out that Mike Tomlin and Giants' head coach Joe Judge have a past history with each other, according to Art Stapleton of

Judge was a graduate assistant with Amos Jones at Mississippi State and would often answer phone calls from Tomlin when he was the defensive coordinator for the Vikings. Jones is now an assistant with the Giants and is the special projects and situations coach. Jones also was on Tomlin's staff from 2007-2011 as an assistant special teams coach and was promoted to special teams coordinator in 2012.

"To be honest with you, I immediately became a Steelers fan," Judge said on how he felt when the Steelers hired Tomlin as their head coach in 2007. "I was able to visit them early in his tenure in Pittsburgh when I was a GA. There were times at the combine he allowed me to be a fly on the wall, sit there and have dinner on his check, so I’m very appreciative of that."

Tomlin also mentioned his admiration for Judge during his Tuesday press conference.

"I've known him for a long time and he's a sharp guy," Tomlin said of Judge. "He's got the courage of his convictions, and I'm sure he's committed to being him. ... We respect the unknown relative to this matchup, but we're more concerned about the things that we need to do in order for us to play well."

The two coaches have very different resumes, as Tomlin is a Super Bowl-winning head coach and is in his 14th season as the Steelers' head coach, while Judge is a first-year head coach and looking to turn around a once-proud Giants franchise that has fallen on hard times the last few years. Tomlin has been a mentor for Judge as he worked his way up through the coaching ranks, and is now a head coach of a young football team looking to change the culture. That process will begin on Monday night at MetLife Stadium against a Steelers team that has a lot of continuity and vested veterans, along with stability across its coaching staff, which is something that Judge hopes to maintain as Tomlin has someday in New York.

- On Thursday, Steelers' offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner spoke with the media and had raving reviews about rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool.

"Chase is unique physically for the position," Fichtner said via Mike Prisuta of "I think, to his credit, he did the necessary things in the offseason. He didn't get a chance to do it with us. We didn't get a chance to work him in the weight room and work him on the grass, but he learned to be a professional prior to getting here.

"He came in in awesome shape. His body hasn't failed him, and his mind hasn't failed him because of conditioning. He's gotten a lot of reps. I think he's put himself into that talk of being able to be useful earlier in the season and a lot earlier than you probably would expect based on no offseason for a rookie."

There has been nothing but positive reports about Claypool since training camp started from coaches, teammates and the media. On Monday night, we will finally get the chance to see Claypool in action against the Giants and see if he can live up to the hype. Now, it might not happen right away, especially with no OTAs and preseason games this year, but the Steelers should have some type of package or routes that Claypool feels comfortable running where he would excel. Claypool has the potential to be a nightmare for defenses to cover in the red zone with his 6-foot-4, 238-pound frame.

- Tomlin announced earlier in the week that Zach Banner will be the starting right tackle against the Giants in Week 1. Banner beat out Chukwuma Okorafor for the starting spot but knows that one slip up in his play could cost him his job.

"We can all celebrate now, but if I go out on Monday night and suck, I am done," Banner said. "That is the bottom line."

- David DeCastro has missed almost all of training camp with a knee injury and hasn't practiced since Aug. 28. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Tuesday that DeCastro isn't expected to play on Monday night against the Giants. Ray Fittipaldo said today that DeCastro missed his second consecutive practice and has been ruled out for Monday night's game. Stefen Wisniewski will start at right guard in place of DeCastro. Diontae Johnson was a full participant at practice today after missing Thursday's practice with a foot injury.

- T.J. Watt spoke with the media on Friday and talked about how it all starts with Barkley when it comes to stopping the Giants' offense.

"I was able to play against him at Penn State. Just a specimen," said Watt. "A guy that's very big that can run the ball. He can run the ball inside the tackles, outside the tackles, has a good stiff arm and a good spin as well. A guy that can do everything out of the backfield for them. It'll be a challenge but that's why we always have to start with smashing the run as a defense to be effective."

Barkley is certainly a dynamic running back, both in the running and passing game, and will be a major test for the Steelers' defense in Week 1. Barkley has rushed over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons and has 17 rushing touchdowns, along with 143 catches and 1,159 yards receiving and six touchdowns in two seasons. The Steelers ranked 14th in rushing yards allowed last year, surrendering 109.6 yards per game, but allowed just 3.8 yards per carry, which ranked third in the league.


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