First came news that the Pro Football Hall of Fame game was cancelled, postponing this year’s matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers until Aug. 2021. At the same time, the NFL decided that this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies would be postponed too, affecting Troy Polamalu, Bill Cowher and Donnie Shell, the latter already waiting a really … long … time for his induction ceremony.
Today there’s a report from Pro Football Talk that the NFL plans to cancel half of the league’s preseason games, with the week one and week four preseason tilts being lopped off the schedule. PFT’s report says the NFL plans to make the announcement on Thursday.
What Does This Mean For the Steelers?
If the week one and week four games are coming off the schedule that means the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t be coming to Pittsburgh. That also means that Tom Brady’s first appearance in a Bucs uniform—or at least his first appearance on the sideline of a team other than the Patriots—won’t be happening at Heinz Field.
It also means that Pittsburgh won’t be wrapping up its 2020 preseason in Carolina. That will mark the end of a very long preseason streak, as Pittsburgh has concluded its preseason against the Panthers for 17 going on 18 consecutive seasons.
It remains to be seen if the dates and times of the remaining preseason games will be affected. As of this moment, the Steelers are scheduled to host Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints for a nationally televised game on FOX on Aug 23.
The following weekend the Steelers are slated to travel to New York—er, New Jersey—to play Le’Veon Bell and the New York Jets on Friday, Aug. 28.
QBs, Rookies Most Affected by the Cancellations
The cancellation of two more preseason games has implications for a number of different position battles. For example, it may give Pittsburgh’s veterans even more of a leg up when it comes to winning the job at a position like left guard, with Matt Feiler having an advantage over free agent addition Stefen Wisniewski.
And while the rookies drafted in rounds two through four are a lock to make the team, the undrafted free agents and late round draft picks will now have even less time to impress the coaches in a game environment.
Meanwhile, the quarterback room could be most affected by the schedule changes, as the Steelers may want Ben Roethlisberger to get some playing time with the first-team offense, especially since he’s been away from the field for the better part of a year. That means backup Mason Rudolph will have less time to demonstrate that he’s improved since last season. And it makes it even more unlikely that Paxton Lynch or J.T. Barrett will be able to unseat Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges, who will be attempting to hold onto the third-string quarterback job.
For reference, following is link to the Steelers’ original 2020 preseason schedule.
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