Chiefs starter ops out of 2020 season, could Steelers follow?

Tommy Jaggi
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif #76 of the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif #76 of the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The NFL has granted players the choice of opting out of the 2020 season. Will any Pittsburgh Steelers players exercise this option?

Recently, the NFL and the NFLPA reached an agreement that would allow players to opt out of the 2020 season by August 1st due to COVID-19 concerns. On Friday night, the league had its first player exercise that option, and fans now have to be wondering if any Pittsburgh Steelers will follow suit.

Adam Schefter reported on Friday that Kansas City Chiefs guard, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, will sit out the 2020 NFL season. Instead of playing football, he will continue to work as an orderly at a long-term care facility in Canada, helping fight COVID-19.

Though you may not recognize the name, but Duvernay-Tardif has actually been a long-time starter for the Chiefs – earning 57 starts in 60 games played since 2015. He starter 14 games for the Super Bowl-winning team last year, and has earned some respectable season grades of 71.5 and 71.6 in the past, according to Pro Football Focus.

Duvernay-Tardif certainly isn’t the only NFL player guaranteed to exercise this opt out, and this begs the question: Will any Steelers be sitting out the 2020 season?

Why Steelers may choose to opt out?

While we likely won’t have a definitive answer for that question until August first, there are a few players who have us worried.

Cameron Heyward is one of the names that has come up on more than one occasion. When asked about the option of sitting out the season early in July, Heward flirted with the idea of opting out – citing his family’s health as a potential reason why.

While I don’t blame any player who chooses to opt out this year, this option could have devastating effects on football teams. Though losing Duvernay-Tardif in 2020 won’t be the end of the sesaon for the Chiefs, not having a first-team All-Pro player could be lethal to a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are built around their defense.

With the return of Ben Roethlisberger and the additions Pittsburgh made to their offense this offseason, the Steelers have a shot to be legitimate contenders in the AFC this year. Unfortunately, the way they have structured their contracts and the way the salary cap will work out next season likely means that this is their last true shot with Roethlisberger leading the charge.

Next offseason, the Steelers will have just 41 players under contract and are already set to spend $189.6 million, according to Over the Cap. If the salary cap does indeed go down next year as many have predicted, Pittsburgh could lose a large portion of their talent in 2021.

Players like Heyward, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, James Conner, Matt Feiler, and Mike Hilton are all set to hit the market next offseason unless extensions somehow get done. This could legitimately be Pittsburgh’s last year to compete.

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While every player has the right to choose for themselves what they would like to do for the 2020 season, losing key contributors could have a monumental impact to a team in a rapidly closing Super Bowl window. Let’s hope it all works out for the players and the team in the end.