On Friday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers became the most recent NFL team to announce their decision to opt out of this year’s voluntary offseason workouts. The franchise will now join the nine other organizations who will not participate during in-person workout before summer training camp.
The long list of teams now includes the following: the Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots and New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Las Vegas Raiders.
The NFL Players Association released a statement on behalf of the Steelers on Twitter.
A statement from the Pittsburgh Steelers players: pic.twitter.com/aVHvka6j8C
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) April 16, 2021
“We should not be made to compromise our health and safety,” the statement read. “With the current pandemic still affecting our communities and country, and the lack of clear protocols and protections regarding returning to work at full capacity, the players of the Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to exercise our right to not participate in voluntary in-person activities.”
Like many of the other teams who have announced their decision to opt out, the Steelers referenced the success and functionality of last year’s virtual offseason.
“A virtual offseason helped keep us safe to not only start, but finish the regular season as safely as possible and it makes no sense for us to risk infection or injury in the spring if we don’t have to. The protections we had in place last year are not fully in place now and remain unclear. We are professionals and are committed to being in the best shape possible. Our team holds each other accountable to the highest professional standards and we will prepare as we always do to be the best for Steelers Nation.”
This wave of teams opting out of this offseasons’ workouts comes as a response to a letter sent from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and president JC Tretter, encouraging the league’s players not to participate. The hope from the NFLPA is that league officials will agree to all-virtual OTAs and minicamps prior to training camp.
Under the league’s current 2021 offseason schedule, that is not the case.
According to an overview released by the NFL, the program will be nine weeks and full voluntary until a mandatory minicamp. The first phase from Apr. 19-May 15 will include virtual meetings and no on-field drills or work with coaches. The next phase from May 17-20 adds full-speed on-field drills with coach interaction. And the final phase from May 24-Jun. 18 will include in-person OTAs and mandatory minicamp.