The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't had any players officially opt out of the 2020 NFL season, but coach Mike Tomlin isn't even sure there will be a full season to opt out of. Appearing on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football" Thursday, Tomlin cautioned that he doesn't necessarily think the league will make it through the 2020 campaign because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I don't know that I'm extremely confident," he said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, given the issues MLB has faced since its own attempt to begin play. "(But) I think we're all proceeding with caution and working extremely hard not to become part of that."
Tomlin's remarks come on the same day his Steelers were originally scheduled to play the Dallas Cowboys in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, which would've kicked off the 2020 preseason. The NFL cancelled that matchup in June, then agreed to wipe out the entire preseason schedule as part of negotiations with the NFL Players Association to revise the collective bargaining agreement in accordance with safety protocols during the pandemic.
His comments also come hours before the deadline for players to voluntarily opt out of the 2020 season, either due to personal or high-risk health reasons. And they reinforce a league-wide reality: Few people, judging by the stringent protocols and scheduling changes that have been implemented in recent weeks, are "extremely confident" the NFL's 2020 season will carry on completely as planned. Baseball's early delays, stoppages and cancellations simply exacerbate the potential issues, considering the NFL will not be making like the NBA and isolating teams in a "bubble" campus.
And yet, as Tomlin said, the preparations will continue in an effort to make it work as safely as possible for as long as possible.