Week 5 Blog: All the news and notes

Friday, October 9

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Making you smile: Eric Ebron has a personality that just makes you smile.

He is entertaining. He is humorous. He is engaging.

His teammates say he is a talker on the field, and he doesn't hold back off the field either, saying what is on his mind during zoom interviews and on social media.

Ebron was that way before he arrived at the Steelers this offseason during free agency, he didn't change coming to a new team.

"I played against them. They know what I bring to the table, they know who I am as a person," said Ebron. "Personally, I am one of the best guys to be around in my opinion. I'm always full of energy, I'm always bringing laughter, I'm always bringing happiness.

"When I play football, when it's about football, it's a totally different thing to me. A lot of people don't distinguish the two or separate the two. They're two totally different lives. When it's about football, it's football. When I'm outside of football, I am who I am. I can't be anybody else."

Ebron said when he came to the Steelers he didn't think about what it was like in the locker room, knowing he wanted to come to a team where winning was number one, and he was just going to be himself.

"I was going to be me regardless," said Ebron. "Honestly, being me, you either like it or you hate it. Coming here, Mike Tomlin and all of the coaches, probably didn't understand what they were getting in a player, but they all fell in love with it because I am going to bust my tail, I am going to go out there and give it everything I've got, but at the same time I am going to enjoy my life, have fun with it, and be vocal about the things I don't understand or just don't get. At the same time, I am not trying to be a butthole or anything other than myself. If you can know who I am, none of the stuff that I ask or the way that comes about it really matters because you know who I am. I never planned on changing who I am. I just planned on coming here and being myself and making plays."

And he hopes to do more of that on Sunday, in front of the fans at Heinz Field.

"Fans are my life," said Ebron. "My energy level will be through the roof."

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T.J. Watt on Bud Dupree now hosting a new show on steelers.com, 'Bud Brought a Buddy':
"He has such a great personality. It's awesome for fans to get to know him on a different level. He is very upbeat. He has a great relationship with everybody on the team. To be able to have a show like that where you can relax, it's an awesome thing."

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Heaping praise: Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey wanted to give credit where credit is due regarding Matt Feiler's position switch from right tackle to left guard this season.

But Pouncey suspected he'd come up short despite the best of intentions this morning, in part because, in Pouncey's estimation, Feiler's transition has been "beyond praisable.

"He's done unbelievably, man," Pouncey insisted. "For him to be able to switch positions like that right before the season, not to get any work at really playing guard like that and thinking in his mind he was going to be the right tackle … he has the right mindset for things. And I think he's showing not only the Steelers but other teams around the NFL that he can play tackle, guard, center, every single position on the line.

"And when you have that, you're more valuable than a guy that just plays one position."

The Steelers will need Feiler, Pouncey and the rest of the offensive line at its collective best on Sunday afternoon against Philadelphia.

The Eagles' talent and depth along the defensive line will demand such a response.

"We've got to come to play football," Pouncey acknowledged.

Philadelphia deployed seven defensive linemen who played between 32 and 77 percent of the defensive snaps in last Sunday night's 25-20 win at San Francisco.

The Eagles' four-man front and strength in numbers present a different challenge than the Steelers are used to engaging, but not an unfamiliar one.

"Whenever you have a four-down team like that they usually do rotate a lot of different guys throughout the game to get the rush process going," Pouncey said. "They're all very good players, we don't have to really overly exaggerate on how great they are.

"But they do have a good defense and a great overall team."

One of the defensive linemen in the Eagles' current rotation is former Steelers nose tackle Javon Hargrave.

"I don't think there's really much of an advantage," Pouncey assessed regarding the familiarity on both sides. "The competitive nature comes out no matter what.

"After the game, obviously, we'll be old teammates and still friends like we normally are. The competitiveness comes out, going out there and playing a football game. Things go up and down, there's fun parts, there's bad parts but overall, the bigger picture is to have fun and enjoy what you're doing."

--Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Crucial Catch: The NFL has partnered with the American Cancer Society for the 12th consecutive season for 'Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer.' The initiative helps in supporting the fight against cancer and will be highlighted by NFL teams through Week 6 of the season.

The Steelers will host their Crucial Catch game on Sunday when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field. UPMC Cancer survivors will lead a virtual Terrible Towel Twirl.

Throughout the league, NFL-issued Crucial Catch apparel will feature a multi-colored logo representing all cancers. Other factors include game balls with the Crucial Catch logo, multi-colored equipment for players including helmet decals, wristbands, sideline caps and quarterback towels. There will also be field banners, goal post wraps and pins for coaches.

Thursday, October 8

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Leading the way: Vince Williams has become a huge part of the Steelers defense this season, not just with his on-field play, but with how he handles himself and the leadership role he brings. Williams isn't one of the team's defensive captains, but that doesn't mean he isn't looked at as that by many of his teammates, including Minkah Fitzpatrick.

"The title captain is tough, especially here," said Fitzpatrick. "You have multiple guys who can be captain, I can name at least five. Vince actually got one of my votes to be a captain.

"He is a great leader. He is a workhorse. He does everything the right way. He doesn't cut any corners. He came from not the typical background of a high caliber player. He grinded for everything he has. He keeps that in the back of his mind, and he plays like that. He will run through somebody and be excited about it. He plays with great energy. He makes the game a lot more fun to be around."

Hanging with his buddy: Linebacker Bud Dupree kicked off a new show that is featured on Steelers.com, 'Bud Brought a Buddy,' and his first guest was Minkah Fitzpatrick. The quiet Fitzpatrick said Dupree asked him to do it to get him to open up a lot more, and the two had a great time pulling the first episode off.

"Bud is an awesome dude," said Fitzpatrick. "He is very charismatic. He looks mean and all of that, but he is a great guy. He loves to have fun. He wanted me to be on the show. I was like, yeah, people don't know a lot about me. He said I am too quiet, and he wanted me on the show to speak up a little big, lighten up a little bit and have fun."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 5 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles

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Team player: The addition of tight end Eric Ebron this offseason has given the Steelers another weapon in the passing game, a weapon who brings a different skill set, and quite honestly personality, to the group than Vance McDonald. Ebron is a pass catcher, that is his strength. And he has a huge personality, once that spreads to those around him.

"I just like Eric more and more since he has been here," said McDonald. "He brings the element of fun. He is always light-hearted, joking around. He has humongous play-making ability. He is really fun to be around. I think our skill sets are different. When it comes to an offense, being able to bring two different types of things and talents to the table, it's been really fun having him this year."

McDonald got into the groove against the Texans two weeks ago with three catches for 35 yards, after having just one reception for three yards in each of the first two games of the season.

But what McDonald brings to the offense goes beyond what he does in the passing game and his value is sometimes simply undervalued.

"Vance is a very versatile player for us," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He is the type of guy that can be impactful in the running game and the passing game. He has already displayed that to this point this year. We expect it to continue. He is a guy that is a willing point of attack blocker, he is also a capable puller in the run game.

"He is really a team first guy. I think his attitude permeates not only to the tight end position but through our offensive unit."

That team first approach is something that McDonald takes great pride in.

"I consider myself a soldier and I am going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do," said McDonald. "I told Eric point blank I would rather block all game than catch one ball. That is the absolute truth. It's my little project. I love investing my time into Eric, the background and the four years I have been here experiencing the scheme and just telling him all the nuances I have learned over the years and just offer it to him to see how he takes it and whether he wants to use it or apply it or not.

"I live through Eric's success in the passing game. If that is all it ever is, I am just as happy as I'll ever be. Last week we had good sharing opportunities between Eric and myself in the passing game. Those came down to situational moments when I was the read, I was the target. I was the only guy that was open.

"The potential we have in our room, it's always going to be there. At the same time, I find satisfaction and joy in carrying out the responsibility that is laid in front of me each week.

"Obviously, the acquisition of Eric, I am not an idiot. Eric is a better pass catching tight end and threat than I am. I recognize that. I don't bury my head in the sand because of that. It's not like I walk around with some sort of false pride or ego. With all of that, I love watching Eric succeed. I will bend over backwards to make sure that happens every single week.

"I love the words Coach Tomlin said. That's been my mindset from day one. Whatever it takes for this team. I simply receive the information and carry it out and I love doing that."

Sharing his frustration: Vance McDonald was frustrated, and admittedly angry over the past weekend because the Steelers had their bye week forced upon them because of positive COVID-19 tests among Tennessee Titans players and others in the organization forcing the game to be moved to Week 7.

McDonald said he already had family plans for what was supposed to be a Week 8 bye, but he also has moved forward as the team is preparing for this week's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I spent a little bit of time on the bye weekend with my wife," said McDonald. "It's frustrating. Everyone is going to be different. We had plans for our bye week. We had dates set. This gets thrown at you. Call it a wrench or whatever.

"At this point if you don't carry that mindset with you at all times to be absolutely fluid for anything around the corner, it's going to sneak up on you. I can't afford to carry that with me into the next day. I spent this weekend being angry about that. Being angry at the fact that I have to drive in from my farm to get tested and all of that. It is what it is.

"The NFL is about to enter a time where let's face it, you don't have bye weeks to shuffle around anymore. To keep an even playing field it will be interesting to see what management and leadership does to be able to account for all of the moving and shifting and patterns of teams and this and that. If you want to look at it in a positive way, if you could flip a coin and say this is the only time it's going to happen this season for any other team moving forward, fortunately for us we got to fit our game into a bye week and we don't have to extend or do anything crazy in order to fit in that lost game.

"I have had early bye weeks before in my career, I have had late bye weeks before in my career. The bye week always seems to come, as the saying goes, at the perfect time. I know Coach (Mike) Tomlin loves to say that. Not necessarily saying that yet looking at this one, but maybe looking back we will. You can say we got a 3-0 start that really stinks to separate our games with a break that wasn't expected.

"If I could speak for the team, I would almost say as I do in my household that I don't run the calendar. I literally get up, take care of that day, and then rinse and repeat. I feel like the guys in our locker room will be able to do that this week. It's just another day, another game where you reset after the weekend."

On Wednesday Ben Roethlisberger was asked if he felt the Steelers got the short end of the stick by having to have the game rescheduled and the bye moved. He said he felt that way, and McDonald said he feels the same.

"For me it all comes down to whatever scale we are going to use globally across the NFL, how do you establish a fair playing field," said McDonald. "My mom reached out to me and said did you see Cam Newton got COVID. I am not making this about Cam Newton or the Patriots-Chiefs game. It was crazy to me to think there was partiality offered when the starting quarterback of one of those teams gets COVID and the game automatically got delayed. I thought to myself, partiality aside, if you had someone who was a less significant factor in that game get COVID, would the same thing happen.

"It's all about that fair playing field. Until that is established and figured out, I feel like we are moving through this with blinders on. We are going to have to do that to some degree throughout this whole journey, but that doesn't mean we just say all right, whatever happens, happens. There has to be some sort of foundation we come back to as a league that establishes fair play. Like Ben mentioned, we got the short end of the stick, I feel the same way.

"However, I know I play a game for a living and whatever direction we end up going as the NFL, I am going to have to accept that. I only think it's going to get worse. It's going to compound. More stories are going to come out. It's going to be I get to point the finger at you. We just don't want the finger pointed as us. Coach Tomlin said it well, almost every day in team meetings. We have been doing this from day zero, let's not be those guys.

"We knew what we were supposed to be doing since day zero at training camp when we all reported. Let's just do that, let's have respect and honor for everyone, and just follow the rules. For me that is the only way you are going to have fair play. As soon as any of that is compromised, you are going to have some other team on the other end of it that gets the short stick. I feel like we were that team this past weekend."

Wednesday, October 7

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Keeping their rhythm: JuJu Smith-Schuster was among eight players who didn't practice on Wednesday, still dealing with a knee injury that has had him on the injury report this season.

Smith-Schuster hasn't missed any game time and coming off an unexpected bye week because of the game against the Titans having to be rescheduled because of COVID-19 positive tests, he said the team still has a good rhythm on offense.

"I think our rhythm is still there," said Smith-Schuster. "It's nothing we have lost. I think it's still early in our season to have an uncalled for bye week. But it is what it is. The rhythm is there."

Smith-Schuster said he is hoping that there aren't any more schedule changes this season that pushes the season back further, and when asked what he thought about Ben Roethlisberger's comment earlier in the day saying the Steelers got the 'short end of the stick' regarding the rescheduling, he didn't dive too deep into it.

"That is the Titans business and NFL stuff," said Smith-Schuster. "What we talk about is what Coach (Mike) Tomlin brings to us that the NFL is doing. At the end of the day you want everyone to be safe and follow the protocols and get these games going."

One thing that does have Smith-Schuster excited is the return of fans to Heinz Field this week.

"I am actually very excited," said Smith-Schuster. "As far as Steelers Nation, this is something they look forward to. This is unbelievable. I think it's awesome that we are going to have some fans. Although it's not all 68,000, it's something that is going to keep us going to see people in the stands. I can't wait."

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A whirlwind: More positive COVID-19 tests across the NFL are raising more questions about what might happen next.

Steelers defensive tackle and defensive captain Cam Heyward maintained today such developments have been anticipated all along.

"To think we weren't going to have positive tests is ludicrous," Heyward said. "What you're trying to eliminate is the amount of (positive) tests back to back and have it widespread throughout a community in the NFL. We're trying to wear masks. We're trying to social distance. You're trying to just adhere to the protocols and just follow.

"I can only preach it to the young guys, and the older guys, as well, when you leave this facility that has a lasting effect on our team. Everybody has to do their job.

"There's going to be more positives. It's our job to minimize the amount it takes over a team. If one guy gets it or two guys get it we're able to respond accordingly. But when an entire team and it spreads throughout your coaching staff and your team, it's going to be hard to really deal with the effects of that."

Coach Mike Tomlin has been emphasizing the importance of players, coaches and teams remaining light on their feet in dealing with such circumstances.

Heyward and the Steelers have a keen appreciation of what that means after having last weekend turn into a bye weekend rather than the weekended they played Tennessee.

"It was just a whirlwind," Heyward said. "You come in like a regular week, focused on your opponent; that's the selfish part of me understanding that I've got to be a little bit more flexible in adjusting to this. A lot of things happen on the fly. We're just trying to adapt to the situation.

"We just have to be willing to adjust. I know the NFL and the NFLPA are trying to do right by the players and the coaches but there's only so much they can do. It's going to take a discipline throughout each player and each team to help accommodate that."

On the field Heyward is eagerly awaiting Sunday's matchup with Philadelphia, in part because the Eagles will be bringing a collection of defensive linemen who's reputations will precede their arrival at Heinz Field.

"There's definitely a competitive edge in that," Heyward acknowledged. "I look forward to those games where we get to play quality defensive linemen. You try to measure yourself up against them. You want to get the 'W' first, but after that I want to see if I'm ahead of them after the game."

- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

The Steelers prepare for the Week 5 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles

Monday, October 5

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Unselfish duo: Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt are prime examples of what being a team player means.

The two players are uber competitive, always working extra to be the best and never giving anything but 100 percent every time they are on the field.

But there is more.

They are unselfish.

Dupree and Watt constantly share information with each other, constantly offer each other advice and tips, constantly do whatever they can to help the other one because in the end, it makes everybody better.

"We work hard in the offseason. We work hard in practice," said Dupree. "We want to continue to get better and better each week and continue to be a threat. We want to keep that fire underneath us so we can push the defense to be the best it can be.

"There is never enough knowledge in the game of football. Continuing to get better is going to take a progression of things, mentally, physically, just seeing things on the field. If I see things on my side of the field, I can relate it to T.J. because he might get it on his side of the field as well."

The two are often seen at practice talking to each other, and even Coach Mike Tomlin recently said that Watt only talks to Dupree during practice as they are both always ultra-focused.

"We work so well together," said Watt. "We continue to grow, continue to push each other. That is the great thing about the relationship between Bud and I. We are always trying to find ways to get better, whether it's individually or collectively. Whether he learns something in the offseason and comes back and tells me about it and vice versa. Or if I find something on film that might help him on his side, I am always willing to share. We are an open book for each other.

"We want to be the best possible duo we can be, not only for ourselves, but more importantly for the team. We know if we are making splash plays, we are helping the team win games."

The two continue to get better by the day, and at the same time continue to share advice on a daily basis.

"T.J. is my dawg," said Dupree. "T.J., he is what you get. He is a hard worker on the field and off the field. He is a serious guy all of the time. Even during the day, he is trying to think of ways to get better. He is a great person to be around. A great person exchange and pick brains with."

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Staying safe: With positive tests for COVID-19 happening on three NFL teams over the past week, Steelers players are doing their best to keep themselves and their teammates safe during an uncertain time.

And in many cases, that means staying close to home except for the essentials.

"With this situation, the way the world is now, me personally I only go from practice to home and the grocery store if need be," said linebacker Bud Dupree. "Other than that, it's kind of like just stay home. Don't try to do extra like we normally do during the season. Just think about the team first."

He isn't alone in being a homebody. Cornerback Steven Nelson is doing what he normally does … spending time with his family.

"Pretty much the same thing I have always done," said Nelson on how he is keeping safe. "I am a family guy, so I just go and be with my family. I think that is the easiest way to stay away from everybody and isolate yourself."

Nelson said having the bye this past weekend because of the Titans having positive tests and the game being rescheduled simply meant players stayed in Pittsburgh and had daily COVID testing.

"There is nothing you can really do," said Nelson of how he spent the weekend. "We still have to get COVID tests. Before guys might have gone home to their offseason homes. There is no need to travel or anything. You just show up, take your COVID test, and go back home."

While nobody in the NFL wants to have a disruption of their schedule and have things changed, both Nelson and Dupree understood that this is what comes with the 2020 season.

"We embrace it," said Nelson. "We knew coming into the season there were going to be a lot of ups and downs and unexpected things. We embrace those things and we take them on as we come and prepare as such."

Dupree said health-wise it would be nice to have the bye when it was originally scheduled in Week 8, closer to the midway point, but he isn't complaining about it.

"There was definitely uncertainty," said Dupree. "We didn't know what was going on. The NFL kind of had stuff at the last moment. We thought we were just going to play another day. The NFL decided we weren't going to do that, so we had to just roll with the punches.

"Any time you get a chance to relax it's a good time. We would like to have it towards the middle of the season for our bodies, our bodies aren't banged up right now. Our legs might be tired. As far as your body and mental state we are ahead of the curve and ready to go.

"We can't put blame on anything because we don't know how the virus is spreading right now. There is a lot that plays into that. It's not a good situation for the whole league for this virus to keep popping up. We just have to fight through it and roll with it to the best of our abilities."

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He Said It:

Chase Claypool on how he can avoid hitting a rookie wall with 13-straight regular season games ahead:
'I never think about hitting the rookie wall, but I am preparing. I am trying to get into a routine now, so I don't have to go through that too bad. I am trying to get into a routine of treatment.'

The Steelers prepare for the Week 5 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles

Take a look at important dates in Steelers history during the month of October

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