The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently on an approximately five-week hiatus from any formal activity, but there is not much down time to be had between now and then. Sure, some of this allotted summer time will be used to spend time with family and friends, even go on vacation, but for the NFL athlete, this is the final stretch before the marathon begins.
The veteran players know this better than the rookies, and it’s up to the older players to communicate that message to the incoming class that has not gone through the training camp experience before. They may not understand how much different it is in training camp in comparison to the dozen or so spring practices that encompass OTAs and minicamp.
Although training camp is not what it once was, especially so since the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement came into effect a small handful of years ago, the level of intensity involved is still clearly a notch or two above than what has already passed. And that is without the addition of the padded practices.
Of course, any football player who has made it to this level understands what it’s like to practice in pads. But they’ve never gone up against 10-year veterans before. You can expect that the likes of James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons will be providing some rude awakenings for the new running backs and tight ends in the backs on backers drill.
Of course, even the number of padded practices allowed during training camp has been reduced. But head coach Mike Tomlin has in recent years attempted a workaround by bringing back the live tackling sessions that had not been seen in Pittsburgh for over two decades prior, which certainly helps in getting more bang for the buck in those valuable padded sessions.
Another aspect that the incoming class must prepare for is the fact that they will be essentially living with their team for nearly a month. The Steelers report to camp on July 25, and camp does not break this year until August 22. That’s a long time to be living and breathing football 24/7 as your profession for the first time in your life.
The Steelers will have about two weeks’ worth of practices before they play their first preseason game, the Hall of Fame Game, which will take place on the ninth of August. It’s a short turnaround then, as the second game only takes place on the 14th.
That means the young players this year, because of the extra game, will have two preseason games under their belts and ample time to prepare for the third as they look to avoid the Turk, which will come around after the third preseason game.
That third game won’t take place until August 23, the day after they break camp, and a full nine days after the previous game. Whoever failed to show well for himself during those first two games had better hope that he gets a chance to redeem himself by practicing well and earning playing time in the third game.