10th-year veteran guard and current Lion Geoff Schwartz was one of a couple of veteran offensive linemen that the Pittsburgh Steelers brought in during free agency back in March in order to kick their tires and test their market value. Schwartz has been a little bit of everything during his career, and his most recent stint as a quest columnist for Monday Morning Quarterback makes me all the more sad he didn’t end up in the black and gold.
The 30-year-old veteran had an awful lot to say in his column, talking about his own journey as a former seventh-round pick who has been to the Pro Bowl, signed big contracts, spent time on the practice squad, and had half a dozen surgeries. It’s an interesting story in its own right.
But I think the most interesting thing that he has to say in the article, outside of his brother, former Browns tackle Mitchell Schwartz, breaking down the cues of a standard outside zone run, is the part in which he talks, albeit briefly, about the state of the game and what the changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that have taken place since he entered the league has done to reshape the game.
“If you want to find a factor that changed the game the most”, he writes, “look at two-a-day practices going away. Two-a-days is a phrase that makes all footballers cringe. The current CBA, under the premise of player safety, did away with two practices a day. But that decision dramatically changed the game”.
Schwartz speaks with the experience of the sort of person who is most affected by the change. He was a late-round bubble player, the sort of player that I have written about earlier during this dead time heading into camp, but he had the good fortune of entering the league under the old CBA.
“Blocking and tackling will never be the same without two-a-days”, he writes. “Those are skills that need constant repetition. I used to blame collegiate spread offenses for the general decline of O-line play, but the loss of reps is mostly to blame”.
Consider, for example, how many undrafted free agent offensive linemen the Steelers have brought in over the past few years, clearly with the intent of being able to identify at least one of them out of the group that would play to a level sufficient enough to justify carrying on the 53-man roster.
The last rookie undrafted free agent offensive lineman who made the 53-man roster for the Steelers was Ramon Foster back in 2009. Was the fact that he got those extra reps doing two practices a day that big of a factor in whether or not he made the roster?
Schwartz’s article is well worth a read and touches on a number of subjects. He talks about the labels he’s been given, such as ‘journeyman’ and ‘injury-prone’, his belief that the game should be played on grass, NBA contracts, and whatever else he had a thought on while writing, so I would recommend giving it a read.