If there’s one thing you can expect Mike Tomlin to preach leading into training camp, it’s conditoning. He gives a now boilerplate answer near the end of OTAs, To all the rookies and new faces, be in the best shape of your life. If not, training camp is going to suck more than it already does.
Consider William Gay as someone trying to pass along that message. Gay, who will serve as a coaching intern during camp, posted this photo and caption on his Instagram page Tuesday evening.
He wrote: “Me looking at my TL making sure everybody getting right for training camp 2019….. that conditioning test and first week gon tell the truth about your efforts…. Championship mindset!”
And Gay would know. He spent ten years and ten Latrobe camps with the Steelers. It’s widely regarded as one of the most physical and intense practices around, especially when you consider the muggy, rainy weather typical for this time of year (anyone who lives in Western PA right now knows what’s up). As he notes, camp, as it does around the league, begins with a timed conditioning test prior to the first practice. Fail to complete it in time and you’ll end up on Active/PUP for at least a couple days. Valuable time missed.
It’s become common to see players be unable to finish practice, leaving either due to cramps or dehydration. It also puts players at risk for soft tissue injuries like hamstring pulls that can stop a season in its tracks. If you’re a young player and miss multiple weeks with a pull or strain, it’s hard to get reps and get back on Tomlin’s “moving train” as you get close to September football.
But this isn’t just for the rookies. Any new faces to the team have to be ready. Look no further than veteran offensive tackle Bryce Harris, signed in June after the team lost Jerald Hawkins for 2018. Despite being no stranger to the league, and having about six weeks to get himself in shape, he failed the conditioning test last year. Pittsburgh released him the next day.
So for the veterans signed and those coming over from the AAF with some NFL experience, the mantra remains the same. If you’re not in great shape, there’s no chance of making the roster.