Welcome back, Steelers’ Nation. Football is here. And I – much like you, I’m sure – can’t wait. As great as training camp is, nothing beats what happens inside stadiums. Today is the first step in that, one hopefully full of exciting plays. Ola Adeniyi recording a sack. Devin Bush flying in for a TFL. Diontae Spencer catching a 50 yard touchdown (I think it’s gonna happen, you guys).
All of that is critical. But don’t forget about the basics either. Without those, the big plays don’t matter and probably aren’t going to happen.
For the rookies, it’s about playing fast. Not thinking, which naturally slows yourself down and limits your playmaking and ability to be in position. Show technique. Linebackers stay square and find the ball. Cornerbacks, stay in phase and play clean. Running backs, hit the hole and don’t dance. Return men, secure the ball.
The little things is how players separate themselves. Run to the ball, play through the whistle, dive on any loose ball, even if you’re pretty sure there was a whistle. Show the coaching staff you can be trusted to do the basics and they’ll believe you can do the big stuff, too.
Yeah, all of it is boring. It’s supposed to be. This is about taking what’s taught in the class room and practice field and applying it to stadiums. It’s an entirely different environment today. You’re dealing with crowd noise. Your offensive coordinator isn’t next to the huddle giving you the call. You don’t get to rehuddle if something goes wrong. Time to sink or swim.
And remember, these final few open roster spots will come down to special teams value. Guys need to make plays there too and impress Danny Smith. That’s not just about big plays. Special teams are all about the small things. Staying squad to your blockers. Not getting hold for stupid penalties like blocks in the back when your man runs past you. Maintaining your gap integrity on the punt team. Staying in your lane when running down a kick. You get the idea.
Those things matter just as much as what highlights will make the 11 o’clock news.
The devil is in your details. So is your roster spot.