Pittsburgh adding offseason veterans isn’t new, I know, even if they generally aren’t the flashiest names in the world. But the guys they’ve added this season may play a more important role than in most others. 2020 is going to be a weird year for a million different reasons, sports included. The NFL may be impacted the least of the major sports. Their regular season schedule may not be disrupted at all (though to be clear, that certainly remains a possibility). But best case scenario, the offseason will be wiped out. Rookies will get drafted, sure, but there won’t be much for them to do after that.
OTAs and minicamp? Already postponed, likely cancelled, or shrunk down to a large degree. And training camp? Very much up in the air and based on current coronavirus forecasts, the start of camps and preseasons are probably going to be disrupted.
In a normal year, any rookies who miss this valuable time are behind the eight ball. Or to steal Mike Tomlin’s favorite line, not on the moving train. But in those situations, where a player likely misses due to injury, they can still attend meetings, be on the practice field, and soak up mental reps.
Now? If facilities remain shutdown well into the summer, there’s none of that. When players return, they’ll be coming in completely cold with the regular season looming. Players will be months removed from the football field, perhaps not in ideal shape, or at least, not around to hear Tomlin’s classic “get in the best shape of your life” speech. I don’t know if that conversation will carry the same weight if it’s done over Skype.
Expecting them to contribute on Sundays, especially for the toughest positions to transition to – quarterback, tight end, safety – is asking for the moon.
So if you’re the Steelers and hoping to plug n’ play at left guard to replace Ramon Foster, you might want to think again. Or at least sign veteran depth like Stefen Wisniewski, someone who can step in at a moment’s notice and give you serviceable play. Ditto at tight end, a notoriously tough position for college players to make the leap.
Again, adding vet options prior to the draft is in Kevin Colbert’s wheelhouse, even in years where you didn’t have to fight anyone to buy toilet paper. But they’re going to be more valuable in 2020 than in any year before while rookies are going to do a lot of standing around, a redshirt year for many, hoping to make up for lost time in 2021.