The Pittsburgh Steelers may not have been able to get on the practice field, but that didn’t step them from holding their rookie minicamp—virtually, with the majority of the work being done individually. The reason for the circumstances being as they are, I’m sure, doesn’t need to be explained.
While the NFL is endeavoring toward planning for teams to be able to reopen their facilities, it remains unclear how soon that will be possible, with am emphasis on the fact that all 32 teams must be able to reopen before any individual team is allowed to do so.
Regardless of the circumstances, however, there is work that has to be done, and that is the approach with which head coach Mike Tomlin is forging ahead in this uncertain environment, as he told reporters via a conference call last week.
“We wasted very little time lamenting this weekend about what we aren’t capable of doing in terms of not being able to work in the same space and things of that nature”, he said of the Steelers embarking on their virtual ‘rookie minicamp’.
“We really focused our energies on maximizing the opportunities that we have, the platforms that we have and using this opportunity not only to instruct these guys and get an opportunity to get to know them in that way, how they learn and so forth, how they communicate in a football way, but also just introduce some of our support staff officially and make sure these guys understand some of the spaces and members of our organization, working and laying the foundation for a professional relationship in a lot of areas so that they can be the well-rounded guys that we need them to be”.
It’s important to note that we are not talking about just six players here, the Steelers’ six draft picks. Rookie minicamp entails all rookie and first-year players. This means Trajan Bandy, a rookie college free agent out of Miami. That’s J.T. Barrett, a first-year 2018 undrafted free agent who signed to the practiced squad on Christmas Eve. That’s Cavon Walker, one of the half-dozen or so players signed from the defunct XFL.
“We get the norm as best we can under the circumstances”, Tomlin continued, “and allowing them to get to know us. It’s been good thus far. We’re looking forward to finishing with a strong weekend”. He also noted that Ramon Foster, who recently retired, was brought in to address the group.
A lot of the players who were going through rookie minicamps this week have gone through it before. But many of them—perhaps the majority of them around the league—have not, and what they are experiencing is unlike anything any other class has ever dealt with. They will have to adjust—even if they don’t know what they’re adjusting to—as much as do the teams who brought them on board.