How much will the coronavirus pandemic ultimately impact the 2020 NFL offseason? At the very least, all minicamps and OTA sessions will have to be done virtually. From there, we’ll have to take a wait and see approach when it comes to the impacts made on training camps and preseason games as well. Regardless of what ultimately is wiped out by the pandemic this offseason, rookies around the NFL will likely be affected the most as it will be extremely hard for teams to get most of their young players up to speed quickly enough for them to make impacts outside of special teams right out of the starting gate.
On Wednesday, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was interviewed on 105.9 The X and he admitted how tough it will be to get the team’s rookies up to speed and ready to contribute by the start of the regular season.
“That was something we spoke to each of these players about now before we chose them, when we did interviews with them, especially after the combine, when we could only do the video conferences,” Colbert said. “We always told the player, ‘Look, concentrate on your health, concentrate on your family’s health and well-being, the football will catch up.’ Now they’re all gonna catch up at a delayed pace, obviously, because we’re not where we would have been in a normal situation. So, they will all be in the same category and the same challenge for all rookies across the NFL.”
In addition to admitting how much the rookies around the NFL will likely be affected by the the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Colbert also noted how the veteran players will be impacted as well.
“But it’s going to be different for the veteran players who are used to doing certain things at this time of year as well,” Colbert said Wednesday afternoon. “So, I think everybody is in a delayed-type mode. The rookies will have to adjust and learn on the fly, but I think the coaches will adjust and probably change a lot of what they’re going to expect, not only out of the rookies, but even out of the veterans on a shortened season, whatever it may be.”
All of what Colbert said on Wednesday and what Tomlin said over the weekend backs up a lot of what Ive recently written on this site and said on the podcast about the impact of a lost offseason program on not only the Steelers 2020 rookies, but all rookies around the league as well. Some of these kids can’t even workout properly still because of not having access to gyms because of the coronavirus.
While these virtual minicamp and OTA sessions are great, they’re not the same has having the players on a practice field going through the motions and learning that way. Making mistakes on the practice field way ahead of training camp getting underway allows younger players opportunities to get caught up as much as possible to their veteran teammates by late summer.
Will the Steelers still be able to get some contributions out of their rookies in 2020 like they did with a few in 2011 when that season’s offseason was wiped out by the lockout? Sure, and injuries will unfortunately dictate that to be the case in a few instances. For the most part, however, plan on most of the Steelers rookies being mainly special teams contributors early and often throughout the 2020 season.
Sure, a few of the Steelers 2020 rookies such as wide receiver Chase Claypool, outside linebacker Alex Highsmith and running back Anthony McFarland Jr., could get a few snaps right out of the gate on their respective sides of the football. Claypool, for example should be able to see the field in some red zone packages. Outside of that, however, and numerous injuries hitting the team, expectations for the Steelers 2020 rookie class need to be tempered quite extensively more so than a normal year.
Luckily for the Steelers, they have a lot of players on both sides of the football back from their 2019 team back. Additionally, the team’s coaching staff didn’t undergo too many changes, either. In the long run, the 2020 Steelers should have an advantage over most teams this coming season because of those two faxctors alone.