The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will conditioning be an issue for players when they report to training camp?
By and large, in today’s game—today’s business—professional athletes know the drill. They know that football is their job and their body is their means of earning their pay. Doing everything to get in shape is simply part of making money, so usually, physical conditioning isn’t much of an issue.
There can be a learning curve, though, especially for rookies. No matter how much Mike Tomlin preaches conditioning, there will be issues. Diontae Johnson and James Washington are two recent examples of players who have acknowledged that they were not prepared for the levels of conditioning required to excel at the NFL level. We see a lot of players make a major jump in their conditioning from year one to year two after going through and learning what it takes to get through an NFL season.
This year is, of course, very different. There hasn’t been an in-person offseason. Around this time, Tomlin would be telling his players not to slack off on their workouts during their Summer break in the downtime between minicamp and training camp, but there is no minicamp. There were no OTAs. There wasn’t even lifting in the weight room. There was nothing, except for Zoom meetings.
We’ve seen the videos. We know players are working out, even rookies. But will they be at an NFL level of conditioning when it comes time to actually take the practice field?