While you can certainly do your best to make lemonade out of the virtual offseason, there is also the undeniable reality that there are limitations that come naturally with that territory. The Pittsburgh Steelers are among the teams who feel as though they have gotten a lot done with their program, about as much as they could have gotten done, but Mike Tomlin yesterday admitted that there are things that can’t be replicated.
“We weren’t in a physical presence, and there was some angst regarding that”, he told reporters yesterday via a conference call. “As a teach tool, you lose a little of the physical feedback when you are instructing, when you are sitting in the same room as people. Largely, the participation was great. The attentiveness was great. We feel like we were able to get a lot done. We weren’t able to get physical work done, so there is some anxiety associated with that”.
Back in the Spring, the Steelers had already acknowledged that reality and talked about that being one of the reasons that they were active, for example, in signing players who had worked in the XFL. They already had that professional experience, even if in another league, and also were already in-condition.
The coaches have not had access to the players basically at all this offseason, and the coaches have been prohibited from entering team facilities, except to work on physical rehabilitation, since about the middle of March, so coaches have had to trust that players are keeping on their own physical conditioning.
By and large, they have, even some rookies like Alex Highsmith, who was seen working with a number of veterans along the Steelers’ front line and edge defenders. Though they have surely been advised by their training staff, it has been mostly up to them to get things done.
One of the biggest hurdles for rookies is learning and understanding the physical requirements of an NFL season, something that many of them end up learning the hard way, and they come back in a far better level of conditioning for their second season.
That will be a hard lesson to learn for the likes of Chase Claypool and Anthony McFarland and the rest of the Steelers’ rookies. Even if they appear to be fairly well self-motivated individuals, the lack of that professional environment in which you are engrossed in the physical rigors of the job is an important teaching tool to which they don’t have access this year.