2020 Offseason Questions: How Severe Will Learning Curve Be For This Year’s Rookies?

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: How severe will the learning curve be for rookies during the regular season if the offseason continues to be extremely curtailed?

As we head closer and closer to the start of training camp, it is seeming more and more likely that what players will be doing will only casually resemble what we understand to be ‘practice’ and ‘preseason’. The NFLPA has already, for example, recommended that there be no preseason games. There is also a recommendation that there be no 11-on-11 drills.

Combine that with the fact that nobody has even been on a field yet this offseason in an official capacity, and you really have to wonder how well any rookie draft pick is going to be able to contribute right out of the gate.

Take Joe Burrow, for example, the Cincinnati Bengals’ new starting quarterback. How many passes is he going to throw to anybody that he’ll be throwing to in September? And what will be the context of those passes? Will it be on air, with no linemen? How will that hurt him when he takes the field for the first time and is facing a rush while his receivers are blanketed?

On the reverse side, a veteran offense, or veteran quarterback, can just as easily take advantage of defensive rookies who haven’t had the benefit of a traditional offseason. But some are quick learners. Even they may have growing pains, but what will a ‘successful’ rookie season in 2020 look like?

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