Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stated quite a few times since this year’s draft took place that it will be very challenging to get the team’s rookie up-to-speed for the start of the regular season due to all of the offseason being virtual in nature as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. During his Thursday media session, his first of the team’s 2020 training camp, Tomlin was asked if there will be more of an emphasis this year on just figuring out what the teams rookies and younger players can do as opposed to trying to be more encompassing with them in what their job is supposed to entail.
“I don’t know that our agenda relative to their development changes, Tomlin said. “The time in which we must develop them, and the access to them, is what is different. There’s a different urgency. There’s an acceleration to the process, if you will, but in terms of the boxes we need to check with them, the way we get to know them and things of that nature, that is unchanged.
We also have to acknowledge in this environment that there probably will be less of a finished product as they step into regular season stadiums in 2020 than there are in normal circumstances, but that won’t be exclusive to our rookies, that will be global. It will be prudent to all of us, globally, to be thoughtfully particular about what we ask our young guys to do because of those circumstances.”
Tomlin was asked more questions about this tears rookie class and specifically what has impressed him the most so far about the young players and how he thinks the group has handled the uniqueness brought on by the pandemic, which has resulted in the entire offseason program being virtual prior to training camp beginning recently.
“I don’t know if I’ve been uniquely impressed in this juncture,” Tomlin said. “I don’t know that they’ve had an opportunity to, based on what it is that we are doing. We’re thoughtful about working our way into this training camp, light work for two reasons. The National Football League has been very thoughtful about it. We want to control the COVID environment as we bring people together and minimize the impact of that potentially as we get started, and also, we wanted to have an emphasis on conditioning, acknowledging that we have been working remotely all offseason. This juncture hasn’t been a lot of football. It’s been a lot of teaching, a lot of conditioning and things of that nature for those reasons.”
Later during his Thursday media session, Tomlin detailed a little the differences of now dealing with the young players in person as opposed to virtually and what he’s able to learn from that process in the beginning stages.
“The work we are doing in person right now is very different than the virtual work,” Tomlin said. “Just the physical clues that you pick up as you communicate with people when you are in the same space. The body language. There are more opportunities for feedback, for the players to express understanding, to get further clarification for you as a teacher to feel them and get a sense of their overall intake.
“We are working in a very different environment. There is a sense of urgency because of the challenges that the circumstances have presented. We are just pushing our way through that.”
With just 47 days remaining until the start if the Steelers 2020 season, the team’s rookies will need to show very quickly that they can pick up the offense or defense if any of them have any hopes of contributing on either side of the football right out of the chute. The team won’t have any preseason games this year to evaluate the young players in and only 14 padded practices will take place due to CBA restrictions. Tomlin relayed the message again on Thursday and noted again the urgency that’s now involved because of it all.
“We have a lot of things going on that are exciting trying to familiarize ourselves with the young people,” Tomlin said. “Obviously, we’ve been working with those guys virtually for several months, but to be in the same physical space with them and have an opportunity to give and receive information and get to know the more intimately has been a positive thing over the last number of days.
“We’re excited and have a great deal of urgency about continuing that because we all acknowledge that this preseason process that we are going through is abbreviated and different in a lot of ways. We will be continually gaining an understanding about what those deficits are. In the short term, we just have a great deal of urgency and respect for that, and we need to respect that in everything we do daily and how we work.”