The Pittsburgh Steelers are now training camp, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp will look much different from the norm, and a big part of that will be the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. There will be no preseason played in 2020, so the first time the Steelers take the field in 2020 will be for the season opener against the New York Giants.
Before we get there, however, there are a number of issues that are outstanding on this team, and this year’s edition of training camp will not provide the level of thoroughness that teams are normally used to in trying to answer those questions.
Questions like, what is the starting offensive line going to look like? Will it include Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor? Who will be the primary nose tackle? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
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 are the backup safeties performing?
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Steelers permitting only a limited amount of access to training camp this year, we know less than we have in years about what is going on at training camp in 2020 without our eyes and ears in the seats. The organization is seemingly proving to be among the least forthcoming when it comes to letting fans know the details of their practices, a tendency that has been escalating annually.
As a result of this, we are left in the dark much more than we would ordinarily be, and this problem is magnified greatly by the absence of preseason games, which is traditionally the only time that most fans get the opportunity to see these depth players.
The long and short of it is, we really don’t know much about Curtis Riley and Antoine Brooks, who are competing with Jordan Dangerfield and Marcus Allen, as well as John Battle, for two or possibly three depth spots at safety behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds.
With no clear cornerback who needs to be carried as a sixth, it feels more likely than usual that the Steelers will carry five safeties. Riley provides some veteran experience, and free safety experience, that will help him, and they tend to favor rookies, even if Brooks is a sixth-rounder, but we’ve heard little about them so far.