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 will the Steelers break down the competition for the quarterback depth roles without the benefit of a preseason?
While I fully agree with the NFL’s decision to pull the preseason this year on the grounds of safety, reducing the risk of exposure for the purposes of an exhibition game, I would like to think that, by now, my readers are well aware of the fact that I and the rest of the crew value this time of year. After all, I’ve been charting preseason games for years, trying to figure out who the new number 80 is on the field and in my Excel sheet after the previous 80 was waived injured during the week.
The loss of the preseason is a blow beyond the simple fact that many do enjoy watching it, of course. These exhibition games regularly serve as important tentpoles in training camp battles, whether for starting jobs or for roster spots, and the Steelers are not without competitions to decide this year.
That includes the backup quarterback position. While the team still feels largely resolved that Mason Rudolph will be the direct backup, it has already been declared an open competition for the number three spot between Devlin Hodges and Paxton Lynch.
So the question then is, how do they structure this competition, while also getting the necessary reps for Ben Roethlisberger and his backup, Rudolph, without the benefit of the preseason to evaluate them? Almost assuredly, creative solutions will be required.