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 much will the Steelers’ rookie offensive skill position players be able to contribute in 2020?
Considering the fact that two of the Steelers’ three highest picks in the 2020 NFL Draft were skill position players—wide receiver Chase Claypool in the second round with their top selection and then running back Anthony McFarland with their first of two picks in the fourth round—what sort of year-one offensive impact they may be able to see from them will be one of the prevailing questions asked during training camp.
The good news is that the Steelers don’t necessarily need major nor immediate contributions from either one, as they are at least three or four deep at each position, or even more, depending on which players you want to qualify in that category.
The bad news is that the nature of this offseason has made it more difficult for them to work their way into playing time. No rookie minicamp, no OTAs, no minicamp. That’s a lot of time lost for players whom the team doesn’t need. And if they’re not needed, they’re not going to be pressed into playing unless they prove that they’re ready.