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: Which position group roster competition will be most affected by the loss of preseason games?
While training camp has a tremendous amount of value, preseason games tent to serve as the major tentpoles of evaluation when it comes to determining which players and which position have earned the right to be on the team’s 53-man roster.
Often, a player’s performance in a preseason game will affect where and when he works at practice in the following week, and so on and so forth. A good performance can see him line up with the next level up on the offense or defense, and likewise a poor performance could result in a demotion.
Based on the Steelers’ current 80-man roster, which position group’s roster battle will be most affected by the fact that they will not have preseason games by which to judge? I mean this more with respect to the depth of the position, rather than the few starting jobs up for grabs.
Safety is one position that comes to mind. The team only returns three players from the 53-man roster a year ago who spent at least the majority of the season there. They drafted a late-round safety, and recently added a safety with some veteran experience.
These players will have to make an impact on the practice field as they compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. Other positions where we might see this issue are wide receiver and running back.