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: Will the Steelers in any way engage in the growing sports boycotts?
Over the course of the past couple of days, we have seen the NBA, the WNBA, and the MLS ‘postpone’ games after players made it clear that they were going to boycott the event in an act of protest against continued police violence against minorities. Other assorted sports figures in tennis and elsewhere have done the same. NFL teams have canceled or delayed practice and are having ‘dialogues’ about race.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was asked yesterday morning—before the boycotting of games began in the NBA, mind you—about the continually evolving cultural environment in which sports is being conducted, how the organization was handling it internally, and what any reaction or response might be.
As you would expect, he didn’t give a necessarily clear answer, acknowledging that the team is very aware of everything that is going on. He also made mention of the importance of everybody in the organization, including the players, being involved in discussions about what actions to take, if any.
With the regular season just weeks away, we already know that the cultural conversation is going to shift once again. The NFL is the most high-profile sports league in the country, and that is going to magnify the player protests that have been long promised, far more so than what we’ve seen in other sports. This is an inevitability, so don’t shoot the messenger. We’re all dealing with this same issue. And we all want to see sports.