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 we see the veteran offensive linemen get a lot of rest time during training camp?
The Steelers still have three linemen who have been with them as starters for a long time, all of whom are now over 30 years old, in Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro. Of the three, two did not participate in practice yesterday, though in Pouncey case, it was reported to be an excused absence for personal reasons, while DeCastro is nursing a minor ‘day-to-day’ injury.
With the limited offseason and multiple positions in the starting lineup to figure out, however, as well as the need to determine which players ought to be kept around as depth, we could see these longtime veterans sit out more than normal.
Last week, DeCastro talked about how it was an advantage for the Steelers to be such a veteran group, and that the older linemen didn’t really need the reps. Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor, however, do. Stefen Wisniewski is new to the team. Matt Feiler is settling in at left guard as a full-time starter.
Pittsburgh can possibly squeeze in some extra and higher-quality opportunities for these players, as well as for Kevin Dotson and Derwin Gray and the like, by resting the likes of Pouncey and DeCastro and Villanueva. They need work, too, of course, but theirs are the jobs that are already secure.