Training camp is finally here, even genuine practices. This is the first time all year that we, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, have had the opportunity to take the field in any capacity, which is an all-important step in the process of evaluating your offseason decisions and beginning to put the puzzle together that will shape the upcoming season.
The Steelers are coming off of an 8-8 season, but while they will default to clichés about how you are what your record says you are, they know they have the potential to be much better. Still, they enter training camp with some questions to answer.
They are no different than any team in the NFL in that regard, in any year. Nobody comes to practice as a finished product. So during this series, we are going to highlight some of the most significant storylines that figure to play out over the course of training camp.
Headline: Holding a scrimmage in lieu of having the opportunity to play in the preseason
Teams have had no choice but to get creative during training camp this year because of the simple fact that they did not have the opportunity to put their players through preseason games. Perhaps especially for special teams purposes, it has been nothing short of a mission to come up with ways on the practice field to simulate game-like environments for their players in an effort to evaluate them.
Holding a scrimmage is one way to do it, which is what the Steelers are doing today. The players and Mike Tomlin talked about how yesterday was set up like it’s the day before the game. Today is ‘the game’. We don’t know precisely how they intend to play it out, but suffice it to say that it will serve as a critical evaluative tool in this unusual offseason.
It’s likely, as one would expect, that a number of veterans would be held out of the scrimmage—or perhaps not. After all, this will be their only game-like event, and unlike a preseason game, they can exercise far more control over what happens. Ben Roethlisberger, for example, wouldn’t have to worry about taking a big hit. Heads would roll if that happened, but you couldn’t expect the same level of chivalry from the Carolina Panthers.
Needless to say, this will be an important experience for the rookies, young players in general, and anybody on the fringes of either a roster spot or a role. The fact that Chukwuma Okorafor seemingly made it back to practice yesterday was welcome news in time for his competition with Zach Banner.
It’s too bad, of course, that we won’t get a chance to see any of this. Like many other teams, the Steelers have been very tight-lipped about what is happening in training camp this year. Other teams like the Buffalo Bills have even fired people who have been too liberal with their details from practice.