One of the inevitable realities about the 2020 season is going to be the simple fact that every team will head into the year with more unknowns than normal. Without the benefit of a full offseason, and especially without a full slate of preseason games—or any preseason games—they will only have practices by which to judge their roster.
That means not just putting together a 53-man roster and figuring out how that works, and who the special teams contributors are, but also determining, in some cases, who the starters are going to be. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers have a couple of starting battles on their hands, especially at right tackle between Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor.
But for as many unknowns as they will bring into the 2020 about themselves, with their own self-scouting report, they will know so much less than their opponents, even more than they would heading into the usual season opener. At the very least, they will have seen what the team was doing in the preseason, even if that is often not indicative of the regular season play.
The lack of tape on your upcoming opponents is something that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has talked about before, which led to him being asked about it again on Sunday following practice. He was asked about what teams could do to mitigate that problem.
“You know, I don’t know if it’s something that you can work around”, he told reporters. “It’s a problem for the other 31 as well. From that standpoint, it’s fair. Worrisome is just what I use to describe it because we are all dealing with it. We are dealing with a level playing field in that regard. It’s going to be challenging but equally so”.
As you know, even we here at this site like to give our scouting reports for the Steelers’ upcoming opponents. With so little knowledge about what’s going on with individual teams, all of them inside of their own little bubbles and letting less out than ever before, it will be harder than ever at the start of the season to get any kind of real feel for what to expect.
And part of that will be because many teams won’t even be entirely sure of what to expect out of their own group. When you have just a window of about a month’s worth of training camp practice and no preseason games to get a look at your roster, you might not necessarily know what you have until you actually start playing.
As Tomlin said though, this is a problem every team in the league is inheriting because of the pandemic. It’s unfortunate, but it’s an equal setback for every team to share in. And as the season moves along, as clubs establish some semblance of identity, or at least patterns, those scouting reports will take shape and get fleshed out.