As you may have already noticed, there is no preseason this year. in fact, there weren’t any Spring practices, either. In other words, training camp is more important this offseason than it has ever been, not just to team preparations, but for every fringe player trying to make a roster or anybody looking to earn a role.
And teams around the league are entering a pivotal ‘crunch time’ phase of the training camp process, now approaching two weeks into padded practices. We are now only a couple of weeks or so before the first regular season games are played, so the sand in the hourglass is already running to the bottom in a hurry.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed this reality after practice yesterday, noting looming roster cuts, which reportedly teams may begin to engage in early to cut down to 69—the equivalent of a 53-man roster and a 16-man practice squad.
“We have to be cognizant of that in an effort to keep the group up, but at the same time, it’s an opportunity for those that are highly conditioned for them to highlight that aspect of readiness and seize additional reps and rise through the ranks”, he said in referring to an accumulation of typical training camp injuries.
“And that’s what this process is about. It’s a big week for us, as we get into this week”, he said. “It’s one of those ‘lean-in’ weeks where if guys are gonna make a move, now is the time. They got acclimated to the environment, to how we go about our business. It’s really time for their talents to start to show, for there to be fluidity in play and understanding”.
“Those are some of the things we’re looking for”, Tomlin continued. “We’re thoughtfully constructing some of that in competition. We’re asking for some specific matchups. We want to see who can compete against known varsity-like guys. So we’ll continue with that. It’s been a good day thus far, and we’ll continue with that mentality throughout the week”.
This sentiment will apply especially to guys like Curtis Riley and Antoine Brooks, Trajan Bandy and Tuzar Skipper, J.C. Hassenauer and Kerrith Whyte, guys who are lesser-known commodities who are on the fringes, whether they be perceived as inside or outside the bubble.
It also pertains to anybody currently competing for a role, such as those pushing to start at right tackle, or at nose tackle, or as a sub-package defensive back, for example. There won’t be any in-stadium work before the season starts, so this ‘lean-in’ week is the period of time in which Tomlin, and other coaches around the league, believe that those who are capable of separating themselves from the competition should be able to begin to do so, if they haven’t already.