Today is Thursday, August 6. In another timeline, we would be counting down the hours before being treated to Pittsburgh Steelers preseason football later today, when they were scheduled to face off against the Dallas Cowboys in the 2020 edition of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
It would have come shortly after we witnessed Steelers legend Troy Polamalu and former Super Bowl-winning head coach Bill Cowher inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and listened to their no-doubt poignant speeches. And all the while we would have bee thinking about Donnie Shell, who would have been due to be enshrined in a separate ceremony next month.
None of this is now happening, at least not in 2020. Both enshrinement classes have been delayed, pushed back to next year, though it was announced that they would not be combined ceremonies with the actual 2021 class. The Steelers and Cowboys are scheduled to play the 2021 Hall of Fame Game.
But not only will there be no Hall of Fame Game this year, as you know, there will be no preseason football at all in 2020. We have now finally reached the point of the offseason in which we are facing the harsh reality of the pandemic. We still expect to see football about a month from now, but the absence of a preseason, of a Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, is a stark reminder of the conditions we are living in.
And it is also important to remember that the powers that be did whatever they could to hold out for as long as they could before determining that the events would be postponed. The Hall of Fame spoke candidly during the offseason about its confidence in being able to host the event, and of the multiple contingency plans they could put in place—only conditions never improved to the level that they could implement any of them but the last plan, which was postponement.
Tonight, we would have no doubt been watching Mason Rudolph start at quarterback against the Cowboys defense. We would have gotten our first glimpses of Chase Claypool and Anthony McFarland, and welcomed Eric Ebron into a Steelers uniform. We would have seen the beginning of the battle between Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner to start at right tackle.
What’s more, we would have, hopefully, witnessed the first steps of the defense ascending into an elite unit, perhaps the best in the NFL, stocked with talent and now adding the seasoning of experience for players like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds, and a more solidified T.J. Watt, who emerged as an elite player in 2019.
But what we do have is training camp. We won’t have an in-house reporter like we usually do, but the Steelers are adapting, and will allow us to gain glimpses ourselves into training camp practice through their website later this year. It’s better than nothing to tide us over before the regular season begins.