I don’t mean to overstate things but I don’t want to overlook a key element on Saturday’s night practice Mike Tomlin mentioned followed the weather-shortened session. The start of the day had a very regular season feel.
Practicing at Heinz Field is nothing new for a team whose spent all of training camp there. But for the first time, they wore gameday uniforms, sharp black jerseys, out onto the field. They had starting lineup introductions courtesy of PA announcer Larry Richard and Tomlin said the day had a very pre-game feel.
“We had some good quality work tonight,” Tomlin said last night via the team site. “I felt it was important for us to simulate a game like environment. And by that, I mean the procedural things leading up to the game. We approached it in that way in terms of our pre-practice work. The timeline that we follow leading up to the work there, the routines, the stretch routines and all the things that we would do in a preseason game. It’s just another step that we’re taking to ready the group for the regular season. I don’t want it to be where we’re in New York and, and that’s the first time they were finding their rhythms prior to kickoff.”
It’s all the more important to take the chance to simulate that given the elimination of preseason this year. Practice won’t be able to replicate all of it, there will be many unknowns heading into the regular season, but the warm-up and routine of gameday can be practiced.
Attention to detail like that exemplifies the value of a veteran head coach. Tomlin isn’t a new fact to the organization, trying to figure out his roster, juggle assistant coaches, the tendency to overthink as a new head coach who ultimately does too much. All the obstacles the team’s Week One opponent New York Giants are facing with newly hired Joe Judge, a first-time head coach.
If there’s any team able to roll with the many, many punches 2020 has thrown, it’s a Steelers team that has so much continuity. Not even the New England Patriots can say that right now, practicing with a starting QB not named Tom Brady for the first time in nearly two decades.
That allows the Steelers to focus on those little things like getting guys in that routine right now. It’s a minute detail that’s going to pay off when the regular season begins. Add up all those small details and the Steelers have a real advantage heading into the regular season.