The Pittsburgh Steelers are now training camp, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp will look much different from the norm, and a big part of that will be the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. There will be no preseason played in 2020, so the first time the Steelers take the field in 2020 will be for the season opener against the New York Giants.
Before we get there, however, there are a number of issues that are outstanding on this team, and this year’s edition of training camp will not provide the level of thoroughness that teams are normally used to in trying to answer those questions.
Questions like, what is the starting offensive line going to look like? Will it include Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor? Who will be the primary nose tackle? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will Marcus Allen really be looked at as depth for the inside linebacker position?
It really is quite something that, at the beginning of September, the Steelers literally only have four linebackers. I do not recall them ever having fewer than four on the 53-man roster. They basically always carry at least one more on the practice squad. They often have five on the 53-man roster and still another on the practice squad for six in total.
Last week, head coach Mike Tomlin justified the dearth of bodies at the position following the waiving of rookie Leo Lewis by citing their trying different bodies at the position, namely third-year safety Marcus Allen, who is…not a linebacker, and according to practice blow-by-blows from the team’s own website, doesn’t sound like one either.
While it’s good for Allen to have this position flexibility, I just shudder to think of a scenario in which Robert Spillane is the only thing standing in between him playing in the event that one of the team’s starters is injured.
Teams are still signing veteran players to new contracts. Mark Barron recently signed on with the Denver Broncos. The New York Giants, the Steelers’ first opponent, just signed Logan Ryan. There are some linebackers out there. Right now, Pittsburgh doesn’t even have one to put on their 16-man practice squad, and I’m really just kind of flabbergasted by the situation as a whole, and by the notion that Allen counts toward their positional depth there. There really isn’t a valid excuse for not having at least five actual inside linebackers.