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: What will a post-Antonio Brown offense with Ben Roethlisberger look like?
This is the question that we thought we were going to get the answer to last year. In essence, we didn’t. While Roethlisberger did play a game and a half, that’s hardly a sufficient sample size, and we already knew that he was dealing with accelerated elbow issues that culminated in three tendons snapping in the middle of Week Two.
Not only that, but their strategy for replacing Antonio Brown was waylaid by Donte Moncrief’s sputtering his way out of town. Diontae Johnson emerged, but after Roethlisberger was on injured reserve.
So now, we will go from an offense in which Brown is liable to see 160-plus targets to one that may be more spread out between Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Chase Claypool, Vance McDonald, Eric Ebron, James Conner, and whoever else may step up in the backfield.
Remember when the discussion entering 2019 was about how it was an experiment about superstar talent versus team chemistry? We never actually got to find out the answer because of Roethlisberger’s injury. I’m not sure that it’s relevant anymore.
But we’re still anxious to find out whatever this is looks like, and that’s predicated on the notion that Roethlisberger will actually play the way he’s supposed to play, rather than a 38-year-old quarterback who tore three tendons in his throwing elbow.