Training camp is finally here, even genuine practices. This is the first time all year that we, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, have had the opportunity to take the field in any capacity, which is an all-important step in the process of evaluating your offseason decisions and beginning to put the puzzle together that will shape the upcoming season.
The Steelers are coming off of an 8-8 season, but while they will default to clichés about how you are what your record says you are, they know they have the potential to be much better. Still, they enter training camp with some questions to answer.
They are no different than any team in the NFL in that regard, in any year. Nobody comes to practice as a finished product. So during this series, we are going to highlight some of the most significant storylines that figure to play out over the course of training camp.
Headline: Wrapping up camp, preparing for games
Training camp is over now. A week from today, the Steelers will be traveling to play the New York Giants. What little time they had to prepare from a fundamental standpoint is essentially over. What comes now is weekly prep work for the upcoming opponent.
Pittsburgh already started to make that pivot at the end of practices last week, something that at least they would have ordinarily had a trial run through in the third preseason game, the one in which teams typically spend the most time playing their starters and actually do some studying.
Without that preseason, however, prep work for the opener will be even more difficult than usual, something Mike Tomlin addressed last week in saying that a lot of the work that they were doing to get ready for the game was more about who they are than who the Giants are. Because the reality is—they don’t really know who the Giants are.
They’re one of the teams with a new head coach, for starters. They have a young second-year quarterback with changes going on around him. They haven’t even had the opportunity to look at preseason tape. They’re doing what we’re doing, looking at Giants beat writers and things like that to try to glean any information that they can.
So how do you prepare for an opponent that you don’t know? Perhaps the best way is to just prepare for the unknown, because that’s what they’re going to get a whole lot of. And they should also expect to see a lot of sloppy football from a bunch of guys who haven’t been in a game in nine months.
The segue from fundamental work to game preparation has been a blur this year, at least from the outside, without the preseason as a structural measure. Everything about this offseason has been unusual, for obvious reasons, including training camp, with the team literally practicing in Heinz Field. But now we get to move on to weird games.