Opening night on Thursday felt about as normal as we could reasonably expect under the circumstances, but there was no hiding the fact that this has been the most unorthodox of offseasons—the fog covering Andy Reid’s face shield, if you will.
While Reid has the ability to shed the shield for the Kansas City Chiefs’ Week Two contest, there was little the NFL could do to when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic—either practically or legally. Virtually everything non-essential around the country at one point or another was shut down. It took major negotiations just to get the players back on the field for training camp.
In the meantime, that meant that rookie orientation, OTAs, and minicamp, all of that stuff had to be conducted virtually. The young players coming in are almost surely already fairly versed in technology, but especially for some of the older coaches, it was an adjustment period to say the least. But the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to make it work, according to Mike Tomlin.
“I have been really impressed with the coaches and the players in their willingness and their ability to adjust under the circumstances”, he said on the Mike Tomlin Show yesterday. “These circumstances aren’t ideal. But present circumstances being what they are, I think we’ve been light on our feet, and I’ve really been impressed by the amount of things we’ve been able to get done, from a teaching and a learning standpoint, remotely”.
“We spent our entire Spring working remotely”, he noted. “We’ve installed football in all three phases, offense, defense, and kicking, remotely, and it was good to get into a training camp-like environment like we’ve been in for the last couple of weeks and see that there was some retention, and we weren’t starting from ground zero. So it’s a tip of the cap to the coaches and the players”.
Of course, the true test comes tomorrow night to see how well they are able to handle a live game against a largely unfamiliar opponent about which they know very little. Players have talked about splitting their time between watching tape of the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys just to get a feel for what they might be seeing.
Are they ready? Fortunately for football, those sorts of questions get answered quickly on the field, and they’re usually pretty apparent. And the bottom line is, that is how their offseason preparation is going to be judged. By and large, there is consensus that the Steelers are a talented team, so if they don’t perform, outside of some other obvious reason, it will be because they fell behind in this area relative to their opponents.