Football is football. And in just a short amount of time, we’ll have it again, at the highest level. Thursday Night Football is just about upon us and will kick off the 2020 NFL regular season as the Kansas City Chiefs begin their quest to defend their Super Bowl title.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, of course, have several more days to wait. They do not play until Monday. But I don’t think there will be a team in the league who will bring more energy and enthusiasm to the stage—even in front of a stadium of empty seats—than this roster. They’re geared up and primed for what’s to come. That’s also head coach Mike Tomlin’s expectation.
“We got an excited group. We’ve got a group that’s appreciative of the opportunity to play”, he told reporters during his Tuesday pre-game press conference. “I think that’s one thing that the offseason has taught us all, if we didn’t know that already. These opportunities are precious. They’re not to be taken for granted, and we’re just really blessed to have an opportunity to put football on”.
“I have that perspective, and I’m sure our players do as well”, he added. “We’re very passionate about what we do, and really, we’re relieved that we’re getting close to getting an opportunity to do it when there probably were times over the course of this development where we weren’t so sure”.
It is a great honor, but also a great accomplishment, to perform at this level. There are only a couple thousand football athletes in the world right now who are employed to perform at the stage that the NFL presents, and a large swath of those are only on the practice squad.
I do believe that the Steelers’ roster reflects this sentiment, exhibited in a number of ways throughout their history, most recently by the fact that they did not have any players on their roster choose to opt out of participating in the 2020 season due to concerns over Covid-19.
We heard from so many players throughout the course of the offseason, and pretty much all of them, at some point or another, in some way, expressed the general sentiment that the diminished offseason and the threat of having the game taken away from them this year only served to reinforce their love for the game and the appreciation of the fact that they have the opportunity to play it as a profession.
Of course, it also helps that they have a really good roster that is loaded with potential. It is widely expected that the defense will be one of the very top units in the league, returning four Pro Bowlers and three first-team All-Pros from last season.
The offense has the potential to be equally talented and equally productive, but they face a lot of question marks coming off a down year, including whether or not quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can not only stay healthy but be himself. That is a fair question to ask. What isn’t in question is the passion and energy that the Steelers are bringing into this most unique of NFL seasons.