There are many ways in which the 2020 season has been a uniquely interesting one. Penalties have been at an all-time low. Points, subsequently, have been at an all-time high. And so have games moved due to viral outbreaks, another element of the equation that organizations suddenly find themselves tasked with managing in addition to everything else that it takes to competently run a football team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been among the most diligent, or at least so it seems. Though they had four players enter training camp placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List (almost every team did), only one was actually confirmed to be positive, and they have had no reported cases since then.
They were also one of something like two or three teams who had no member of the organization choose to opt out of the season due to health concerns, either for themselves or their families. That is why nobody in the building is surprised about how seriously everyone in the building is taking it.
“When everybody had a chance to opt out, we knew right then and there that we would have to stay disciplined, and stay on each other, and be held accountable, and that way we could have a good season”, Cameron Heyward said earlier this month.
“We have to understand that all it takes is one day for a guy to make a mistake that could cause the whole team a lot of turmoil, so we have to work together day in and day out to keep working to make sure that we put ourselves in the best situation possible”.
And it’s a top-to-bottom thing in the organization. Everybody is trying to hold everybody accountable and make sure they are doing the right thing, including the coaches, such as the 56-year-old offensive coordinator, Randy Fichtner.
“In terms of just our offensive coaches and myself, I’m not afraid to lead by example”, he told reporters on Thursday. “I’m the guy that hasn’t had a haircut since March 16. I’m the guy that hasn’t been in a gas station since March 16. I’m not going to a grocery store, and I’m not going to a restaurant. I’m going to where I’m supposed to be here and be in my apartment in town, and all of our guys know that. I’m going to wear a mask when I’m told to wear a mask, and I’m going to wear it when I’m told not to wear a mask because it’s that important”.
“I’m also going to be the first to pat guys on ass for doing what their supposed to be doing, and they are”, he added. “They are on time to get their COVID tests. It doesn’t hold them back from being on time to any of our meetings or functions, things that we are doing. I applaud them because I know they are all trying to do right, and it’s not an easy thing to do”.
A situation like this requires a lot of ass-patting going on for the next several months. The Steelers already know that they can have games moved if they get lax in managing the virus. The game they’re preparing for is one that was supposed to be played weeks ago.