Today marks the end of rookie minicamps not just for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but around the league. Tomorrow begins an abbreviated ‘Phase 2’ of the offseason program, which extends to light work. The first OTA sessions begin next week. Who will we see there?
This isn’t ordinarily a very big question, as the vast majority of players tend to show up, but this year is naturally different, with the NFLPA doing its best to discourage players from showing up. That even extended to this year’s rookies, but that plan failed miserably, as there was virtual perfect attendance during rookie minicamps leaguewide, including in Pittsburgh.
Not that that should be any surprise, because rookies have a lot of catching up to do, and are just trying to make rosters right now. Their agents want them to show up. They probably want to show up, too. So they do. And the team expects them to continue to be here.
“By rule, we will be able to continue with these guys on Monday”, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of those in attendance at rookie minicamp on Friday, when he was asked when he anticipates that they will next get a chance to work with them. “That’s our level of expectation and we look forward to it”.
The Steelers were just one of a majority of NFL teams who, through representatives, communicated through the NFLPA that a sizeable portion of their roster did not intend to report to voluntary offseason activities this year. Cameron Heyward even encouraged incoming rookies before the draft to get in touch with their veterans on their new teams to bring them up to speed on union matters.
But it’s hard to see this going well with regard to getting rookies and young players on board with this supposed ‘boycott’ of voluntary activities. Players do stand to benefit from participating in these events. We had multiple veteran players earlier this offseason express the hope that they would have OTas, including Robert Spillane and Cassius Marsh.
In other words, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t expect the likes of Najee Harris and Kendrick Green and the rest of the rookies and young players to continue to be a regular presence at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex over the course of the next months as they adjust to the next chapter in their lives.
That’s what the Steelers expect, and frankly, that’s probably what the union expects to happen as well, knowing that there is very little that they can do about it. I’m sure many veteran players who suggested that they would stay away are also going to report, as well.