Over the course of the offseason, player representatives of more than half of the teams in the NFL issued statements through the NFLPA on behalf of their teammates stating that at least some of them intended to not participate in voluntary in-person workouts as part of the league’s offseason program.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were among them, but the team had seemingly perfect attendance during rookie minicamp, and it appears to be anticipated that OTAs, which open tomorrow, will be well-attended as well as the veterans mix in with the young players.
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Twitter earlier this afternoon that “a lot of veterans have already been working out on the South Side, even today. That includes the QB”, referring to Ben Roethlisberger. But this development is the product of an evident dialogue and concessions being made between players and team, something we’ve been seeing throughout the league.
OTAs start Tuesday for Steelers, but a lot of veterans have already been working out on the South Side, even today. That includes the QB.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) May 24, 2021
Earlier in the day, Brooke Pryor for ESPN wrote on Twitter that Steelers players “pushed to eliminate contact while still getting learning, teaching opportunities”, noting that they don’t expect to hold 11-on-11 drills during OTAs. She added that there may be some 7-on-7 drills as the practices pick up, but “the focus is on getting players up to speed in the classroom and individual drills”.
Some 7-on-7 periods may occur later in OTAs, but right now, focus is on getting players up to speed in the classroom and individual drills.
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) May 24, 2021
For the better part of the past year, the NFLPA has argued that much of the in-person offseason practice schedule is unnecessary, and they have ramped up their efforts to gain ground in this regard this offseason, taking the position that the past season was not negatively impacted by the lack of OTAs last year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“A virtual offseason helped keep us safe to not only start, but finish the regular season as safely as possible and it makes no sense for us to risk infection or injury in the spring if we don’t have to”, the Steelers’ NFLPA-issued statement read last month.
“We are professionals and are committed to being in the best shape possible”, it went on. “Our team holds each other accountable to the highest professional standards and we will prepare as we always do to be the best for Steelers Nation”.
A statement from the Pittsburgh Steelers players: pic.twitter.com/aVHvka6j8C
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) April 16, 2021
Despite commitments throughout the league from players that they will not participate in the offseason workouts, team-and-player dialogues have managed to create numerous organic solutions where compromises were reached to encourage players to show up to modified, and in some cases reduced, Spring workout schedules.
The long and short of this is, I suppose, we should expect to see a somewhat normal OTA schedule for the Steelers beginning tomorrow, hopefully including player interviews, even if they will be lighter in nature and more oriented toward teaching.