Cam Heyward is tired of Zoom calls. Of virtual connections, the lack of a true ability to learn, grow, and team-build. But for a little while longer, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ meetings will be held virtually. Heyward is counting down the days until that ends.
Speaking with reporters (virtually) Tuesday, Heyward made his feelings about learning online as clear as he did his thoughts on Ben Roethlisberger.
“I’ll be honest with you. Virtual blows.” Heyward said in a Zoom call provided by the team. “I would love to see you guys in person. When you look at just installing stuff and learning, you really don’t get to know someone knows or grasps what’s really going on. When you have that in-meeting time and you’re able to just rap with your coach and just ‘Coach, I really don’t understand that. Let’s go over that one more time.’ You can’t really go through that in a virtual setting.”
Virtual meetings have become the norm since the pandemic began. The risk of meeting in-person indoors was just too great during the 2020 season and would have only led to be locker room outbreaks. The Steelers did a good job to avoid any major cases in their facility but still had players contract COVID and miss games because of it. For last year, conducting business virtually when possible was the smartest, safest way. That’s continued into this offseason. But it doesn’t make it any easier.
“We’re not at normal,” Heyward went on to say. “We’re getting to normal. This is just something we’re going through. It’s one thing to just get in your car and listen to a virtual meeting. It’s another thing to be in the meeting and be present. And I think that goes a long way. Multiple teams are going through it. It’s just something we’re adapting to this year.”
It’s a challenge for players and coaches. Coaches aren’t able to connect and look a player in the eye to tell if he really gets or understands the concept. Especially for rookies and new faces, it can be difficult to gauge their level of true understanding. But as Heyward says, that problem isn’t unique to the Steelers. It’s one 31 other organizations have wrestled with over the last 15 months.
The good news is virtual meetings may be coming to an end. If NFL teams are able to vaccinate 85% of their roster, it sounds like they will be able to again hold in-person meetings and essentially conduct business as they did before the pandemic. It’s unclear what percentage the Steelers sit at. 85% of a 90-man roster would be 77 players. Guys like Heyward have encouraged teammates and the community to get their shots. At some point this season, even if it’s not until Week One or later in the regular season, the team will be able to get rid of Zoom calls and virtual meetings forever.