“I don’t know how we did it.”
That statement can apply to just about anything 2020-related. For special teams coordinator Danny Smith, he’s referring to how a football team, how the NFL, went from 0-100. Training camp practices right into regular season action without any preseason to evaluate in-between.
Maybe Danny Smith in the extreme minority but he’s sure glad the preseason is back. Four games to evaluate the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90 man roster. He spoke about it in a Tuesday Zoom call.
“I’m excited about having a preseason where they get to carry out the details of a game plan, so to speak, “Smith said.’ When I look back on last year, man, I don’t know how we did it. With the stuff we’ve got now, a little bit here and a little bit there, I’m thinking, how did we – anybody – not just the Steelers, but how did anybody field a team that knew what the hell they were doing with the lack of time we had? How did James Pierre make this football team last year? And he’s a good player. I love the guy. And I’m so excited about him.”
Because of COVID, not only were there no spring workouts last season, no rookie minicamp, OTAs, mandatory minicamps, all preseason games were cancelled. Aside from virtual meetings, the only work the roster and coaching staff received in 2020 was a training camp held at Heinz Field. It was one of the difficult aspects of last season, one shared by every single team. Pierre was the only undrafted player to make the roster out of camp. Now, he enters Year Two in the mix to become a serious contributor to the Steelers’ defense.
Smith made it a point to tell this rookie class the opportunity they have and what they can do with it.
“So I went through that in the morning meeting with the rookies. It’s not only about running fast, but you got to play fast and this league. In order to play fast, you have to know what you’re doing. So I’m excited about giving them a gameplan and who can handle it.”
While the NFL reduced the number of preseason games from four to three in order to fit in 17th regular season game, the Steelers will still play four exhibition games this summer. They will kick off the season with the Hall of Fame Game against the Dallas Cowboys before playing their other three contests. Valuable time for players to prove themselves. Equally valuable time for coaches to evaluate. A sense of normalcy that didn’t exist this time one year ago.