Pittsburgh Steelers veterans may likely be the only beneficiaries of training camp without a preseason in 2020. Here’s what it means for rookies.
In a previous article, we discussed how the lack of a preseason may hinder the ability of the Steelers rookies to amass any appreciable playing time in the 2020 regular season. Let’s backtrack even further and talk about who will benefit most from training camp.
So we know that training camp as it is currently constructed is a far cry from the training camp that I grew up with. I go back to 1978 when I am sure that training camp looked something like this: Two-a-day practices, full pads, full speed, and full contact. I could be wrong, but suffice to say that the training camp of today does not include the aforementioned elements, at least not on a consistent basis.
Factor in no preseason and training camp being what it is, the only players who will benefit from training camp are the veterans. Here’s why I make that claim: Either a rookie or even a veteran player new to the Steelers has to learn a whole new system, both on offense and on defense. Concepts may be similar to what the rookies were used to in college; the same applies to the veterans who are new to us, but the verbiage of play-calling will be different.
While the veterans who are new to the Steelers will, more than likely, be able to transition quickly, the rookies, more than likely, will not be able to make that transition as quickly for a number of reasons. Learning the playbook in a team meeting, for example, is one thing; putting into practice what you learned in said meeting is another thing in and of itself.
Let’s face it, the rookies will probably not get a whole lot of reps with the first team. They may not get any reps with the first team at all, for that matter. If that comes to pass, I do not see a scenario where Mike Tomlin is going to rely on a rookie to make a big play in a game situation. Veterans would have an advantage in this case.
Considering that training camp is not as intense as it was back in the ’70s (meaning no full pads, no full contact and no full speed every practice), the Steelers rookies will not be able to replicate the experience that is inherent in an NFL game and because of that, they are, by default, ‘behind the eight ball’.
So that takes us back to where we started our discussion. The Steelers veterans have an advantage over the rookies, they will probably get more first-team reps than the rookies will get and they will be given more opportunities to win a starting job than the rookies will be afforded.
That’s just the reality of today’s NFL – particularly in the environment in which we find ourselves at the moment. Now, it is possible that a rookie will shine so ‘brightly’ in practice that Coach Tomlin would deem it appropriate to give him a substantial amount of snaps in a game? Sure, but I would not count on that happening as I believe the 2020 season will be the year of the veteran.