With the Steelers in the midst of the second week of training camp and with all the various news outlets reporting what to me is news but not necessarily 'earth-shattering' news, I got to thinking about this: Why are we placing so much emphasis on what happens at training camp?
Admittedly, some fans, I'm sure, place a lot more emphasis on training camp than other fans do, but I am in the camp, pardon the pun, that places very little emphasis on training camp for reasons that I will elucidate shortly, but first, let's take a trip down memory lane as I often like to do.
My Steelers journey began in the mid-1970s when training camp was more physical than it is today and emulated 'live-action' more so than it does today. Practices back then were in full pads and were full speed. There was very little 'thud' back then.
Fans should pay more attention to the second preseason game
To continue my trip down memory lane, what I referenced above about training camp practices being fully padded and full-speed practices is one of many reasons why we should not place too much emphasis on what happens during training camp practices as most of the practices are either helmets only or 'shells", meaning helmets and shoulder pads.
Yes, there will be fully padded practices, but you really can't replicate game conditions in a controlled environment like training camp. Mike Tomlin recently talked about the first day in pads. If you have not had a chance to hear what our head coach had to say, you can watch it here: Tomlin Steelers
Another reason why we should not put too much stock into training camp is this: Much of the work that happens during the course of training camp is individual or collective work, meaning drills that are specific to a particular unit.
Again, there are times when the offensive will 'go live' against the defense in a scrimmage-esque setting and I'm sure there will be some full contact, full-speed situations, but I'm sure no one would be allowed to sack the QB, for example. That scenario will play out, hopefully not, during pre-season games in preparation for the regular season.
Yet another reason why we should not get too invested in what happens during training camp is this: Tomlin and the coaching staff at this stage are just trying to figure out who can do what and who can handle what kind of workload.
What I mean by that is this: Tomlin is trying to figure out who has position flexibility, for example, or who can perhaps play a different position entirely. Is there someone who can serve the sub-package linebacker role who is maybe not a linebacker by trade?
Is there an offensive lineman who is maybe a guard by trade who can play tackle? Is there a cornerback who may be able to play the 'box safety' position? Obviously, we do not have the answers to these questions as we sit here today and neither does Tomlin.
I believe the time to get excited will be August 19th when we host the Buffalo Bills. Since that game will be the second of three pre-season games, I think the prevailing wisdom would suggest that our starters, whoever they will be, will play 'meaningful snaps'. What that will look like remains to be seen.
The point of our discussion is this: From now until after our second pre-season game there may not be much we can glean from what we see transpire on the field at Saint Vincent College but it is. nonetheless, fun to watch.