There are tidbits of news spread throughout the NFL off-season. On Tuesday, the Steelers were selected to play in the Hall of Fame game this August to kick off the NFL preseason. Tuesday also brought news of the compensatory draft picks for the 202 NFL draft. Over the weekend we should be getting news about if the NFL is operating under a new collective-bargaining agreement or if negotiations will pick up next year which could lead to a work stoppage. Another announcement expected later this summer is which team will be selected to appear on HBO’s Hard Knocks. With all of these various announcements, they all affect the Steelers in one way or another.
Some of these announcements are related but some of them don’t really affect the others. For example, the Steelers receiving a third-round compensatory draft pick for 2020 really doesn’t have any affect on the Hall of Fame Game. But what some may not realize is what the Hall of Fame Game may affect is the team selected for Hard Knocks.
For those who do not know much about the show, Hard Knocks chronicles one NFL team through their training camp. Only a few teams are eligible each year as they can’t have appeared on the show in the last 10 seasons, must have missed the playoffs for two consecutive years, and they do not have a new head coach. The Steelers unfortunately meet all three of these criteria to be selected in 2020 since they once again finished 7th in the AFC standings. The other teams who qualify are the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals, and Denver Broncos.
During his season ending press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the possibility of the Steelers appearing on the show. After initially responding he didn’t have any thoughts on the subject, Tomlin was asked how he would feel if the Steelers were asked to be on the show.
“Asked?” he responded to a chorus of laughter.
The is a common understanding in the NFL that when teams are told they are going to be on the show, they appear. But the Steelers seem to have no interest in allowing camera crews into the inner workings of training camp. With the announcement on Tuesday, perhaps Steelers’ President Art Rooney II can use some of his pull in the league’s front office to keep the Steelers out of the spotlight.
In the 14 seasons an NFL team has appeared on Hard Knocks, none of them have ever played in the Hall of Fame Game during the same year.
While playing in Canton a week before the preseason begins does not necessarily preclude the Steelers from being selected for the show, an argument could be made the league would be asking too much of the franchise during the same preseason. Already having to start training camp earlier than the rest of the league and playing an extra preseason game, having to deal with the distraction of the cameras could lead to an objection allowing the Steelers off the hook.
There are some owners and franchises which carry more weight in the NFL office than others. The legacy of the Rooney‘s is one of these examples. While we can assume Steelers management does not want to participate in the show, the question is can they use their influence to keep the Steelers from being selected?
Unless there was a good excuse, the Steelers not being selected for Hard Knocks may have raised questions among other franchises. It would be easy for some teams to wonder why the Steelers didn’t have to take their turn on the show. But with the Hall of Fame Game now being used as an excuse for the Steelers to ask to keep from being selected, it may not raise as many questions as otherwise.
There is still the real possibility the Steelers are selected for the show. Perhaps the league gives the reasoning of more time in the preseason to have the cameras around. It’s difficult to know for sure exactly how the league feels about a team having to participate in both activities, especially when teams are hoping they don’t have to do either of them.
Unless the Steelers or the NFL make an announcement precluding them from being selected, it will be some time before we know the ultimate outcome. Last season, the Raiders were selected to appear which was not announced until mid June. With the Steelers not having a first-round draft pick for the show to highlight as well as this new development of playing an extra preseason game, perhaps they can keep from being the first team to have to deal with participating in both in the same season.