The Pittsburgh Steelers, and their loyal following, are anxiously awaiting this summer to celebrate their trio getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and then there is the Hall of Fame game pitting the Steelers vs. the Dallas Cowboys.
Then the coronavirus impacted the sports world and everything has been in a holding pattern since. With the NFL slated to release their schedule for the 2020 preseason and regular season this Thursday, many are wondering what will become of the NFL’s first preseason game?
The Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the NFL, have already been preparing on what they will do not only with the game, but also the ceremony to induct the latest members of the Hall of Fame.
David Baker, executive director of the Hall of Fame, told USA TODAY Sports that there are five different contingency plans under consideration for the annual preseason kickoff game and the ceremony to induct 10 new Hall of Famers, currently scheduled for two days later.
The uncertainty is obviously a sign of the times, with the NFL set to unveil its regular season schedule on Thursday despite questions whether it will play its slate as planned given adjustments that could be made necessary by the health and economic crises attached to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re not going to do anything that’s not safe,” Baker said on Monday. “But I do hope that we can lead in showing that this can be done in a way that will inspire us.”
5 different plans is certainly impressive, but what will some of those alternative plans look like?
One possibility: Push the game and ceremony to a point later in August if the NFL scales back the preseason.
This theory is based on the chance the NFL pushes back their start date, and minimizes their preseason to help things stay as normal as possible with the 2020 season. Then again, the league could just can the extra preseason game.
If the game is canceled, two other options that haven’t been ruled out for 2021: staging the enshrinement during Easter Weekend or inducting two classes.
Of course, Baker sees the bright side. More than 20,000 tickets were sold in mid-March for the Cowboys-Steelers matchup in minutes – less than two days after the NBA season was shut down and two Utah Jazz players tested positive for COVID-19. More than 14,000 tickets have been purchased for the enshrinement ceremony (and they remain on sale) that, like the game, is pegged to be staged at Tom Benson Stadium.
Baker can’t predict how this will unfold but realizes clues could be found as other sports pursue plans for re-opening.
“We know more now than we did 30 days ago,” he said, referring to the pandemic.
If the clearance comes from the medical experts and various authorities, Baker added, “We need to be ready.”
The NFL, being in their offseason, has been able to take a wait-and-see approach to the vast majority of their offseason, and when the NBA, NHL and MLB will get back to work soon, the NFL can plan accordingly after the ice has been broken by the other major sport leagues.
The schedule release on Thursday might offer some hints as to the league’s plans, but odds are the schedule will be released as if nothing is changed, with alterations ready in case the league needs to push back dates and/or eliminate some.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the 2020 regular season schedule release Thursday.