It appears there will be no turning back when it comes to the NFL preseason for 2020. In order to keep players and personnel away from risks in what are ultimately meaningless games, safety is of the upmost importance during the global pandemic. In some ways, no preseason across the NFL could benefit the Steelers. On the other hand, there are things which could hinder both the team in the entire NFL.
Let’s take a look at three pros and three cons of the Steelers not having any preseason games and a reduced training camp for the 2020 season.
There is nothing worse than losing a player for an extended period of time because they get knocked out in a preseason game. Whether it was kicker Shaun Suisham in the Hall of Fame game in the 2015 season, or Maurkice Pouncey losing the entire 2014 season, these injuries can greatly affect the team for the year. Of course, injuries are bound to happen. But when they occur it a game which does not affect the standings, it’s a much harder pill to swallow.
With no preseason games and very few padded practices, the Steelers coaching staff will have an extremely difficult job to do in order to properly evaluate players for both the roster and practice squad. It’s obvious coaches prefer as many preseason games as they can get to evaluate talent, but this year they will have to really be on there a game.
Evaluation goes beyond coaches. As a fan, I love preseason games. I really enjoy seeing the regular players in their limited action, but I really enjoy seeing the other possible prospects as the team takes shape. With the fans being mostly in the dark as to how the team is taking shape heading into Week 1, it’s just not going to feel the same.
With limited time to prepare, teams with the least amount of turnover from 2019 will instantly have the upper hand going in to the 2020 season. Although quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is returning from missing 14 games, his over 15 years of experience as an NFL quarterback will help make up for the time lost. With the Steelers losing very few starters on each side of the ball, they are in better shape to begin the 2020 season with limited preparations compared to other teams. Add in the fact they are not looking to rely heavily of their 2020 draft class, they are in much better shaped than the overwhelming majority of the NFL.
Steelers fans have experienced some slow regular-season starts by the team in recent years. Often attributed to many of the starters not “shaking off the rust” enough before the season begins due to limited preseason play, this could become even more of a factor going into the season.
When it comes to rust, it’s not just the players. Some may not have considered the officials. There are many times the officiating in preseason games is even worse than the regular season as the officials get acclimated to new crews, rules, and procedures. The NFL officials will not have any game action before they take the field in Week 1 which could lead to even more questionable calls. And when it comes to questionable calls, it feels like the Steelers are too often on the wrong end of things.
Personally, I believe, at least early in the 2020 season, teams which have a stronger defense will have a bigger advantage. As offenses are attempting to get in rhythm, defenses are generally ahead of the curve but just might not be up to par with the complexity of their schemes. With the Steelers defense returning to dominating form in 2019, I think it will serve the team well especially to start the season in 2020 as offenses are still trying to figure out their plan of attack.
Con: Safety Protocols
I have to admit I was surprised the NFL didn’t push more to have at least one preseason game simply to be able to run through their safety protocols on game day a couple weeks before the start of the actual season. I thought perhaps teams would be required to have a limited roster for one preseason game which could help evaluate talent but would also help everyone get used to how things are going to work on game day when it comes to safety. With no other run-through going to happen, it will be the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs in the kick off game on Thursday night which will be the test run for the entire league. While Heinz Field is not scheduled to host a game until Week 2, it could the the safety protocols of the visiting teams which could bring about concerns.
I’m sure there are other pros and cons about the situation going on with the 2020 preseason when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. What do you think? If you have any more to add to the list, please feel free to put them in the comments below.