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Mike Tomlin gives insight into the value of continuity in this strange 2020 season

With no preseason and a short training camp, how valuable is having veteran players?

Cleveland Browns v. Pittsburgh Steelers

In Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s press conference Thursday, he was asked numerous questions about the value of having veteran players on the roster. It’s a big question for this season. With less practice time and no preseason games, every NFL team has less of an opportunity to gather information about their roster and the readiness of the players on it.

He was asked specifically about the offensive line.

Particularly in this environment, I think continuity is an asset. Offensive line, it probably gives you an advantage in some of the unforeseen things that you could see in stadiums at the early portions of the season that you don’t have a lot of video evidence of. . . We are hoping that playing experience, and particularly that shared playing experience, is an asset to a group in some unique times. Stepping into regular-season stadiums without any video evidence of personalities or schematics of opponents is something that is worrisome.

You want something specific, you got it there. The Steelers aren’t going to have tape on opponents at all to start the season, they won’t even have preseason film for the offensive line to watch and pick up on basic tendencies of pass rushers they will face early on. Any new things veteran players are working into their game, they won’t see it until the game matters. Also notice his use of the words continuity, he’s not talking experience, he’s talking about the team knowing itself better, the offensive line knowing the guy next to them.

Coach Tomlin was also asked about the advantage that comes with having a veteran quarterback in this situation.

I would be speculating. I won’t pretend like those advantages exist or exist as absolutes. There are some advantages of continuity like I mentioned earlier, not only in this call, but in previous calls about having shared experiences in an unstable or uncertain environment. But we are not going to make an assumptions or find comfort in some of those facts. . . We know that adversity is going to be a big part of it whether you have experience or continuity or lack thereof. That is just the nature of these NFL journeys.

Reading his comments on continuity it reminds me of Sun Tzu’s famous quote about knowing your enemy and knowing your self. The Steelers have little chance to learn about their enemies this off-season, and not much of a chance to learn about themselves. Continuity becomes an advantage because of the knowledge and confidence the team can draw from their experience playing together.

But that isn’t a guarantee for success either. Coach Tomlin, as always, isn’t going to bask in advantages, he’s going to focus his team on the work at hand, because just like hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, hard work will beat experience and continuity too.