Here's a little advice for all the Steelers established performers who are almost guaranteed a spot on this year's roster, considering the lack of any preseason games. Be sure to snap that chin strap nice and tight, because this Steelers training camp is going to be like nothing you have ever experienced before.
It's going to get ultra intense really fast. Give me a moment to try and explain that statement and my reasoning behind it.
Due to the pandemic, the Steelers have replaced the scorching summer heat and the team building dorm life of Latrobe with the suite life inside the cozy confines of Heinz Field. The multitude of fans watching every moment from the hillsides above the practice fields will be replaced by team personnel and a select few media members.
For any established veteran on the roster, it might seem borderline boring just going through the motions, all the while trying not to get injured. This will not be that type of training camp.
Anybody who has ever experienced a grueling training camp under the blazing summer sun can attest, tempers have a tendency to flair when you have to engage in violent combat repetitively with any individual, even a teammate. It's a means to an end, but it definitely isn't the fun or glamorous part of playing football.
That gets us to what I feel will be the biggest difference in this training camp to what we normally experience. Without any preseason games, camp practices will be the only opportunity for any camp hopefuls to make an impression in their quest to keep their NFL dreams alive.
So while the established majority concentrate on knocking the rust off and getting their timing down with their teammates, the hungry few who are holding onto a glimmer of hope will be trying like crazy to leave a lasting impression on the practice film that might influence the coaches.
This variance in intensity levels very well could lead to more practice skirmishes than normal. Would it really surprise anyone if a battling offensive lineman like Derwin Gray maintained his drive block just a second longer than the defender was expecting, resulting in a pancake block and a few fisticuffs? Or if a highly motivated young assassin like Antoine Brooks Jr. flies up and lays out an unsuspecting James Conner?
Could you blame them if they do step over the line just a bit? It's hard to shine, standout in the crowd if you will, going half speed. There will be no opportunity for a young hopeful to go full kamikaze flying down the field to make a special teams play during a preseason game. That type of impactful opportunity to leave a lasting impression will have to be sought elsewhere and by other means.
Why do I feel certain that this training camp in particular will be extra physical and chippy? Just think about how many times we have had a coach utter the phrase "Save that sh*t for the opposition." or "Save it for the game!"
Hey Coach! That's going to be a problem.