I don’t know what you call a Steelers writer without credentials (some call us nerds....and other things), but it is our job to cover topics pertaining to the team and do so while sitting in our boxers in our moms’ basements (or so I’ve been told).
Therefore, the whole idea of a Steelers training camp that is closed off to the public, which is the case in 2020 due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, doesn’t move the needle much for me. Living in the area, it’s always nice to be able to attend some practices—it would have been especially nice this year, with camp taking place at Heinz Field—but even when I do that, my layman football knowledge can’t offer any insight other than “Big men fast and strong!”
But I admit it was a bit of an adjustment for me when Pittsburgh finally kicked off its first week of padded practices on the 17th. Why? It was hard to know where to go on the Internet for real news. As you know, the Steelers (and all NFL teams) have limited the number of outside reporters who are allowed to have access to the practices, as well as the players and coaches for post-practice interviews—and even then, it’s only on very sterile Zoom calls.
It wouldn’t be a big deal, I suppose, other than the fact the news we’re getting may be quite censored, at least according to credentialed professionals such as local sports shock jock Mark Madden, who said just that in a recent TribLive column.
Below is a snippet from Madden’s column:
NFL reporters, meanwhile, can watch practice but can’t say or write what they see beyond warm-up. Notes from actual practice are compiled by a rotating crew of media, then put in a pool report that is edited by the team and redistributed. So, every media member has exactly the same censored info and observations.
Is this that much different from previous Steelers training camps? From what I understand (and being an outsider, my understanding may very well be wrong), this all seems par for the course. Journalists have never really been allowed to report on what they see at practice, unless a player or coach mentions it during an interview.
Speaking of practice, the team is offering live look-ins at camp practices on Steelers.com. However, other than warm-ups and individual and one-on-one drills, the footage has been quite boring.
I am not shocked by this. Think about it, why would any team put its 11-on-11 or even 7-on-7 scrimmages online for just anyone to see? Maybe any old spy could show up to a regular Steelers training camp wearing a No. 58 jersey and smoking Jack Splat’s favorite brand for effect, but it’s much easier work to sit in front of your laptop and study the tendencies of an offense in “11” personnel—and knowing what we know about a guy like Bill Belichick, for example, he would certainly sit down and study such tendencies.......over......and......over......again.
Back to team access. Not until this year, and the pandemic, did I truly understand how much fans wanted to see, touch and absorb everything that is the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m sure that’s especially the case for folks who live outside of the 412/724 and have to search really hard to find all the Steelers news that’s important to them.
I’ve always been a big picture kind of guy who sort of just reacts and comments on things as they happen. Who will the Steelers sixth receiver be? I’m sure it will be someone, and I will talk about him when the time comes. Do I care now? Not especially. Which of the undrafted free agent crop do I think will surprise folks? I don’t know. If I knew that, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
But there are so many people who really do care about every last nook and cranny of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They know every player on the current training camp roster. They are well-versed in what they did in college, and even who their positions coaches were.
They want to know it all. They want to see it all. They want to feel it all. They want to experience it all.
This has been a trying time, but it’s almost over. We may not be able to attend training camp or preseason games (it’s a good thing, too, since there aren’t any). We may not be getting a totally accurate behind-the-scenes look at the making of the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers, but the regular season is almost upon us, and soon we’ll be able to judge the product for ourselves.
There will be no censorship, come September 14.