As coaches and players continue with media availability as workouts get underway at training camp, the entire process being so abnormal compared to years past opens up the question as to how everyone is handling the situation. So far for the Steelers, the answers have all been of a similar theme...
The Pittsburgh Steelers are focused on doing the right thing, and doing it well, when it comes to player safety in regards to COVID-19 restrictions for the 2020 season.
It’s been a challenge for sure as players and staff to get used to the guidelines. Last Thursday, Mike Tomlin mentioned safety protocols in his opening statement during his first media session of Steelers 2020 training camp.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for this environment that we are in,” Tomlin explained in a virtual press conference on Zoom. “We are working our tails off to familiarize ourselves to adhere to the COVID protocols in an effort to keep the individuals, and us as a collective group, safe as we can possibly be in the midst of this.”
Of course player safety should always be a top priority when it comes to an NFL franchise. There is a chance some teams are doing it better than others, but in the new environment which is the 2020 season, player safety is at a whole new level. Not only is it important for players to feel safe in regards to COVID-19, but it is also important for players to know the seriousness of following the safety protocols for the protection of the entire organization.
Coach Tomlin laid this out to the team early on and did not hold it back from anyone who questioned their stance on COVID safety.
“What you are talking about is conduct that is detrimental,” Tomlin said, “and that is a term that is used often in our business and appropriately so. Because in this COVID environment, if you are not exercising digression and being thoughtful about how you move, that conduct is detrimental to your cause and ours collectively. That is the message that I am delivering to those guys. We have to conduct ourselves accordingly.”
It appears Tomlin’s message is coming through loud and clear to the players. In his interview with the Pittsburgh media on Wednesday, Steelers veteran linebacker Vince Williams praised the team for what they have done for player safety according to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com.
Vince Williams said it's about safety first right now. He said the Steelers have done a great job of providing the players with a safe environment.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 5, 2020
Players being in an environment in which they feel they are safe as possible is paramount to the Steelers 2020 season. The Steelers are one of the very few teams who have yet to have a player opt out for 2020. Exactly why the Steelers don’t have any players choosing to forego the 2020 season could be from any number of factors, but seeing the team handle safety issues firsthand has to make players feel better about their decision.
Steelers second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson also addressed safety protocols with the Steelers workouts as training camp is getting underway. Knowing teams have to follow the protocols in order to have a possibility of completing the 2020 season, Johnson understands this is just part of the process.
Diontae Johnson said he is still getting accustomed to all of the protocols teams have to adhere to now, but it's something that they have to adhere to and he won't complain.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 5, 2020
For a better idea of exactly what Johnson could be speaking of, Coach Tomlin addressed more safety issues in his most recent press conference Thursday morning. One of the differences Tomlin noted is being able to address the entire team at one time.
Coach Tomlin said the team is doing different things during the conditioning period, testing things out. In the morning meeting today he met with the veterans in person, while the rookies and assistant coaches all watched it virtually throughout Heinz Field.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 6, 2020
But player safety throughout the pandemic is more than just on the field and in the locker room. After his session with the local Pittsburgh media, Coach Tomlin went on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football where he also discussed providing players with the proper and most readily available information regarding the situation.
Coach Tomlin on @gmfb said the team is working hard now, and even remotely in the offseason, providing players accurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic. He said players have had a thirst for information.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 6, 2020
Perception and reality can often be two different things with many aspects of the NFL, as well as life in general. So far, when it comes to the Steelers 2020 training camp, it appears the team is doing its best when it comes to safety to not only make the players feel as safe as possible, but for them to actually be safe given the circumstances.