The Pittsburgh Steelers are just one of 32 NFL teams who are putting protocols and safety measures in place to have players in facilities and working out. During the coronavirus pandemic, and sports returning, there has been plenty of skepticism regarding whether an NFL season could be played or not.
The NFL has had the luxury of time with other sports like Major League Baseball, the NHL and NBA all back to game play. But let’s not pretend all of these sports are created equal, as it pertains to the success of their return.
The NHL and NBA have returned to a bubble environment where players are staying in one location to help prevent outside infection within the bubble. So far, both professional leagues have been successful in this plan.
Baseball, on the other hand, is not participating in a bubble. Teams are traveling from city to city, the only changes being facial coverings worn by some and no fans in ball parks. And there have been plenty of issues with MLB protocols and return policy.
The Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals have both seen a spike in cases which has forced games to be postponed or rescheduled. This has only compounded the concern over the NFL returning in a similar format. The biggest differences about the two sports are glaring. Baseball the players are rarely touching, where football has players hitting one another every single time the ball is snapped.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who met with media during a Zoom call Thursday morning, was asked about his confidence level heading into the season.
His response was candid.
This via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Tomlin said "I don’t know that I'm extremely confident" about the NFL season, given what has happened in baeball. "I think we're all proceeding with caution and working extremely hard not to become part of that."— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) August 6, 2020
After watching the struggles of MLB to keep things in control, everyone in NFL circles should have some pause about the upcoming season, but it also could be chalked up to yet another challenge entering a season.
Tomlin realizes this is one of those challenges, and is ready to embrace it, like he does every year.
This per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com:
'I always come into the season expecting it to be challenging. There is always a challenge. What it might be, or the highlights of it, is difficult to forecast. But we all come into this time of year ready to embrace, meet and hopefully overcome the challenges.' - Coach Tomlin— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 6, 2020
There are some fans who will read Tomlin’s quotes and think the NFL season is destined for failure before it even starts. But let’s not forget there are some very smart people working with the league, and individual teams, to help make this season as safe as possible for all involved.
On top of that, there is also the simple fact the NFL is learning from MLB and their shortcomings. Again, football has had the luxury of time, and the ability to witness the success and failures of sports who have returned already.
Will a season happen in 2020? No one knows for sure, but the NFL has a plan in place they, and the NFLPA, believe in. Whether the players, coaches and personnel can execute said plan might be the difference between a season, and failure.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they press on with 2020 Training Camp at Heinz Field.