How much news did you glean from the Steelers' just-concluded rookie camp, a camp that saw their entire draft class and a bunch of undrafted free agents convene at the team’s South Side facilities for workouts and drills in shorts?
If you answered, “Not Much!” you are probably correct.
But at least we got to see these Steelers’ rookies in action—kind of—so that was sort of cool, right?
I guess it all depends on your definition of “cool.”
One thing about rookie camp that I personally thought was cool was seeing the players being interviewed by scrums (not scums) of reporters standing mere feet away from them. Not only that, but they all had their arms outstretched and their microphones sticking directly in the players’ faces as they answered question after question.
Did these players say anything interesting? I guess it all depends on your definition of “interesting,” but it sure was nice to see these guys have to answer questions this way again.
I actually didn’t even notice at first, as I watched rookie first-round pick, Kenny Pickett, answer countless questions while standing outside in the fresh air. He was followed by Calvin Austin III, the third-round receiver out of Memphis, who had to answer—and this isn’t totally accurate—450,000 questions about his height and weight, as well as a few hundred more about the number of times he was hit incredibly hard in college by those big, bad defensive players.
To be honest, I never thought I’d see players/coaches and reporters this up close and personal ever again. In fact, two years ago, right after the pandemic hit, and journalists immediately stopped getting direct access to players and coaches at all, I feared this would be the norm moving forward, even after the “new normal” had subsided.
Radio hosts and reporters even predicted that zoom interviews would be a permanent thing, and many wondered if they’d ever be allowed in a locker room again.
Last season, we had more of a press-conference type feel to interviews, with coaches and players set up at tables and answering questions that were asked by reporters in an orderly and respectful way.
No, we didn’t have the annoying zoom errors of the year before, but it still didn’t feel the same as a good old-fashioned one-on-one post-game interview, where a reporter could interact with a player when his emotions were still on high.
I don’t know why, but I think this sort of access to a player is important, and it’s a much better way for fans to connect with the team. It’s so much better than trying to get a feel for these guys while they sit behind a video screen or conference table.
Maybe I was imagining things, but it almost seemed like Pickett was a little annoyed by one or two of the questions that were asked by reporters during his media scrum. As for Austin, talk about a handsome guy. My advice for Austin: Be an ankle-breaker on the field, and not a heartbreaker off the field.
Reporters can get better scoops from coaches and players if they interact with them in an up-close and personal way, as well as more original quotes and stories.
I’m not sure if we’ll ever truly get back to the days when reporters could huddle around players in the locker room after a game, but we had stadiums full of fans last year. Training camp will be back at Latrobe this summer.
The more access fans have to their teams, the more enjoyable the product is for them to consume.