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It doesn’t matter how the guardian helmets look, it matters if they work

After three practices of seeing the Steelers in the protective headgear, many have focused on the aesthetics and not the effectiveness.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Minicamp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There have been plenty of jokes to go around. Whether it was looking like the players had a beehive on their head, or how an extra large helmet makes Kenny Pickett’s hands look even smaller, there was plenty of commentary to go around about the new guardian helmets that were implemented across the NFL during minicamps. Some have been funny, while others have been harsh and distasteful. But hey, it’s social media and the internet so what else should we expect?

And while it’s not wrong to have an opinion of how these helmets look, what’s more important is to keep in the perspective that looks aren’t everything. If you’ve ever seen me on one of our YouTube shows, one look probably tells you why I feel this way.

Anyone who saw pictures from the Steelers minicamp practices, or even Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin sporting one of the helmets turned inside-out during practice, you hopefully realize that the implementation was not for a new fashion statement. Ultimately, if these helmets help reduce the risk to players, especially in circumstances where suffering any sort of trauma to the head or by striking a helmet is quite unnecessary, they have served the purpose they were meant for.

But if you are one of those people that hope the Steelers aren’t wearing these helmets at other times because of how they look, I suggest reconsidering your position.

Is the NFL that important for looks to take precedent over safety? Does having a specific look become more important than injuries or on-field production?

You’re probably wondering why I’m even bringing this up, but this is a subject that has bothered me for some time. It was one of my first seasons coaching high school football, and the wide receiver coach at our school told the rest of the coaches a story after practice one day. There was a player on the team who showed up to practice every day all decked out with the latest accessory‘s to his practice gear. He had the gloves, the arm bands, the cowboy collar, and everything else to give the best look a player could have on the field. But the poor kid couldn’t catch a pass.

On this particular day, the wide receivers coach made him take off his gloves for some reason and everything changed. All of a sudden, passes that were normally going right off of his hands were being brought in with ease. It was as if he was a completely different player and actually capable of playing the position.

What happened next was something that I just never understood. As soon as he was allowed, the gloves went right back on. The look just wasn’t complete without them. And regardless how it affected his game, if he didn’t look the part it just wasn’t worth it to him.

Man, did he look good standing on the sidelines the entire game.

Yes, the NFL is ultimately an entertainment business. We cheer on our players and we are invested in how they perform. And for some, how that player looks on the field might be important. But to me, their production, safety, and ultimately their availability is what I treasure the most.

Take Pat Freiermuth, who suffered multiple concussions last year, for example. If these weird looking caps help him avoid getting another before the start of the season, would you be okay with it?

Freiermuth doesn’t mind.

“I wore them in college,” Freiermuth said after a minicamp workout. “I like them just because of my past with concussions. I kinda like the extra protection.”

“We look dumb,” Freiermuth added. “We definitely look dumb but it’s good protection.”

The guardian helmets the NFL has teams wearing may look ‘goofy’ or ‘silly’ or a variety of other words that many have used to describe them. But if they work, it really doesn’t matter.