As the Pittsburgh Steelers continue their preparation for the 2022 NFL season, it seems as if Steelers’ fans are constantly being reminded to not overreact to every little thing. Throughout the offseason workouts and minicamp, fans were constantly told “It’s just football in shorts…” and to not draw conclusions so early in the process.
When the Steelers reported to St. Vincent College in Latrobe for training camp, the excitement among the fan base was obvious. On the day the team reported, fans were already set up with bringing down expectations as they were told “It’s just the run test on the first day.” While this statement is obviously true and no football activities were being performed, it’s just a reminder to not read too much into every little detail.
But then the first day of practice came. The much anticipated return to Latrobe with fans watching was a beautiful thing, even for those who were not in attendance. The Steelers were back on the field and the preparation for the 2022 season was really getting underway. But even as the next step was made, fans were reminded “It’s just the first day of practice.” After all, the team wasn’t even in pads.
As the practices moved on, none of which were in pads, they were multiple times where either someone covering the Steelers or even a coach said something to the effect of “It’s just the first week.” When Kenny Pickett finally got a chance on Friday to take one rep in the “7 shots’ drill, the excitement for those waiting to see what the Steelers 2022 first-round draft pick can do was abundant. But after practice, fans were reminded “It’s just one throw on one play.”
Yes, we live in a world of overreaction. One little thing can set people into a tailspin of joy or frustration. It’s often important to suppress these things and not overvalue them. But at what point can fans put any value to things they see or hear with the Steelers?
Here are some other statements Steelers’ fans will likely hear in the coming weeks…
“It’s just the first practice with pads.”
“It’s just the first preseason game.”
“It’s just the preseason.”
“It’s just the first game of the season.”
Wait. Are fans seriously going to have to keep hearing that it’s nothing to get worked up about after the regular season begins?
Chances are, they probably are going to hear this. In fact, I would not be surprised to hear something like this from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin following their first regular season game as they have taken this approach in the past…
“This is just the first game of a very long season. We are far from the finished product and must continue to get better every time we take the field. This is the moving train that is the NFL regular season.”
So when can Steelers fans finally look at something happening on the practice field, in a preseason game, or during a regular season game and be able to get excited about it in one way or another?
Honestly, get excited now. Get excited over every pass at training camp. Get excited over the plays in the preseason. They all matter, and they all are important. But they are only one piece of a large puzzle.
If fans aren’t supposed to get excited over minicamp, you also have to remember that minicamp is important in the process. The first practice at training camp is part of that process as well. If fans aren’t supposed to get too excited about what goes on in these practices, it doesn't mean there’s nothing to be learned.
Every step along the way is a process where each step is important. As for that first pass that Kenny Pickett threw in “7 shots” on Friday, it’s important. So will the other passes that he throws as training camp goes on. They shouldn’t be dismissed, but they should also be looked at as part of a bigger picture.
While the downplaying of things going on with the Steelers is ultimately about drawing a conclusion too soon, it doesn’t mean that the information is irrelevant. Every little thing matters. Within an NFL game, sometimes it’s just one pass, one trip, one missed tackle, one bounce of the ball, or one of any number of things that can ultimately decide the game. Every play has the potential to be the biggest play of the game. And every part of practice has the potential to be the determining factor in drawing conclusions about players and the team for 2022. It’s the nature of the game of football.
If you are the type of fan who likes to get a much bigger picture before drawing conclusions, then you’re probably fine with how everything is progressing. If you are the type of fan that likes to critique and evaluate every play and every report from practice, that’s fine as well. There’s no problem in doing that. You don’t have to downplay what happened because “it’s just training camp.”
But also don’t use one play as your only data point for a conclusion. Yes, that one play where a quarterback makes a bad decision matters, even in a practice in training camp with no pads on a Thursday. But it’s not the only thing that matters. It’s not a conclusion drawn on one play, it’s one play out of 10. Or 50. Or 100.
The bottom line is to not downplay the present at the expense of the future. Although the phrase “It’s just…” is a reminder that there are bigger and better things to come, it does not take away the importance of each thing happening in the present and how it helps to build the future. While there’s no need to overreact, there’s also not the need for things to be downplayed to a high degree.