Steelers Veterans 'Answered the Challenge' of Self Conditioning
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers gathered for their first practices of the offseason in late-July. Nearly three months after the NFL's standard training period began, teams started a ramp-up period preparing 14 padded practices before Week 1 of the regular season.
A unique situation for everyone, teams will need to have their roster ready for live football in six weeks instead of three months and four preseason games.
The Steelers came prepared, though. On a Zoom call with media, head coach Mike Tomlin praised the condition of his veteran players who showed up to Heinz Field for training camp.
"They answered the challenge that we presented to them in the offseason when we worked remotely and that is to come in very good condition," Tomlin said. "That was the only thing that they could control, and that would kind of be a catalyst for us to move forward. We acknowledged that was the JELL-O that we couldn't get back in the box, if you will, if they showed up out of shape because it takes 12 weeks to have any real metabolic changes. We're all aware of that. That created the anxiety of working remotely in the offseason. So far, so good. It's been fun infusing the young guys into that group as we go through these necessary things."
Tomlin acknowledged the challenges that come with a very different offseason than he's experienced. Teams need to adjust to social distancing guidelines, daily testing for COVID-19, and even smaller camp rosters.
A task all 32 NFL teams need to overcome, Tomlin seemed unbothered by the difficulties the pandemic has thrown at the NFL and the Steelers.
"I always go into the season expecting it to be challenging," he said. "I have been on this job for 14 years. I have been in the NFL 20 years and there is always a challenge. But what the challenge may be or the highlights, if you will, of the challenge, it is difficult to forecast. But just from a mentality standpoint, I think we all who have been in this thing come into this time of year ready to meet and, hopefully, overcome the challenges associated with the journey."
As the regular season inches closer, Tomlin isn't fully confident in the NFL being able to go a full season without any roadblocks with the virus.
Major League Baseball has seen a spike in positive tests due to players not following the precautions set by the league, which will be a major component for the NFL as well.
"I respect the challenges that these circumstances have presented to other leagues, some of which we're witnessing," said Tomlin. "I think we're all proceeding with caution and working extremely hard not to become part of that. We've got some people in leadership positions Dr. [Allen] Sills and other medical professionals that have led the charge for us globally in the NFL. We're working our tails off to adhere to it and hoping that is enough coupled with, obviously, personal decision making that needs to be exhibited continually by our guys throughout the course of this."