Back in the days of Dick LeBeau as the Defensive Coordinator it was rare and I mean rare, for rookies to get significant minutes in their first season. Even the great Troy Polamalu saw limited action in his rookie season. That paradigm has shifted in recent years but we as fans must understand the rookies of 2020 are in a very unique and undesirable position.
The National Football League earlier this week announced two key items. First, teams would be required to hold their Training Camps at their team facilities. Second is that the first contact coaches would have with their players is at Training Camp. What this means is that the Steelers’ rookies will not have had their rookie mini-camp. They will not have had the full team mini-camp and they will not have had the traditional OTA experience in general.
I think all of you are wise enough to know that there have likely been many phone calls, video chats and ‘socially distanced’ conversations between players, between coaches and other coaches and certainly between coaches and the rookies. But still, this isn’t the same as actually getting on the practice field to learn and improve.
Are the Steelers unique to this situation? Of course not, all 32 teams are dealing with the same situations in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic, but now the major question comes up? How soon can the Steelers’ rookies get up to speed and on the field? That’s a question that can really only be answered by the players themselves (and of course the coaches who will make the final decision on whether they are ready or not).
We as fans must understand this. What we can’t do is point to a rookie in Baltimore or Cincinnati and say “Their rookie is on the field why isn’t ours?!?!” It’s not that simple. Every team has different needs, different timelines and completely different ways of handling rookies. In other words, don’t make the comparisons because it could be like comparing apples and watermelons.
Do yourself a favor. Be hopeful. Be optimistic. But understand that rookies are facing a very different challenge in 2020. Whether it’s Chase Claypool, Anthony McFarland or Kevin Dotson, temper your expectations and let things fall into place from there. There is no use getting upset over what we can’t control.
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