It was reported last week that the NFL is considering cutting its preseason schedule from the usual four games down to two.
The reason given was so that teams could have an extra “ramp-up” period before training camp begins and finalize game-day testing protocols amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic that has had the sports world on hold since mid-March.
I’m not exactly sure
what a ramp-up period actually is, as it pertains to what players and teams will be doing before they officially begin training camp, but then again, in the world we’re currently living in, why wouldn’t that be a little confusing?
- I do know that two less games will mean two less opportunities for rookies and fringe players to make an impression and get noticed by their coaches.
Will it, though? Regardless of when training camp actually begins and where it will be conducted — the Steelers won’t be holding training camp at Saint Vincent College this year and will likely have it at Heinz Field — I’m assuming it will last as long as it always does.
If that is indeed the case, what is it Mike Tomlin has often said about training camp? He’s said that what his players show him on the practice field is equally as important as what they show him during preseason games.
Is it naive to assume a player can’t make a bigger impression with a huge splash play or three in a preseason game? Of course that’s naive, but I’ve also witnessed players tear it up during the exhibition season and still not make the team–outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper, and his multiple sacks during the 2019 preseason, comes to mind.
If push comes to shove, and there’s a close race for a roster spot at a particular position, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Steelers coaches err on the side of caution and familiarity and keep a more veteran player over an undrafted free agent. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if the coaching staff takes a chance on a younger player, even if there isn’t as much game tape on him as there normally would be.
Nobody has really said this, but I’m assuming that, even if the preseason schedule is cut down to two, the Steelers and Cowboys will still play in the annual Hall of Fame Game.
For those teams, the Steelers in particular since that’s who I’m focusing on, it would give them an advantage in evaluating talent and making tough decisions.
Also, considering the fact that the NFL could be going to a 17-game regular season and a three-game preseason as early as 2021, a shortened preseason will give all teams a preview of what life is going to be like every summer in the near future.
In conclusion, if coaches like Mike Tomlin are sincere when they speak of the importance of training camp, I fully expect teams like the Steelers to simply add a little more weight to the practice field this summer and a little less to preseason games.