It is now August and the threat of COVID has not completely gone away as all of us had hoped it would by now. However, in small steps, sports and the rest of the world are trying to move on. It won’t always be easy, it won’t always look right, but forward is the only direction we can go. Let’s take a look at some of the new changes the Pittsburgh Steelers will have to navigate as the season comes closer.
No Preseason Games
Now truly, this one gives people mixed feelings COVID danger or not. There are many who think pre-season games are an unnecessary risk to players. Indeed, sometimes injuries in pre-season games come with painful costs. As in the case of Shaun Suisham, who after being injured on a questionably kept field in pre-season. Never recovered enough to get back to playing, costing him to end his career. While these injuries are indeed part of the game, to get this type of injury in a game that doesn’t count really frustrates fans and players alike.
Now of course there is a downside to not having these games. It is the first tough practice and against an opposing team instead of simply intro-squad. Even though most of the veteran starters don’t play more than a quarter or so in pre-season. It is still a part of the normal progress towards the regular season. Not having it will be an adjustment for a lot of players. Especially rookies and younger players trying to make sure they are in the starting rotation. Pre-season is usually their last chance to show the coaches that they have what it takes to be in the line-up. Now they will have to be really special in practice to catch the coach’s eye.
Training Camp at Home
One of the things that the Steelers have always been known for and given respect around the league for, is the fact that they respect and embrace traditions. History is a big deal to them as well as letting their fans enjoy these traditions. Now due to COVID one of those long-standing traditions is not being done this year. For 54 years they Steelers have held their training camp in Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. Fans would line up for hours and watch and cheer and get autographs. Even though this facility is only forty miles away, the NFL wants teams to stay as close to home for now. So training camp is being held in Heinz field.
To Opt Out or Not
One thing the NFL is doing properly in this writer’s opinion is giving players the opportunity to opt-out of the season if their fears of COVID lead them in that direction. There are some players who are at greater risk due to other health problems. There are some whose family members are the ones at risk and they don’t wish to endanger them. Still, others have been working with and around ill and high-risk people and don’t wish to endanger their teammates. All of these reasons and more will keep some players off the field this year. But being as this is a unique situation, the best thing to do is err on the side of caution. However, looking like a strong and healthy as well as a united team. As of the deadline to opt-out, none of the players from the Steelers have taken that option. There seems to be a strong positive feeling which in no small way is related to Ben Roethlisberger being back and healthy.
This year will certainly go down with an asterisk or two in the record books. But the majority of the players and coaches are excited to get to work and play. The most important thing as we all fight through this is to use common sense and proper safety precautions. In the end, football is a game but also a business and any business must be smart and safe. With all the preparations going on,