2020 Training Camp Underway

Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

Jordan DeFigio, @fidgenewton
SteelerNation.com

After months of speculation, uncertainty, change, and disagreement, the NFL and players agreed to terms on the 2020 season. The Pittsburgh Steelers began their annual training camp at Heinz Field this week.

Players arrived at the stadium in staggered fashion as they received their Covid tests and began to settle in.

After the players were cleared and ready, the team got to work. Despite the overwhelming excitement surrounding this major step in the season taking place at all, there are still some lingering questions hovering over the gridiron. These circumstances are abnormal to say the least, and the transition from college football to the NFL is a difficult hurdle to jump in normal years. So how are these rookies going to acclimate to playing at the pro-level.

In a virtual conference with the media, rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith talked about the work he put in during the off-season to prepare for the shortened camp and preseason processes. He traveled back and forth from Wilmington to Charlotte to work with his personal trainer, and said he feels like he is in the best shape of his life.

Of course, there is no way to prepare yourself for the experience of playing against a team of seasoned veterans until you actually get out on the field and live it out. But Highsmith, along with Chase ClaypoolAnthony McFarland, and the other Steelers rookies, seem up for the challenge.

An easier transition (but a transition nonetheless) is underway for players like Eric Ebron and Chris Wormley, who have plenty of experience in the league but are new to Pittsburgh. Ebron in particular fills a very glaring need on the Steelers’ offense, as they have struggled to find a consistent threat at tight end since Heath Miller retired in 2016. But already, head coach Mike Tomlin is pleased with Ebron’s work after a few days at camp.

“We’re excited about adding him to our offensive mix. He’s a talented guy with a unique skill set,” Tomlin said during a zoom conference with media. And make no mistake about it; though the Steelers defense has captured the confidence of fans (and rightly so), the offense does have a mix of talent that now is poised to make a big splash on the field with the return of Ben Roethlisberger. The offense laid dormant in 2019, failing to put up more than 27 points all season. But now with a healthy Roethlisberger, James Conner, and wide-receivers JuJu Smith-SchusterDiontae Johnson, and James Washington, they have their fair share of threats with a Hall of Fame quarterback at the helm to utilize as he sees fit.

Though the questions will remain throughout the duration of training camp and possibly even into the season, Tomlin assured the media that they understand the situation they’re in. And they’re taking it a day at a time.

“We all acknowledge that this preseason process that we’re going through is abbreviated and different in a lot of ways, ” he said. “We’ll continually be gaining an understanding about what those deficits are. In the short term we have a great deal of urgency and respect for that, and we need to respect that in everything that we do daily and how we work.”

But before any of that – before addressing unprecedented circumstances and deficits and shortened preseason routines – he said,

“We’re all excited. We missed football and we’re glad to get moving.”

Us too, Coach. Us too.

Which storyline are you paying the most attention to this training camp? What are you most excited about and what makes you the most nervous? Sound off in the comments below!

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