The NFL recently announced that the virtual offseason would be extended through at least June 26 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to adjust the way players train and attend team meetings.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin frequently hosts zoom calls in order to conduct team meetings and check-ins.
“This is an unusual and challenging environment,” Tomlin said in a video posted to the Steelers’ official website. “You gotta be light on your feet. You gotta be big time prepared physically and mentally.”
The team has also been participating in virtual organized team activities (OTAs). Players break up into groups to watch film together and participate in position meetings. In an effort to make the meetings feel as normal as possible, coaches host the meetings as the same times they normally would in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
A Different Way to Workout
Many players are working out together, but on their own terms. Teammates Zach Banner and Matt Feiler, both offensive linemen, have been training at a park located near where they are quarantined.
Banner, like most athletes, also works out at home.
“It makes you very, very grateful for the facility,” Banner said. “You just don’t know what you have to work around when you go through times like this.”
Fellow teammates JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner are also leaning on each other for support during quarantine. The wide receiver and running back posted pictures to Twitter after a workout they completed together in May.
Despite a lack of equipment and no access to Steelers’ facilities, most of the team is working individually on specific skills, drills, conditioning and position work.
Workouts and virtual offseason meetings are only the beginning for these athletes. Members of the team are also learning to implement a healthy lifestyle in the kitchen.
Some Steelers’ players have personal chefs who provide balanced meals in order for them to stay in shape. Others are in the midst of learning how to cook and maintain a healthy diet.
“You have to change it into a lifestyle if you want to have positive feedback,” Banner said.
Impact of a Virtual Offseason
While some players might be worried about how a virtual offseason will impact the team, Steven Nelson, a cornerback for the Steelers, seems to be maintaining confidence.
“I don’t think it’s going to have a great big effect on us,” Nelson said to reporters earlier in June. “Coach [Mike] Tomlin runs a pretty tight ship, and it’s all about getting prepared and ready for battle. We are all professionals, so we can handle it.”
One concern from coaches, fans and teammates is the lack of in-person preparation for rookies this offseason. It can also be a big adjustment for veterans who were recently traded to the Steelers and are trying to learn the playbook.
Stefen Wisniewski, a left guard who recently signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent, is still adjusting.
“Normally I would be doing drills, learning and working on the technique the Steelers use,” Wisniewski said. “That is the biggest difference, biggest drawback. At the end of the day you want to know what the guy next to you is thinking.”
Featured Image Courtesy of SI.com
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