The NFL has made some sweeping decisions as they return to facilities amidst the coronavirus pandemic. One of those has been forcing all 32 teams to stay at their home facilities for training camp. Another will be specific dates when teams are permitted to report to camp.
Either way, the Steelers won't be making their yearly trek to Latrobe and Saint Vincent College, instead taking their training camp to Heinz Field. During a recent virtual press conference Mike Tomlin spoke about his overall comfort level with staying at Heinz Field, and concerns he has with the situation.
"We have additional space than the 100 yards." Tomlin said about only having one field at his disposal. "There is perimeter space that we also have to use. From time to time, we work on a one-field structured format. Whether we are working at the indoor or working at Heinz Field. We have had several practices at Heinz Field."
Having the 100 yards, and then some, at Heinz Field for the team to utilize might be fine, but it doesn't mean Tomlin doesn't have some hesitation about the situation.
"My only concern about the utilization at Heinz Field is not space, it is about the wear and tear of the field. Our intentions are right now -- on a regular scheduled basis to be determined -- that we will get on buses and come to the South Side and utilize our grass fields here from time to time in an effort to help preserve those fields. But that schedule is yet to be determined. But those are the only concerns about Heinz field as a venue regarding the field surface."
Heinz Field certainly has had its share of criticism over the years. Whether it was the mud bowl on Monday Night Football vs. the Dolphins in 2007, or a myriad of moments when the chunks of sod coming off the turf would resemble a golfer's divot more than a player trying to make a cut on a professional playing surface.
The Steelers switched to a natural grass surface a few years ago, compared to the hybrid grass they formerly used, which allows them to re-sod the field as necessary. Plans are already in place to have the field replaced as many as three times in 2020.
Tomlin's biggest issue with the set up the NFL is ready to roll out is how much time he will have to prepare his team for an actual football game.
"I’m not comfortable, but I imagine none of my peers are comfortable either, so I’m comfortable with that." Tomlin said. "Physical conditioning is going to be a significant element of this process. It’s going to define their journey and ours collectively. Those that are communal conditioners are working at a disadvantage in this 2020 environment. Those that are new to professional football and what’s really physically required of them through the evaluation process are working at a distinct advantage.
"We talk openly about that elephant in the room. It doesn’t lessen the anxiety. Man, we better have a group of guys that come ready to work from a physical conditioning standpoint, and if we do, we will be able to navigate the other challenges. If we don’t, all the other challenges are going to be magnified. That is a true statement for us and the other 31 [teams] as well."
Members of the Steelers have been taking Tomlin's words to heart and have been putting in a great deal of work this offseason, and putting it on their social media platforms. However, Tomlin is absolutely correct when he talks about all teams having the same inconveniences. All teams will be staying at their facilities, and all will have the same amount of time to prepare for the 2020 regular season.
Uniformity is something commissioner Roger Goodell has preached since the league decided to hold the NFL Draft as scheduled. No one would be able to return to facilities until all 32 teams will be able to return. This policy remains true, and the league is expected to provide dates for players returning for training camps in the coming weeks.
As more updates are released you can expect to see them right here at DKPittsburghSports.com.
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