This week begins the first of four full weeks of sheer football absence since minicamp concluded this past Thursday. Training camp does not begin until the late stages of July, meaning the players, technically, have about a month off to themselves.
But by no means does that suggest that the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league are standing idle until then.
The coaching staff in particular will use this time to assess what they’ve learned about their roster during OTAs and minicamp, which they will use to help set up plans for how to conduct their training camp sessions.
One thing you can bet on is that they will likely be intensive—as intensive as the collective bargaining agreement will allow—due to the amount of turnover and youth on the roster.
Head coach Mike Tomlin declined to give the roster a half a day on the final day of minicamp this year, as he traditionally does, even in the face of a downpour. And when the weather chased them off the field, he resumed practices in the indoor facilities.
Tomlin brought out the old tackling drills during training camp last year, which hadn’t been used in some time previously—at the time citing the inexperience of the roster—and you can probably bet that that will continue this year.
Add to that the fact that the Steelers have agreed to hold a couple of joint practices with the Buffalo Bills, and you can imagine that St. Vincent College will possess a more energetic, and urgent, atmosphere this summer.
This is also a time for the coaching staff and the front office to gather to reassess the roster and consider changes, whether driven by addition or subtraction. The two names still floating out there are, of course, Brett Keisel and James Harrison.
Perhaps a name such as Brandon Flowers could still be lurking, though even if the Steelers have the money for a change, it typically has not been their modus operandi, barring injury, to add high-profile additions at this stage.
But the main occupation of the front office during the course of this next month or so will involve laying out the financial plans for the remainder of this season. That includes the potential hiring of free agents, as noted above, but the primary concern here is attempting to work out long-term extensions with key players.
They already worked out a five-year extension for three-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey. Next up on the docket should be cornerback Cortez Allen, with others for possible consideration later on down the road.
It may be quiet for the next few weeks in terms of novel football news, but all 32 organizations around the league are using the down time to get their houses in order one last time before the real work begins with the opening of training camps across the league, and the Steelers are no exception to that.