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Padded practices will be the next level where Steelers fans can base their opinions

“Need I remind you that these guys are out there in helmets and nothing else?”

I don’t know what’s going on at Steelers training camp in Latrobe, Pa., but it sure sounds saucy!

Anyway, Tuesday afternoon at 1:55 PM will be the first time the boys don the pads and engage in some serious hitting— or at least as serious as it can be this side of 1988 and those glorious Oklahoma Drills.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so pumped up! Actually, I’m not; after all, it’s not going to affect my life one bit, but it will be another level in which we, as fans, can form our opinions on these Steelers both collectively and individually.

You see, when the Steelers first reported to camp on July 26, we had to narrow our opinions down to what the players were driving, wearing and carrying.

For example, did any player create a critical distraction by arriving at Latrobe in a Smart Car? How about a tricked-out Smart Car? What about a tricked-out, black-and-gold Cadillac? Semi? Tractor? Hot-air balloon?

I didn’t see or hear much angst devoted to any of those things, so I guess not.

Between Thursday and Sunday, we got to formulate our opinions on Steelers practices, sure, but to repeat, they were practicing in nothing but helmets.

Now, we get to separate the men from the boys, baby! Maybe even the babies from the real men, men who will play hurt. After all, you can’t make the club from the tub. Also, the best ability and availability.

But while we’ll get a better idea of what kind of team these Steelers will be in 2023, need I remind you that these padded practices are still practices? In fact, I believe I did smugly remind you of that in a recent article posted here, on Fans First Sports Network. 

A better barometer in which to judge the Steelers will be preseason games, which begin on August 11.

Which players will shine during in-stadium action? Who will rise to the occasion during in-stadium play? Which youngsters will separate themselves from other youngsters— maybe even veterans— and show us that the moment is not too big for them? Whose iron will be sharpened by whom?

Having said that, need I remind you that these preseason games are simply glorified scrimmages? Sure, the players are wearing uniforms, but they might as well be donning the same attire as an ice cream man since they’ll be serving up vanilla offenses and defenses. Also, Cam Heyward won’t see much action at all over the course of these three games, and neither will T.J. Watt. For that matter, how much will George Pickens and even Kenny Pickett play on August 11, when Pittsburgh takes on the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida?

Yes, live bullets are fired during these preseason games, but some of the gunpowder is removed (I believe that’s how it works).

No, the true test of where these Steelers are won’t begin until September 10, when they open up the regular-season schedule against those juggernaut 49ers at Acrisure Stadium.

Yes, but how much can we glean from one regular-season game? It’s so early, and the starters hardly play during the preseason. As the saying goes, you don’t know what kind of team you’ll have for at least the first month. After that, you begin to get a more accurate gauge of where these guys are and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

It’s just my opinion, but I’m really anxious to see the adjustments that head coach Mike Tomlin makes during the bye week of October 15. Will there be any demotions? What about promotions? Will someone get released? Will an assistant coach— Matt Canada— get fired or have his power stripped away and given to Glenn Thomas?

I can’t speak for others, but I’m going to wait and pass judgment on the Steelers until after the October 31 trade deadline. What does the Khan Artist have up his sleeve? Will he address any depth issues? Will he have to replace an important starter who was lost due to injury?

Then again, Tomlin teams don’t normally start playing their best football until November and December. Last year was a good example of that. I mean, shouldn’t we wait until then to formulate our opinions on these 2023 Steelers?

If you ask me, I think we should wait until the postseason before we start judging these 2023 Steelers. As they say, the regular season is nice and all, but what happens in the playoffs is what really counts.

In conclusion, I think we should wait until the season is over before we start forming opinions on these 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers.



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