It has been said that the reason the NFL moved its 2014 draft from the typical late-April date to mid-May is because of a conflict with an Easter show at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. It has been said there exists the probability of future conflicts at Radio City as well. It has been said the NFL could respond to this either by moving the draft into May permanently to accommodate Radio City, or it could look for another venue in New York City, or it could look for another city – or some rotation of other cities – to host the draft.
If the draft indeed is to vacate New York City, Steelers President Art Rooney II believes Pittsburgh should be in the mix.
“Sure, I’d like to see the draft move around (to other cities), and I would love to see it come to Pittsburgh some time,” said Rooney. “It’s a great event and attracts tremendous fan interest. It would be a fun event for Pittsburgh to host, and I think our city could do a great job with it.”
For now, that’s all speculation, but what is certain is this: there is going to be a change to the NFL offseason calendar in 2014, and those changes are going to require teams to adjust.
“I’m happy we didn’t move (the draft) back any further than we did,” said Rooney. “There was some chance it was going to get moved back one more week in May, but they only moved it two weeks. To me, I think we can live with that. One or two weeks is not going to make that much of a difference, but once you get beyond that it does start to affect the football side of things and really how much time you have with the rookies, in terms of getting them in and starting to work with them. That has to be considered, and I think it will be. Next year it will be a little bit of a trial run, and we’ll see how it goes.”
There seem to be a couple of ways for the league to deal with the two-week difference. The obvious one would be to move teams’ offseason programs back two weeks, which would mean that instead of minicamps ending in the middle of June as they did this year, minicamps would end at the end of June. The other way would be to try to absorb the two-week delay within the framework of the dates of the current offseason program: for example, having Phase 1, which is limited to weightlifting/conditioning, before the draft so that the on-field sessions could begin and end as they did this year.
“That remains to be seen,” said Rooney about the specifics. “There are going to have to be some adjustments. I would expect that our spring program will go another week or two into June. That would be my expectation. I think the coaches are still kind of deciding how to handle that.”
Another change for coaches to handle is the reality of cameras in the locker room. Starting this season, fans attending games will be given a look into the home team’s locker room during the final preparations for kickoff. But Rooney offered a cautionary tone on that.
“I think the cameras in the locker room will have relatively limited use,” said Rooney. “I do believe it could be something that becomes part of the pregame build up, and so that part might be fun for the fans, to get a little bit of a look inside at that point. I would expect it will be fairly limited in terms of how much it can be used.”
GOING CAMPING, BUT IN THE BACKYARD
Over the past several years, the number of teams that prepare for the upcoming season by actually packing up and going off to a training camp site has been dwindling. One estimate is that 20 of the 32 teams now hold their training camp at their own practice facilities.
Since moving from St. Louis to Arizona, the Cardinals had held all but one of their 26 training camps at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. The New York Giants had a 17-year relationship with the University of Albany, while the Philadelphia Eagles had the same relationship with Lock Haven. Those three teams all will stay home for training camp this summer.
The Steelers will hold their entire training camp at Saint Vincent College for the 47th consecutive summer, and Rooney said he doesn’t see that changing “in the near future.” The 2013 version has players reporting on Friday, July 26, and the first practice open to the public is the next day. In all, the Steelers will have 16 practices open to the public.
“Saint Vincent College is a great set-up for us. It’s a great set-up for our fans,” said Rooney. “Our fans enjoy coming up there and getting a chance to get a little closer to the players. It’s free and I know our fans, a lot of them, comment about how much they appreciate being able to come up and spend a day, an inexpensive way to spend a day, and get closer to the team. It’s been a great set-up for us. Taking the team away for a few weeks and having a little bit of a camp-like atmosphere does build some bonds I believe can be helpful. Certainly, our success since we’ve been training at Saint Vincent College has been pretty darn good, so I don’t see much reason to change it.”
Rooney also addressed some other issues:
Re: Throwback jerseys for 2013
“We will be wearing our throwback jerseys again this year, the same jersey as last year. We’re actually discussing with the league which game we’re going to wear them. We’ll only wear them for one game this year. We sort of have to apply to the league and have them approve the game, so we’re in that process.”
Re: The Steelers’ 2013 offseason
“I think it has been (successful). I like where we are. We’ve had tremendous participation in our offseason programs, and that pays dividends as time goes on. I think the team is in good shape. Guys have worked hard, so I do think it’s been a successful offseason. As Coach Tomlin said, we’ve laid a foundation for going into training camp, which hopefully will serve us well.”
Re: The New York Super Bowl opening it up for cold-weather cities
“I don’t think we’ll see cold-weather cities be in any kind of regular rotation, but I do think we’ll see it happen again. It kind of depends on what happens in New York, because everybody is going to view that experience and really see how it goes. I do think there is a chance going forward that the cold-weather cities will host some Super Bowls, and maybe down the road Pittsburgh will be one of them. Who knows?”