If you head down to Latrobe and stop by Saint Vincent college around this time of year, you are liable to see a Steeler…a former Steeler, I mean. Of course the Pittsburgh Steelers will be in Latrobe. They have gone there annually for more than half a century. But even those who are no longer playing can’t seem to stay away.
There are quite a few former players who have found their way into training camp, both this year and in past years, but the 2017 edition seems to be particularly robust, and includes the presence of two recent Steelers greats who may someday be in the Hall of Fame.
There is, of course, wide receiver Hines Ward, which for many people who grew up in the 2000s may always be their favorite Steelers player of all time. While Antonio Brown has begun his assault on Ward’s franchise receiving records, he still retains many of them.
The former Super Bowl MVP is serving as a coaching intern for the Steelers this year, for the purpose, I presume, of getting his feet wet and seeing if coaching is right for him. So, too, is former guard Alan Faneca, who is actually back in Latrobe for the second straight year.
Originally, in fact, Faneca was only committed to working with the offensive linemen during the spring last year, but he chose to stay on board throughout all of training camp, and now he is back there once again. Even Ike Taylor is around the fields as a scouting intern. Kendall Simmons and Charlie Batch have also been spotted. Ryan Clark even paid a visit.
“We’re fortunate to have guys like that who want to be here, who want to come back”, Steelers President Art Rooney II said about the presence of so many former players in camp this year during a recent interview on SiriusXM.
“Hines is so excited to be here he can hardly contain himself”, Rooney quipped. “It’s great. Every year, the past few years in particular, we’ve had a number of guys that played relatively recently who wanted to come back and either get some experience on the personnel side or the coaching side”.
And some of them do ultimately make the transition. While not all of them actually served in Pittsburgh as a coaching intern, the team’s current coaching staff includes former players in Carnell Lake, Jerry Olsavsky, and Joey Porter.
And lest we forget, there are even a couple of former players within the Steelers’ scouting department, namely Mark Bruener and Chidi Iwuoma (that sound you just heard was Alex Kozora suffer a fainting spell).
There’s no other way to explain it other than to say that for many people who spent so much time within the organization, the Steelers are a special team to be a part of. That is why so many players want to make it a part of their post-playing career, or want to retire as Steelers—something that Porter did, among others, after playing a number of years elsewhere.