It’s all but certain the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t hold training camp in Latrobe this summer. Barring an exception granted by the league, the team’s 54 year streak at St. Vincent College will come to an end.
Pittsburgh has been practicing there since 1966, now one of just a handful of teams still going offsite for camp. For most teams, the NFL’s mandate won’t alter plans. But it will the Steelers.
St. Vincent brought so much value. Mike Tomlin always discussed the importance of team-building away from the city. Strengthening team bonds, a 90 man roster piled into dorm rooms and living together for weeks. That fact is the reason why keeping camp at SVC was unlikely, increasing the risk of spreading COVID 19, but it’s an element that won’t be replaced by practicing on the South Side.
Holding training camp in Pittsburgh has been a rarity. For the team’s entire history, it’s only happened over a three year span. 1935 to 1937, in South Park, back when the team was still called the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Camp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex will present challenges. Latrobe offered a lot more space – three fields for the group to break to. Practices would start utilizing all the space, the defense on the far field (away from bleachers) and the offense on the near side. There was even a fourth turf field if the field was too beat up or muddy. There’s also a possible sanitation issue by staying in Pittsburgh. It’s unclear what their schedules will be, it’s reasonable to assume they’ll coordinate, but the Pitt Panthers will also be practicing during the same time. That’s a lot of coaches, training staff, and of course, players shuffling in and out.
Player health and safety is the number one priority but Latrobe losing out on camp is a blow to their economy. To be fair, even if things were held at the college, fans may not have been able to attend, but the town relied on the Steelers to boost the local economy. Businesses lined up and down Route 30, restaurants and bars boomed during this time, and Friday Night Lights raised money for the local community.
There are far bigger problems in the world today than missing a year of training camp. But I’ll miss the experience and the information we’re able to bring to you guys. The hope now is moving this year doesn’t compel the team to make it a permanent switch, as so many organizations have done over the last decade.