There is no fence line at Latrobe. No chance to snag an in-person autograph from TJ Watt, a photo from JuJu Smith-Schuster. But like the rest of sports, of entertainment, of most things in life, the Pittsburgh Steelers are getting creative to replicate the experience.
Over the past few days, the team has conducted “autograph sessions” with Joe Haden and Ben Roethlisberger. How does it work? Fans tweet their favorite photo to them with them “signing” in return. Here’s an example.
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) August 6, 2020
And here’s an example from Roethlisberger’s account.
— BigBen7.com (@_BigBen7) August 12, 2020
It’s a cool touch from the Steelers and their social media team. And just another example of how sports are trying to keep fans – and players – engaged during the COVID pandemic. Getting autographs at training camp is a highlight from so many, running up the hill at St. Vincent, waiting for hours until practice is over to hopefully snag a signature. I know I did it growing up and I’m betting you did, too.
Engagement is a two way street. There’s no question players can thrive on it, especially at Heinz Field, an opportunity that either won’t exist or will be very limited during the season. Teams like Washington and Philadelphia have already announced they won’t have fans in attendance this season while others like Baltimore will heavily reduce capacity. The Steelers appear to be in the latter camp, potentially having only 10,000 fans each week for home games. Renegade sure doesn’t feel the same with social distancing.
Other teams and leagues are doing the same. Several MLB teams are sending foul balls to season ticket holders if they land in their seats. The NBA has virtual fans and in a cool personal touch, the Phoenix Suns had family members introduce their starting lineup in a recent game. Sports certainly aren’t the same but they’re back and there are plenty of people attempting to maintain a sense of normalcy.
It’s a minor note in the grand scheme of things but a pretty cool gesture from players to remain connected with the best of Steelers’ Nation. Social media has many pitfalls, players take a lot of heat, but this serves as a reminder for some of the good that’s out there.