Saint Vincent College has been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ home away from home for a long time now. The only team that has had a longer active relationship with their training camp site is the Green Bay Packers, in an era where most teams simply conduct their training camp at their own local facilities.
Last year, the NFL and NFLPA did not permit teams to travel for training camp as part of restrictive Covid-19 protocols, so the Steelers ended up holding camp in Heinz Field, but it was earlier announced this month that teams would be allowed to travel for camp”.
The team and owner Art Rooney II have consistently held the position that they are eager to get back to Latrobe for training camp this year and it is their every intention to make that happen, but he did make it clear in speaking to the team’s website yesterday that there are still some hurdles.
“I wish I could say it’s a done deal”, he said of holding training camp at Saint Vincent, calling it Plan A. “That’s what we’re planning for, but unfortunately there still are some issues we’ve got to iron out, and some of them have to do with the Players Association and discussions about training camp and Covid protocols and all of that”.
Part of the league memo regarding allowing teams to return to travel for training camp was that it would require approval beforehand, and no doubt that would entail ensuring that each site meets with whatever requirements might be in place with regards to handling the Covid-19 protocols. And that goes for the fans, too, which Rooney made very clear is what this is all about.
“If we can’t have fans, I’m not sure we would go to training camp up there”, he said. “That’s certainly a big part of it – to be there with our fans. Our fans love being up there. There are great facilities up there, and it’s a great place for training camp for the players from a football perspective. But without the fans I’m not sure what we would do”.
He did say that “things are trending in the right direction” and adding that they are moving forward with the plan to have fans attend, but there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that everything is as it needs to be to have an enjoyable and safe experience for all involved.
It does raise an interesting question though, and this may come down to the NFLPA, ultimately: if there were no fans in attendance watching practice, would the Steelers still bother hiking up to Saint Vincent College? Clearly, Rooney suggests that they might not.