While only a small percentage of the fan base actually gets the opportunity to attend, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ annual treks to Latrobe for training camp at Saint Vincent College have been rooted in their history for several decades. They have the second-longest consecutive association with an off-site training camp facility in the league, behind only the Green Bay Packers.
Their annual pattern was interrupted last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as was the case for every other team (an admittedly smaller and smaller number) that prefers to travel to training camp. Earlier this offseason, the league approved the ability for teams to travel for training camp, but much still remains up in the air.
Yesterday, for example, the Buffalo Bills announced that they would not be traveling to St. John Fisher College for training camp this year, where they had held every training camp since 2000 before last year’s interruption.
“We were trying every which way we could to make it work”, Bills general manager Brandon Beane said. “But in the end, as we sit here today, the current protocols just make it really hard for us to do what we need to do and not be a distraction for our team, with all the distancing, and some things would just have to be virtual that we can do in person here with this setup. So we just decided the best way to get our team ready for our season was to do it here again this year”.
The Bills were one of the handful of teams remaining in the league who still went off-site for training camp. It remains to be seen how many of the other teams continue to travel this year. Steelers president Art Rooney II said that he wanted to very much, but he was reserved about the prospects of it actually happening, and also said that it would be a non-starter if fans could not attend.
“I wish I could say it’s a done deal”, Rooney said last month about going to Latrobe, 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”.
While he did also say that things were trending in the right direction, it’s possible that Beane and the Bills felt similar a month ago. I’m confident the Steelers will do everything possible to ensure that they can have as normal a training camp experience as possible, but are rightfully operating light on their feet.
COVID-19 protocols and restrictions will still be in effect this year, and it’s readily apparent that not everybody involved is going to be vaccinated. When you throw in an entire campus community, you’re introducing a major variable that requires a great deal of consideration as to how it would work.