If you have ever made the trek to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA in late July, or early August, to get a glimpse of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action, you know how special the experience can be.
Not only can fans line up to get an autograph from their favorite player before and/or after practice, but you get an up-close-and-personal view of exactly what the team is doing at practice.
There is no hiding from this type of exposure, and it is likely one of the reasons why many NFL teams don’t leave their headquarters for training camp anymore. In this regard, the Steelers are one of just a few teams who still pack up and head elsewhere for their preseason camp experience.
However, some NFL teams are taking their confidentiality and secrecy a step further by not only staying at home, but also by limiting the number of practices fans can take in throughout the process.
Just last week the Philadelphia Eagles announced they will have one, yes one, public practice for their fans. Think about that for a second. Meanwhile, the Steelers will have 13 practices at Saint Vincent College, their annual Friday night practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium on August 2 and a family-themed practice at Heinz Field on August 4. While the family-themed practice does come with a fee, the rest are completely free of charge.
But before I make readers feel I am painting a picture of an NFL that doesn’t care about the fans, the Steelers’ fiercest rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, are opening their doors to the fans as well. Although the Ravens don’t travel to McDaniel College in western Maryland like they used to, they are allowing fans to come and take in practices. The Ravens will have 14 of those practices at their practice facility in Owings Mills and the other one will come at M&T Bank Stadium on July 27.
I understand NFL teams being paranoid someone might be filming their practices or keeping an eye on how they are handling their business, there is something to be said about pulling the curtain back for the fans, even if it is just for 15 practices a season.
In this sense, I am glad the Steelers are a team with more of an old school mentality. I know the fans certainly appreciate it.