I got a text from my brother last Monday that read: “Training camp at Heinz Field this year T.J. (my nickname way before the other T.J. came along). I like it actually. Your opinion lol??”
My opinion was that I liked it, but I was also confused.
When it was reported two weeks ago that the NFL would require all 32 of its teams to conduct their training camps at their home locations, I just assumed the Steelers, who spent the previous five-and-a-half decades holding training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., would conduct theirs at their practice facility on the South Side of Pittsburgh.
It made sense. First of all, the South Side is where the Steelers conduct the rest of their training camp after they break camp out at Latrobe. Second of all, this is where Pittsburgh holds its offseason workouts and regular season practices. Third of all, similar to St Vincent College, the South Side facility has multiple fields.
It all just made sense to me.
So when I heard the news first announced by Burt Lauten, the Steelers Director of Communications, that the team wanted to have camp at Heinz Field, it seemed puzzling.
The reasoning for this decision was because the facilities at Heinz Field— locker rooms, meeting rooms, etc.— will provide an atmosphere more conducive to adhering to the NFL’s guidelines for social distancing amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
In other words, players will be able to practice safe social distancing when they do non-football things such as changing at their lockers.
If only they weren’t also practicing football before and after practicing their social distancing.
I don’t want to sound ignorant (I mean, I am, I just don’t want to sound that way), but once these players scrimmage for the first time, doesn’t that pretty much eliminate the need for social distancing for the reminder of training camp? Assuming these guys all test negative before camp and keep socializing on the streets of Pittsburgh to a bare minimum throughout camp, what’s the point of social distancing AFTER all the blocking and tackling that takes place on a practice field? Isn’t this sort of like making out with a woman on the first date and then having a Zoom meet-up on the second?
If you feel this is illogical and want to state that with a comment or three, go right ahead (just no weird conspiracy theories, please— you know who you are).
I get the need for safety, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t get the need for this, not when the name of the game of football is to practice as little social distancing as possible.
Why conduct the efficiency apartment version of training camp when you have a three-bedroom condo right up the road?
There has been talk of the team busing some of its players to the South Side to practice certain drills when multiple fields are necessary. But why not just have the players practice on the South Side each day and then ship them back to Heinz Field to change and have their meet... forget it.
From a team standpoint, it all sounds so involved. However, as a fan, what do I care? And this is the part of the article where I tell you how great I think it is.
As someone who only travels to Latrobe every other year or so, I would love to see the team hold training camp at Heinz Field, just 10 minutes away from my home.
That’s if they open camp up to fans, of course. And with a 68,400 seat capacity at Heinz, I can’t see why they wouldn’t. No, they obviously wouldn’t allow a full house, but I could see them spreading five or 10,000 fans throughout the stadium. I don’t even care if I have to sit in the upper-deck, it would still be much better than those hillsides at Saint Vincent where it’s all you can do to keep from sliding down the hill and hitting the person sitting on the Terrible Towel in front of you.
Would it be an ideal camp to watch? No, but if the new lady in your life invited you over to her place for the first time, would you balk at a twin bed?
I didn’t think so.
To sum it all up, while holding training camp at Heinz Field makes little sense from a logistical and social distancing standpoint, in terms of perks for the fans, I’m all in.
I’ll bring the binoculars.