I went ahead and finally did it.
That’s right, despite mocking the importance of training camp—and when I say that, I’m talking about the importance of attending it as a fan—I decided to head on down to Heinz Field on Monday afternoon to take in at least a portion of that day’s practice session.
Actually, I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to go; I had been trying to “buy” tickets for over a week—they’re free, but you have to reserve them through Ticketmaster. I attempted to go the previous Monday, but I couldn’t figure out my password. After finally hurdling that obstacle over the weekend, I spent most of Sunday evening trying to reserve a ticket for this Monday. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the payment feature, a feature that shouldn’t have been an obstacle, considering training camp tickets are, you know, free. I woke up Monday morning fairly certain there would not be a trip to Heinz Field when it suddenly occurred to me that downloading the Ticketmaster app onto my smartphone might be my gateway to salvation.
Speaking of which, I’m sure there will be an app for when it’s time to pass through those pearly gates (although, I sure hope I can live long enough to make that technology obsolete).
You may be wondering how much it costs to park at Heinz Field for a training camp practice? I don’t know. You see, I’m a single bachelor, which means I am completely free to do insane things like park my car in the West End of Pittsburgh and then walk the two miles it takes to get to the stadium.
However, the only problem with doing that on Monday was that it was August 9, meaning the sun was relentless. The humidity joined in. By the time I arrived at Heinz Field, let’s just say my deodorant offered about as much protection to those around me as a Steelers offensive lineman in 2008.
Anyway, getting into the stadium was a delight, and it was easy to find my seat, only I didn’t sit in it because the row was a little too crowded for my taste. I moved about three rows back and was surrounded by no one.
Enough about me. Below are my 14 observations from Monday’s training camp practice:
- Isaiahh Loudermilk looked pretty good to my untrained eye. I don’t know if I was seeing things or not, but I noticed him enough to find out who No. 92 was. I was shocked that it was Loudermilk.
- Speaking of numbers, to echo Dave Schofield’s sentiments from right after the Hall of Fame Game, why do so many Steelers’ players have duplicate digits this summer? The NFL loosened its restrictions on numbers worn by certain positions. This shouldn’t be an issue in 2021, and it’s hard to keep track of who is doing what.
- In one of those ever-popular Seven Shots drills, Melvin Ingram rode Najee Harris into the end zone for a touchdown. Ingram didn’t score a touchdown, of course. It was Harris, the rookie running back out of Alabama. I’ll bet Ingram wishes he got credit for a score, however, because that would have been the only way he could have looked good on that play. By the way, that’s more a compliment for Harris and his potential than it is a shot at the veteran Ingram.
- Speaking of rookies, according to my eyes, linebacker Buddy Johnson, a fourth-round pick from Texas A&M, broke up a pass in that very same Seven Shots drill, as did defensive back Mark Gilbert, a fellow rookie from Duke. I believe the defense won the drill, 4-3. But who can say for sure?
- Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t dress, but since I’m legally required to comment on it, he did look very slim. Also, his beard game has remained consistent since going to a true professional last offseason.
- Call me crazy, but Dan Moore, the rookie left tackle from Texas A&M, looked pretty darn impressive to me as I isolated on him in one-on-one drills. Am I just wishing success on him? Am I simply looking for my next Ramon Foster and putting too much pressure on Moore’s shoulders?
- Tight end Kevin Rader seemed to do really well in blocking drills. As a member of the pretend media, I thought maybe I could have been mistaken. However, Nick Farabaugh, formerly a member of the pretend media before switching allegiances, validated my observation in a Tweet about the 2018 undrafted free agent out of Youngstown State.
- Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster appears to be way more popular at Heinz Field than he is on Twitter. In fact, it almost seems like people are highly entertained by Smith-Schuster when they see him in person. It’s almost as if Steelers fans really like popular players or something. TikTok dances? Call me crazy, but I think the fans were just itching for him to do one right in the middle of Monday’s practice. Real media members were probably itching for it, too, but for very different reasons.
- Veteran linebacker Cassius Marsh just looks surreal in person, like if Hollywood made a movie about a football player in 1988 and picked Tommy Lee to play him.
- As always, I relied on the trusty binoculars that I got for my 18th birthday to take in the action. And, as always, they made my clothes dirty for some reason. Maybe they’re just eroding thanks to Father Time.
- While observing the action through my 31-year old binoculars, this woman approached me and said, “Excuse me, sir.” I thought she was going to tell me to move since I was sitting illegally. Turned out, she wanted me to find “No. 23.” I said, “Joe Haden?” She said, “Yes.” I tried my best, but I couldn’t spot Haden on the field or on the sidelines. She then said, “He said he’d be out there.” By the time I stopped looking, she was gone. Maybe it was a family member?
- As I was trying to find Haden for that woman, Alex Highsmith blew up a running play in the backfield. I don’t know who he blew up, but I know he made the play since he was motioning with his hands and arms as if to say, “Not in my house.” I get the feeling Highsmith is going to be taking up residence in plenty of backfields in 2021.
- I decided to leave about 90 minutes into practice. It was just too darn hot. Anyway, on my way out of the stadium, I spotted that same woman again. Not only was she wearing a Haden shirt, but several other people she was sitting with were, as well. Therefore, I’m fairly certain I met a member of Joe Haden’s family. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help her locate him with my trusty binoculars.
- Matt Canada looked pretty smug as he stood around in his fancy Steelers hat. Todd Haley 2.0? To be determined.
That's all the observations I have for you regarding my trip to Heinz Field on Monday. Will I go again? Will I sit in my assigned seat? Will I be able to find Joe Haden?
That all remains to be seen.