LATROBE (KDKA) — Fans filled Saint Vincent College Friday afternoon for the Steelers’ first practice of Training Camp.
Every summer, fans come from far and wide to catch their favorite team in action after a long off-season.READ MORE: Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership Moves 20th Anniversary Light Up Night Celebration To Saturday
There was plenty of excitement from the members of Steelers Nation who flocked to Latrobe to begin their weekend.
That includes the self-proclaimed “Stiller Gang,” a group of buddies who couldn’t wait to get on campus, as well as a guy who calls himself “Pope Yinzer.”
“We come out here every year, gotta be here the first day. We’ll be here tomorrow again, too. Try to get here as much as we can,” said Don Zadach, who has dubbed himself ‘Pope Yinzer.’ “Bless the fans, bless the Steelers, and bless the good weather that we have today.”
“The chance to interact with the players in a more casual setting,” said Stiller Gang member John Irvin. “You get a chance to talk to them, ask them what they’re doing to prepare for the season. It’s just a little more intimate experience you get than being way up in the bleachers.”
For others, it’s a family affair. One group was having an “aunts’ weekend” with their niece who flew in from Florida.
“She came here to see Antonio Brown, for sure,” said Mary Corton of her niece. “Actually, it’s our first camp ever. We’re gonna watch practice, and hopefully, get her a few autographs.”
The players seemed pretty energized for the first day of camp, too.
Head coach Mike Tomlin seemed very pleased after practice.
And, as for the highlights of the Steelers first day back on the field, running back Le’Veon Bell did participate, and Ben Roethlisberger led the practice in an unfamiliar jersey number.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Pittsburgh: Allegheny County Reports 574 New Cases, 2 Additional Deaths
The quarterback was wearing recently retired tight end Heath Miller’s No. 83 jersey. The two are good friends off the field, and Roethlisberger says he will miss Miller on the field this season.
Meanwhile, Miller isn’t the only one of Roethlisberger’s targets not at Training Camp.
Wide receiver Martavis Bryant won’t be with the Steelers the entire season. He has been suspended for failing multiple drug tests.
“I haven’t talked to him since the suspension,” Roethlisberger said. “[It’s] unfortunate, very disappointed, especially for a guy that I felt like I really tried to take under my wing. Last year, during the suspension, I talked to him every single day. Kind of challenged him when I thought he needed to be challenged. I thought we really had a great relationship and then then you just feel kind of let down, disappointed. It’s like a little brother that you take under your wing and has all the potential in the world to be one of the best. But that’s on the football field, I think off the field, you worry about him as a man and a person and I heard he’s doing better now.”
As for the other Steeler facing possible suspension, Roethlisberger said he’s waiting to see how Le’Veon Bell’s appeal goes before commenting. It’s expected to be finalized around the second week of August.
There’s another guy who can’t take the field either. Steelers’ current tight end Ladarius Green is sidelined for an indefinite period of time after having off-season surgery.
Green says he’s optimistic though that he’ll be ready for the first game of the season.
“Yeah, I don’t know why I wouldn’t be, but I’m very optimistic about it. There’s really no timetable right now; I’m just trying to take it day by day,” Green said.
Green signed a four-year deal worth $20 million this off-season.
The Steelers will be practicing both days this weekend.MORE NEWS: COVID-19 In Pennsylvania: State Reports 5,786 New Cases, 72 Additional Deaths
Nearly all of the team’s afternoon practices are open to fans. They start at 2:55 p.m.