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Print

The show before the show

Posted Aug 2, 2014

The Steelers' arrival at night practice was greeted eagerly by thousands of excited fans.

By Michael Kelley

LATROBE, Pa. – Seven yellow school buses slowly crept into eyesight as the sun set over Latrobe Memorial Stadium yesterday evening. The moment everyone was waiting for – some since dawn – had finally arrived. 

“The flashing lights on Irving Avenue tell a story… the Pittsburgh Steelers are approaching,” said Bill Hillgrove, the play-by-play voice of the Steelers, through the microphone. 

The crowd roared with anticipation. Coach Mike Tomlin was the first to step out and greet the crowd. Styx’s “Renegade” started blasting over the stadium speakers. The Pittsburgh Steeline furiously drummed away. 

One player after another walked through the aisle lined by the Latrobe High School football team and onto the field. Each player drew loud cheers from the thousands of fans on hand. And then came Troy Polamalu, last but certainly not least. His arrival received the loudest cheers.

Players and coaches set out around the quarter mile track encompassing the field to sign autographs. It provided fans with the rare opportunity to interact with their favorite players up close and personally. 

“Hey Heath! Are we going to get that seventh ring this year?” one fan asked tight end Heath Miller

“I sure hope so,” said Miller, smiling back to the young woman. 

Wide receiver Antonio Brown was at one corner of the track sporting Google Glass, filming fans as they looked on in adoration back at him. Polamalu was at the other end with the crowd eight rows deep behind the fence. 

“Troy Troy Troy, please, please, please sign this for me!” said Tyler Bryant, 15, a cheerleader for Latrobe. 

Polamalu signed her hat and handed it back as she was jumping up and down. “Thank you so much… I think I’m going to start crying I’m so happy.” 

And then there was Joey Porter, back at Latrobe Memorial Stadium for the first time since the 2012 version of Friday Night Lights when he and some teammates officially retired as Steelers during a pre-practice ceremony. On this night, he was a coach, a defensive assistant working with the linebackers.

“I came from eight hours away just to see you, Joey!” one fan shouted to Porter as he began his walk back to the field for the start of the evening’s practice. “You’re a coach now, you can be late.” 

“You’re trying to get me fired,” Porter responded with a laugh before signing the fan’s poster. 

Suddenly the horn blared, the signal that the autograph session was over and the night’s work was to begin. Tomlin shouted, “Here we go, men!” and it was time for practice. It was time for the next show to begin.

 

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