LATROBE, Pa. -- The day began with prayer cards handed out to those attending what was billed as "Opening Mass, Pittsburgh Steeler Training Camp, Saint Vincent Basilica Parish."
This was the first time in 50 summers a Steelers training camp had opened with a mass officially designated to celebrate the occasion.
"God, Heavenly Father, Bless the Pittsburgh Steelers," the prayer began. "Grant to the coaches and leadership of the team your wisdom. Bless, especially, the players, Grant them good health and freedom from injury, Grant them grace to fulfill the gifts you have given them.
"Look kindly upon all of Steelers Nation, dear Lord, and bless the fans. As they gather at Heinz Field and Chuck Noll Field, and around the world, Bring them together as people united with many blessings."
At the conclusion of mass it was suggested from the pulpit that "with a little bit of luck trophy No. 7 may come home to Pittsburgh."
The congregation applauded.
THEN AND NOW:** Steelers president Art Rooney II spoke at the pre-practice ceremony that opened the Steelers' 50th summer at St. Vincent College and then recounted after the ceremony's conclusion one of his most vivid St. Vincent memories.
"There was the time I stole Joe Greene's car," Rooney II recalled. "Joe showed up in a beautiful, green Lincoln Continental. Me and Bill Nunn were ballboys and somehow Bill got the keys one night and we decided to take it for a ride.
"We only told Joe that story about 10 years ago. We figured enough time had passed that we could disclose the little joyride."
Rooney II also looked ahead to the Steelers potentially submitting a bid to host the 2023 Super Bowl.
"I would say that we're still exploring but we're confident we can get there," he said. "Right now I'd probably put it in the likely category."
The NFL must first decide when the next outdoor Super Bowl in a Northern climate would be staged, Rooney II said.
Other issues that would have to be resolved, Rooney II said, included the need for new hotels, identifying practice facilities for both teams, the availability of venues for parties and related functions, the need to add temporary seating at Heinz Field and whether field turf or some other artificial surface would have to be installed.
Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steeler's 1st day of Training Camp.
"Once that decision (to go outdoors in the north) is made, I'm not sure why we would not be able to do it," Rooney II said.
SEVEN SHOTS: The Steelers opened their first practice at St. Vincent as they had all of their OTAs, by placing the ball at the 2-yard line and running seven plays designed to get it in the end zone.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said the point is to work offensively and defensively on all such short-yardage situations (red zone, goal line, etc.) and not specifically on whether two points can be gleaned.
"It's not a reaction to the rule change," Tomlin insisted. "On both sides of the ball that's a significant space and a significant down."
PRACTICE SNAPS: QB Ben Roethlisberger went 1-for-3 on the practice-opening "Seven Shots" drill. Roethlisberger hit TE Heath Miller for a TD on the first snap, then missed WR Antonio Brown and Miller … LB Lawrence Timmons broke up the second throw for Miller and was mobbed by a celebrating defense … QB Landry Jones threw a TD pass to WR Darrius Heyward-Bey in "Seven Shots." Jones was also intercepted by S Alden Darby (on a pass that deflected off WR Sammie Coates) and by CB Kevin Fogg … The first play in 11-0n-11 was a long TD pass from Roethlisberger to Brown … C/G Cody Wallace replaced Maurkice Pouncey (P.U.P. list) with the first-team offense ... Former Steelers Jon Kolb, J.T. Thomas, Merril Hoge, Louis Lipps and Charlie Batch took part in the pre-practice ceremony, as did approximately 300 Terrible Towel-waving youth football players from Western Pennsylvania and the Steelline Drum Corps … Cars began lining up to gain entrance to the parking lots at about 8:10 a.m. (the pre-practice ceremony was scheduled
for 2:30 p.m.) ... Attendance was estimated by a Steelers official at 5,000.
EASING INTO IT: In addition to the five players who opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list, LB James Harrison and S Will Allen didn't participate in practice.
"I'm going to protect him from himself," Tomlin said of Harrison. "He and Will Allen are too old to be working right now."