The allure of training camp is such that Mike Tomlin wrapped up minicamp last month by admitting he’d report to Saint Vincent College that very night if only they’d let him.
It’s safe to assume not all of the Steelers share their head coach’s unbridled enthusiasm when it comes to setting up shop in Latrobe.
But either way, everyone is due to check in at the Steelers’ summer home by 3 p.m., Wednesday.
Once they get there, the annual process of team building and team bonding will commence.
Based on what transpired last summer, here’s an idea of what to expect:
MAKING AN ENTRANCE: Tradition dictates at least one player makes an over-the-top arrival.
Outside linebacker James Harrison was that player last season.
He showed up in a fire truck with the siren wailing.
“I’m ready to put the fire out,” Harrison announced. “We’re ready to go in here as a team, as a unit, like firefighters do, and come together collectively and get the job done.”
Harrison wound up finishing the season with the Patriots, but in late July his heart was in the right place.
Check out images of Steelers football during training camp at Saint Vincent College through the years.
ROETHLISBERGER AUDIBLES: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has made a habit of conducting a series of one-on-one interviews shortly after reporting, and what he offers in those sessions rarely disappoints.
Roethlisberger had this to say during a sit-down with steelers.com a year ago about what he had left to achieve in the game: “I’ve said before, and I truly meant this, that I thought (Terry) Bradshaw was the best quarterback, obviously, in Pittsburgh history. And I’ve broken pretty much every one of his records other than Super Bowls. And it’s an awesome honor to say I’ve broken a guy like that’s records.
“For me, there’s not much left to accomplish in terms of individual stuff.”
PLAN B: The weather has been known to wreak havoc with the daily schedule, as it did a year ago when rained delayed the first practice of camp and ultimately forced it to be moved to Greater Latrobe Senior High School.
Tomlin takes great interest in the Steelers’ response in such situations.
“Throughout the course of this journey we’re going to be faced with some adversity,” he pointed out. “We’re going to have to be light on our feet and make adjustments. I thought the guys did a heck of a job of dealing wth the circumstance. Time change, location change, we went out and had a very productive practice.”
IRON SHARPENS IRON: It’s all about the competition, from the daily “Seven Shots” two-point conversion/short yardage drill that opens practice, to “Backs-on-’Backers,” to two-minute scenarios, to the 11-on-11 periods that include live tackling.
It’s also all about one-on-one matchups at times, such as the ones Tomlin orchestrated between cornerback Artie Burns and wide receiver Antonio Brown last summer.
“I’m just interested in creating a good environment, one that’s geared toward competition,” Tomlin explained. “Those two guys like to compete. I think it’s contagious. I think it turns others on. It helps cultivate the environment we’re looking for.”
LOOK, LISTEN AND LEARN: Every day, it seems, offers another coaching opportunity and another chance to get better for those who are paying close attention.
Such occurrences a year ago included Tomlin emphasizing what should have happened on a “Seven Shots” pass from quarterback Joshua Dobbs to wide receiver Justin Hunter.
Hunter caught the ball initially but didn’t survive the ground on his way out of bounds.
“Wideouts, you understand that you gotta maintain control of the ball to the ground?” Tomlin responded. “You gotta get up showing the ball.”
CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS: The annual “Friday Night Lights” practice at Latrobe’s Memorial Stadium drew an estimated crowd of 10,635 last summer. What typically turns into a celebration of all things Steelers and a highlight of the preseason is scheduled for Aug. 3 this time around.
TRAINING CAMP SENSATIONS: Running back Terrell Watson, a first-year pro from Azusa Pacific, announced his presence with authority last summer during a night practice at Heinz Field. Watson ran for touchdowns on three consecutive carries in “Seven Shots” on his way to securing a roster spot for the regular-season opener at Cleveland.
He probably had a better time at training than most, Tomlin excluded.