LATROBE, Pa. – Over the course of the last half-century that the Steelers have descended upon Latrobe for their annual summer training camp, traditions have been built that continue to make the town a destination on the map of Steelers fans everywhere.
Among those traditions that bring Steelers Nation out in droves is the annual night practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. When the Friday night lights shine brightly over the Steelers practice, fans flock to the high school venue for the chance to see their favorite players and team in a setting outside of Saint Vincent College or a professional stadium, providing a truly unique experience.
As fans line the fences around the field in the hopes of snagging an autograph or picture from one of their favorite players (another tradition at training camp), some new experiences were delivered to Steelers Nation Unite members this year.
For checking in during the Steelers Fest before practice, 10 members and their guests were given Terrible Towels and invited to line the field for an up-close view as the team got off the buses and made their way into the stadium.
"It was an awesome experience," said Yolanda Jones of Bronx, NY, who was attending her first training camp with friends.
The chance to get rewarded wasn't the only thing that drew Jones and her friends to Latrobe, though.
"We also came to meet some other Steelers fans and congregate with other people, especially since we're from another state," Jones said on Friday evening. "We've made some friends already and we've only been here a day."
The Steelers Nation Unite tent was on site at Latrobe Memorial Stadium for Steelers Fest and Friday Night Lights.
As practice got underway, 10 more members and their guests were invited to the field, where they were given an even closer view of practice and surprised with a photo opportunity with Steelers president Art Rooney II.
It was an experience that made a trip up from Texas even more exciting for the Shaw family.
"My husband, Don, and my son, Blake, came up 11 years ago and had a great time," said Christy Shaw. "We finally just retired so we decided to come up and it's been a great experience. We've been at camp every day and it's been a lot of fun."
"I joined last year to get alerts about the team when we were moving. We saw the [Steelers Nation Unite] tent when we got here today and we wondered what all was going on," Shaw said. "We checked in right there and won this experience."
"It's been a great experience since we got to go on the field and I even tried on a Super Bowl ring, which was really nice," said Don Shaw. "Everyone has been really friendly. We're loving it."
These experiences weren't the only rewards and benefits for members on Friday night, as members who checked in received Steelers Nation Unite Terrible Towels, t-shirts and window clings. Five lucky members also walked away with $50 gift cards to The Steelers Pro Shop – World Headquarters.
Friday night wasn't unique, though, in the sense that it wasn't the first time members got rewarded since the 50th training camp at Saint Vincent College commenced.
Each day the Steelers have taken the field in front of Steelers Nation, members have been receiving VIP passes for the day, which include a viewing of the 2014 highlight film, a Q&A with Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley, field-level access for practice and a post-practice dinner reception with autographs from two current Steelers players.
Members have also been scoring guaranteed spots in the autograph line for head coach Mike Tomlin, in addition to other members who have been walking away with gift cards, merchandise and other great rewards that only the team can provide.
While fans have been flocking to Latrobe, members around the country are still receiving opportunities to benefit through calls to action on social media. This past week, members who used #SNUcamp to talk about which players they'd be following closely during this year's camp got the chance to be randomly selected to receive Steelers Nation Unite hats and t-shirts.
With plenty of ways and chances to get rewarded from anywhere, there's no reason to not join Steelers Nation Unite for free right now at SteelersNationUnite.com.
Just ask Joshua Strouse of Montgomery, PA, who's among the members who were at field level last Friday night and got rewarded after signing up just before heading to Latrobe.
"It was unbelievable to be this close to the field and was just a great feeling. It's our ninth year here now and it's been a really good experience," said Strouse. "This has been by far our favorite year."
Steelers Nation Unite members continue to score field access, merchandise and other exclusive rewards at this year's training camp.