Jhe Steelers’ long-awaited and highly anticipated return to Saint Vincent College this summer is unfolding as a reunion so emotional it can bring tears to your eyes.
In at least one case, it already is.
“Really special,” rated No. 1 pick Kenny Pickett of an exchange with a young fan who lit the aqueduct in response to simply receiving an autograph. “You never know how much of an impact you can have on someone’s life. Obviously, it was a pretty huge moment. I’m just grateful for all the support, the fans, and I hope I made her day a good one.
Pickett has signed many autographs for Pitt and since being drafted by the Steelers.
But none like this.
“He was crying,” Pickett continued. “I was like, ‘I hope these are tears of joy.’ It was weird having a little guy crying in front of you. I was hoping it was all for a good reason.
“It was definitely a first, it was a special moment for me, for him, and his family was there, so it was great.”
The Steelers had summered here every year since 1966 until COVID-19 hit.
The alternate Heinz Field site for camp in 2020 and 2021 was antiseptic at best.
And the way the resumption of traditional pilgrimages to St. Vincent has been seized by Steeler Nation has been…
I’m still trying to think of an appropriate way to describe this.
Longtime NFL writer and broadcaster Peter King perhaps captured it best during a visit to campus last weekend.
King posted a video on Twitter showing all the cars lined up on the side of the access road that leads to the entrance to the lot that serves as the parking lot.
The video lasted one minute.
He concluded with this from King: “It’s 10:37 a.m. … practice is not three hours and 18 minutes.”
He left out that last Saturday’s practice was to be done without shoulder pads, which meant it was intended to be less exciting/convincing/revealing than a session where the shoulder pads burst, but the point was been done anyway.
The Steelers handed out more than 17,000 free but still-needed tickets to last Saturday’s festivities.
General manager Omar Kahn is among members of the Steelers contingent who were blown away by the response to the team’s return to St. Vincent.
” What can I say ? The support we’ve gotten here so far from the fans coming in, it’s just amazing,” Kahn said. “I met people from all over the country, in fact from all over the world. I met someone from Mexico yesterday who had travelled.
“It was amazing and it really means a lot to all of us, including the team.”
This unique connection with Steeler Nation (Mexico? Steeler Hemisphere?), indeed, means a lot.
But for the organization, in general, and for Mike Tomlin, in particular, what can be gleaned from sequestering a team in this way for a camp means even more.
It’s one of the reasons the Steelers remain one of the few NFL teams to leave their lavish practice facilities and go camping in preparation for a season.
“It’s an opportunity to capture the intangible, what we can’t measure,” Tomlin said on his return to Westmoreland County. “The informal time you get from going to camp, those times when a veteran gets the chance to hang out with a young guy on the front porch in the evening or between meetings or after dinner.
“I just think there’s value in there, there’s growth, there’s collective growth in there, and I’m excited about what this environment offers us from that perspective. “
Happy to see you again.