Dunlap: The Steelers and St. Vincent Are A Perfect Match

There isn't anything not to like about St. Vincent

Colin Dunlap
July 30, 2018 - 2:03 pm

Colin Dunlap - 93.7 The Fan

Don't ever leave me. Oh no, please don't go away. For this is one of the best traditions in the National Football League. 

The sun rising over those mountains --- you have to see it for yourself. 

The fans --- virtually every single one in black and gold --- roaring through the gates, no matter it's the end of July and feels more like a sauna and less like football weather. 

The traffic backups on Route 30 wherein you see cars with license plates from all over the country with Steelers flags, decals and various other ornaments affixed to them so as to signal an unyielding allegiance. 

Those neatly trimmed hedges, that grand basilica in the backdrop, the screaming kids, the autographs, the accessibility and those million dollar smiles from both the fans and participants. 

Oh no. Don't ever leave me St. Vincent and Steelers Training Camp. You are all I have ever known to get ready for the season. And, more to the point, here's hoping the Pittsburgh Steelers never leave St. Vincent as their training camp home. Again, when these football giants go to that tiny campus it just so happens to be one of the grandest on-going traditions the NFL has. It is, make no mistake, something special. 

I'm 41. The Steelers have been going to train at St. Vincent for 53 consecutive seasons. So, this truly is the only placed I have ever known as the warm-up act for The Franchise The Rooney Family Built. I was there again just about 4 a.m. on Monday, getting set to do The Fan Morning Show and, without hesitation, I can say that the place never gets old. The feeling that you are walking on a hallowed sort of ground comes over you. It did again. I'm assuming it will every single time I go there to watch the Steelers practice. 

You know, I bring this up because too many teams have strayed away from such a traditional football camp. It has become fashionable --- where the NFL treats everything like the Kremlin --- to close ranks as tight as possible and hold preseason camp with little fanfare at a team's regular facility. Sure, the Bills and Chiefs and Packers and a few others still head off to the old-school camps, but by my estimation a good two-thirds of NFL teams have let football camp, and that close-up experience for the fans, become a thing of the past. 

It's my guess that as long as someone with the surname Rooney is in command of the Pittsburgh Steelers, this will never happen. Yeah, there's that shiny facility on the South Side along the river and indeed the players could be put up in a fancy hotel Downtown with all the amenities and luxuries that befit an NFL life. But this is a throwback, if even only for a small time. This is team bonding. This is a cohesiveness. This is the way they've done it for a long, long, long time and I hope it never changes. 

Pittsburgh, by and large, gets an unfair reputation by the ill-informed as a city that hasn't progressed nearly as much as it has. Watch a Steelers game and you still get those classic B-roll shots of steel mills and the such. Many of the things people who put stuff like that together associate with Pittsburgh simply aren't true. But even as we have progressed mightily in the past half-century, there should be customs we hold close to -- ones we don't let go. There should be things that never change if only for the fact they identify us and, heck, they seem to work really well. Steelers camp at St. Vincent is one of the them. It really hit me as I walked along the campus this morning and the team was stretching as the clock pushed past 10 a.m.

Those guys were doing the same thing in the same place as Lambert. As Ham. As Greene and Blount. Mike Tomlin was making the same walk to the field as Cowher before him and Noll before him. The orders and whistles ripped through that valley cut between the mountains just the same as they had in the 1970s. 

It doesn't matter what other teams do or how they want to tighten up their camps and only let the high-end, big-time corporate spenders get a glimpse into their camp. 

Let them be them. The Steelers should always carry themselves a little bit differently. And the Steelers should always go to camp at St. Vincent. I hope, in my lifetime and beyond, that never changes.