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For the second straight year, the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted Family Fest: An opportunity for the fans to see their Steelers practice at Heinz Field, which I’m sure is a benefit to most if they missed the opportunity to see them during Training Camp at Saint Vincent’s in Latrobe.
But this year was a bit of a difference: Last year, it was during training camp which meant the team had to leave Latrobe, come to Family Fest, and then travel back to Latrobe. This year, it was after they left Latrobe. Was it better for the Steelers? You would have to ask them that, but if I were them it would be better since I wouldn’t have to travel back up Route 30 to Latrobe. Instead, they just must travel to their South Side headquarters, which is not too far from Heinz Field.
To be honest with you, this year’s Family Fest was better than last year (and last years was pretty good) it has lived up to the theme: For families to enjoy the Steelers experience. For the kids, they had Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play-which began at 2pm outside Heinz Field and inside Heinz Field at the Ford Fan Zone at 5pm. Creative.
Rumor (well, not exactly) has it that JuJu Smith-Shuster and Santonio Holmes(Yep, he was there again) got slimed in the Nickelodeon Worldwide Day of Play. Sorry I missed that.
Other fans could take pics with the 6 Lombardi Trophies, and meet Steelers alumni,(Larry Brown, Jon Kolb, Chris Hoke & Shaun Suisham, Mike Logan & Louis Lipps) which never gets old. I had a chance to talk to 2 alumni in Logan and Lipps. I told Logan that he should get out there and suit up, he burst out laughing and pointed to his knees as to why he couldn’t. I told Lipps I appreciated his career and enjoyed those end-arounds and reverses he ran when he wore #83. He gave his thanks.
The on-field festivities began at 6:30 and they treated the beginning just like a regular game. Head Coach Mike Tomlin was introduced and ran out of the tunnel, followed by the offense and the defense as they gave hi-fives to the awaiting fans who gave them the red-carpet treatment. After the Star-Spangled Banner, the players took the field and practiced. The stretched, ran and then ran some plays which included Red-Zone plays with passes into the end-zone.
WR Antonio Brown caught some fancy passes as usual, as did Smith-Shuster, but who also stole the attention was rookie WR James Washington out of Oklahoma State. I watched this kid eat Pitt for dinner last season and he’s proving that he’ll make an immediate impact this year, as he’s expected to replace Martavis Bryant. Trey Griffey caught an impressive TD pass. You can also call him Ken Griffey III..son of Ken Griffey Jr, the baseball Hall of Famer. It would be cool to see him make the team. (QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Hobbs and rookie Mason Rudolph threw the passes.)
And then there’s LB Ryan Shazier, who will not play this year after severely injuring his spine last season. He continues to amaze as he walked around the field without his cane. Whether he returns to football or not, he will always be an inspiration to many.
I’m sure you remember my Training Camp report when I said to be careful standing too close to the field, because you might become part of the action? Well, such was the case with me during the practice. A pass was thrown, and the ball fell towards me. Of course, I picked it up and tossed it to WR Marcus Tucker, which went right over his head. Ouch. I never said I could throw the ball. That’s why I’m not quitting my day-job anytime soon.
Anyhoo, the practice ended with fireworks and the players signing autographs. I also had a chance to catch up with rookie Safety (and 1st Round pick) Terrel Edmunds. I asked him what expectations did he set for himself. He replied
“Just do whatever I can to help out the team. I don’t have any personal (goals), but to go out there and try to get the win every day.”
So, there you have it. Another conclusion to Steelers Family Fan Fest. It’ll be even better next year.
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