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Steelers launch 2023 training camp at St. Vincent

Photos By Mike Longo Jr. — Quarterback Kenny Pickett is ready to lead the offense.

By Mike Longo Jr.

Sunny skies complimented the plush green grass and rolling hills on the campus of Saint Vincent College. Yes, it's that time once again, the annual ritual known as Steelers Training Camp. Tens of thousands of Steeler’s faithful will make the annual pilgrimage to this hallowed ground in nearby Latrobe.

Beginning in 1966 the Rooney Family, staff and players have invaded the campus transforming it into a four-week home away from home. They were on a 54-year straight run until Covid struck and now for the second year in a row are back. A total of 56 years and counting.

Team check-in day was relatively uneventful. There were no flashy entrances by players in limos, fire trucks or helicopters as some have in the past. Perhaps the most eventful arrival belonged to No. 1 first-round draft pick, Rookie Broderick Jones who arrived courtesy of an UBER! You heard me correctly, an Uber.

With personal belongings in tow, players arrived bags in hand, maybe their favorite pillow or mattress toppers, TVs, stereos and laptops. Nothing really out of the ordinary, that is until Long-Snapper Christian Kuntz arrived with a full-size electric body massage chair in the bed of his pickup truck.

Steelers TJ Watt will be his usual force on defense in 2023.

Quarterback Kenny Pickett was spotted carrying a foot massager in his belongings. When asked Pickett responded, "Sure it's a foot massager. My feet hurt after being in cleats all day."

Last year most of the media argument was Kenny's so-called small hands, maybe this season it'll be his feet. I say that tongue-in-cheek as I was never a fan of those articles, nor have I written about it.

Following check-in and the usual exchange of pleasantries, it is right to work with the dreaded conditioning test.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin and staff evaluate by a series of conditioning drills and runs to determine how physically fit a player is at the start of camp.

It gives them a good handle on how off-season workouts and conditioning went for his players.

All 90 of this year's current players in camp passed. No player was placed on the PUP (Physically Unable To Perform) List. Tomlin stated, "Excited to see these guys. I like the feel in the air". Coach Tomlin is ready, just how well his players respond to the late summer heat aka the dog days of summer is the question.

Week one is basically getting to further understand the system and all of its entities clad in only helmets, jerseys and shorts. Week two is when it got real; full pads, full contact. The veterans are accustomed to the camp and preseason everyday grind and all it entails. Broderick Jones, the No. 1 pick along with fellow draft picks, rookies Joey Porter Jr., Keeanu Benton, Darnell Washington, Nick Herbig and Spencer Anderson have a lot to view and learn on their journey to make the final roster.

Those top seven picks need to follow the age-old adage of, "Keep your eyes and ears open." Rest assured they will have plenty of veteran leadership to follow. Along with many bumps and bruises.

Alex Highsmith has a new contract and deservedly so as an anchor on defense opposite T.J. Watt. Watt looking as fit as ever upon his entry to this year's camp lets his on-field play do his talking. Rookie Cornerback Joey Porter Jr. inked his contract on his birthday just one day shy of reporting. Cam Heyward, the ageless mountain of a man, showed in his usual fit fashion.

Running Back Najee Harris and Pickett garnered the most attention with their off-season workouts via social media posts. Harris, who worked on his powerful legs, was seen in numerous posts running hills and up steep railroad tracks in conjunction with his regular routine.

Pickett, who not only became a husband in the off-season, spent hours strengthening his arm throwing pass after pass to receivers running routes. Working with QB coaches to refine his passing abilities.

With this year's editions via the free agent market, trade route and draft picks, the brain trust in charge of NFL rankings has the Steelers on their radar. They give the appearance of a very well-balanced team. Looking to better last year's effort of a 9-8 record, this year's team looks poised and eager in the 2023 campaign.

The goals are simple for players and fans alike. Better last season's record, make the playoffs and continue on the path to the Super Bowl.

Latrobe is ready as an army of black and gold fans are eager to bolster the local economy with their spending. Think I'm kidding? Picture this, shortly after 7 a.m. on the first-day camp was open to the public, at rough count around 1,000 fans were waiting at the entrance for a practice scheduled for 2 p.m. That's seven hours away with thousands more right on their heels.

A host of others will follow in the next few weeks, some fans even plan their family vacations in Latrobe. It's about to get very interesting on and off the field.



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