I was speaking with a colleague after today's afternoon practice and we agreed that if a single word could describe the proceedings on the first day of open practice at Saint Vincent College it would be this: subdued.
The weather was perfect. The crowds were there -- easily a few thousand fans made the voyage out Route 30 -- but it lacked the energy of the past few camps. Obviously, the 800-pound-Milledgeville-gorilla that hung over the offseason was present, and it'll be an unofficial member of the Steelers roster until at least the bye week.
But in 2006, the Steelers came to Latrobe as champions for the first time in more than a quarter century, in 2007 the team had a new coach for the first time in 15 years, and in 2009 they were conquering champions once again. Last year's opening day was positively packed full of screaming, excited fans, at least twice in number -- if not more -- than this year.
Today's crowd, though excited and supportive, was slightly smaller and a bit muted in comparison to opening days of years past. Was it because of Roethlisberger? Or because they were 9-7 and missed the playoffs last year? Or maybe just a little Steelers fatigue, after a trying offseason that followed a decade of dominance. Maybe all of the above. Or none. Just an observation.
Hines walked Big Ben down to the field, past the fans, who greeted him warmly.
He can still throw a football.
Everyone wanted to talk to this guy for some reason. Go figure.
Ben signed autographs for all comers for quite awhile after practice. This is purely anecdotal, but in walking the grounds a few times, I overheard only one snide comment uttered by a fan in reference to Roethlisberger. Many, many more fans present shouted support or approval of Beleagured Ben, and there was no shortage of #7 jerseys worn by folks of all stripes, old, young, male & female.
Look busy -- the bosses are watching!
Something about the older lady smirking in the middle of this picture makes me laugh. Looks like she wants to pinch Hines' cheeks or something.
In the needless understatement category, Flozell Adams is absolutely immense. I'm 6' 2" and I was looking way up at him. Also, a sign of the times -- note the corporate logo on the practice jersey.
New O-line coach Sean Kugler and #72 Jonathan Scott, his charge last season in Buffalo.
Rashard Mendenahall broke a nice run in a team session, as did rookie Jonathan Dwyer.
You may remember the last time Antwaan Randle El wore a Steelers uniform ... good to see him back in black & gold but will be interesting to see what he still has in the tank.
Tomlin seemed to be pretty upbeat after practice, likely happy to only have football to worry about for awhile.
Sweet shirt of the day: Nicole Tascarealla of Chicora (Butler County) had this vintage T, an original from 1978 that her mom saved.
Critics are already questioning Lawrence Timmons' unorthodox offseason training and supplement regimen.
Where to start? Set aside the notion that it should be a hanging offense to wear the wrong jersey to any team's training camp -- let alone the Cowboys -- he tucked it into his jeans for God's sake. And then there's the 'stache. Unless you're Dave Wannstedt or Daniel Day Lewis, this doesn't work.
Flashing the peace sign is former-Steelers-punter-and-object-of-Cowher-ire Josh Miller, joined by my colleague Colin Dunlap, broadcasting live for 93.7 The Fan. A coupla sharp, witty guys, they'll host a gameday show on that station during the regular season. Tune in.
You'd be surprised how many people answer yes to this question. Pictured is Layne Anderson, who is tracking down folks with Steelers tats for an art exhibition that was previously written about in this space. She'll be near the Trader Joe's in East Liberty tomorrow from 1 to 3 snapping photos of more folks with Steelers ink, so if you fit that bill, stop and see her.
Souvenier helmet of Bill McGaffick of Akron, Ohio. He's trying to get every player that was on the Super Bowl winning squad.
Member of "The Nation" Bob Roland of York, Pa., and his autographed shirt.
The Terrible Rascal. Coming to a retirement community near you.
Throwback jersey of the day.
More tomorrow ...