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Steelers' training camp options remain open

In a sign of guarded optimism that labor peace will soon prevail, the Steelers held an organization-wide meeting Wednesday to talk about training camp.

The Steelers are planning on training at St. Vincent College for the 46th consecutive season. The streak, however, is in jeopardy because of the NFL lockout.

With owners and players reportedly making progress on a labor deal, the Steelers have not set any deadlines or closed any options when it comes to St. Vincent. Most training camps are set to open at the end of July. Under past rules regarding reporting dates, the Steelers could convene for camp July 28 because that is 15 days before their first preseason game.

"We are working closely with St. Vincent College and will make adjustments, as necessary, if and when a new collective bargaining agreement is reached," Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said yesterday.

St. Vincent spokesman Don Orlando could not be reached for comment.

The school, which has longstanding ties with the Rooney family, does not have a lot of flexibility when it comes to training camp. Under normal circumstances, St. Vincent has to start preparing for arriving students almost immediately after the Steelers leave.

If the start of preseason practice is delayed — and some sort of signing period for free agents and draft picks is almost sure to precede the start of drills — the Steelers could be looking at a shortened camp at St. Vincent. They also could be staring at a preseason in which they practice almost exclusively at their South Side headquarters.

That is the least desirable option for the Steelers for several reasons. It would be a logistical nightmare because, starting Aug. 8, Pitt also would be using the facility for preseason practice.

Coach Mike Tomlin always has been a big proponent of camp because it lets the Steelers practice with minimal distraction — and helps the players come together through the shared misery of living in dorm rooms and practicing, sometimes twice a day, in oppressive heat and humidity.

"With us being a veteran team, I don't think (not having camp) would kill us," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said recently. "But you kind of have to put some of the young guys through all that stuff — training camp and St. Vincent."

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