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Training Camp

For Steeler faithful, no wait is too long

Renatta Signorini
| Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, 4:57 p.m.
John Lewis of Baldwin shows off the Steelers T-shirt he bought at a bar in Rome, Italy while there on vacation a few years ago. He and his son attended Steelers training camp for the first time on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017.
John Lewis of Baldwin shows off the Steelers T-shirt he bought at a bar in Rome, Italy while there on vacation a few years ago. He and his son attended Steelers training camp for the first time on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017.
John Lewis of Baldwin shows off the Steelers T-shirt he bought at a bar in Rome, Italy while there on vacation a few years ago. He and his son attended Steelers training camp for the first time on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017.
John Lewis of Baldwin shows off the Steelers T-shirt he bought at a bar in Rome, Italy while there on vacation a few years ago. He and his son attended Steelers training camp for the first time on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017.
Fans line up outside of the parking area at Steelers training camp hours before gates open at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017.
Fans line up outside of the parking area at Steelers training camp hours before gates open at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017.

In the cool morning hours before all the excitement and heat, there's not much to do at Steelers training camp.

The black-and-gold loyal can see, off in the distance, the outstretched hands of an inflatable Steelers player. But until parking gates open at noon, they're relegated to waiting in their vehicles along a rural Unity road.

“I go through and look at Facebook ... or I play Candy Crush,” said Eileen Smalley of Stahlstown.

The first day of training camp at St. Vincent College may get all the hype, but faithful fans still get up with the sun regularly for three weeks to beat the traffic and get a good spot inside. Wednesday was the team's 11th public practice.

Some fan routines don't change much as camp wears on.

Smalley arrived at 7:45 a.m. and was second in line. It's a spot she knows well — Smalley is usually among the first to arrive each day.

Behind her was Will West, who said he parked around 8:10 a.m. A good spot in the autograph area is important to him.

“I'm trying to throw my man cave together, so it's a lot cheaper to come out here” rather than run the risk of picking up a fake signed item online, he said.

West brought his son and nephew on Wednesday. The boys played in the car while West chatted up others in line, a common sight as fans pour out of their vehicles in anticipation or just to stretch their legs.

“I met a lot of good people just standing here in line,” West said.

Camp first-timers Jason Lewis and his father John Lewis, of Baldwin, passed the time cracking jokes, doing crossword puzzles and listening to Pittsburgh-based band Jill West & Blues Attack in the car.

In the two-vehicle caravan of John Coffren's family and friends — spots four and five in line — the group passed time this week learning about player statistics and different types of plays and formations. The group, from Virginia, has been growing during its annual pilgrimage to training camp — they had “nine and a baby” this year.

“As the time goes by, we listen to music, we joke around like one big family,” said Coffren's granddaughter Amayia Morrin, who got a football signed by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Tuesday. “It's all about getting here early and hanging out with the family.”

For some, being among the first in line means for a good spot to watch practice.

Coffren and his crew arrived at about 10:15 a.m.

“We line up chairs all along the top of the hill,” he said. “It's part of the experience for us. We come here, we sit and talk ... plus we know we're guaranteed to get those seats at the top of the hill.”

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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