The start of training camp remains unknown for the Pittsburgh Steelers. So does its location.
Could be Saint Vincent College, the team’s summer home in Unity Township for 54 years until the coronavirus pandemic surfaced. Could be Heinz Field, the site of the 2020 camp because of the covid-19 outbreak.
“I’ve got some calendars on my desk, so I’m ready for whatever,” coach Mike Tomlin said Thursday at the conclusion of his team’s three-day minicamp. “Rest assured, regardless of where we are and when we are, we’ll be ready.”
NFL teams can report to training camp July 27, but the Steelers and Dallas Cowboys — the participants in the Hall of Fame game — can arrive as early as July 21. The Cowboys have received permission to return to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp.
After the NFL and its players association agreed to updated covid-19 protocols Wednesday, the decision on the Steelers’ training camp site could be announced soon.
“I thought I would know by now,” Tomlin said. “We don’t always get what we want when it comes to policy and global decision making and things of that nature. I had hoped to get some clarity by now, but I haven’t.”
Team president Art Rooney II has said the Steelers want to return to Saint Vincent after a one-year hiatus — as long as fans are permitted to attend.
Under the policy announced Wednesday, though, fans are permitted to attend training camp but can get no closer than 20 feet from players. That would rule out fans being able to get autographs from Steelers players along the hillside heading to the practice fields or the exit area adjacent to the locker rooms.
Tomlin said he has read the policy in “great detail.” The biggest change involves the way players who have received the covid-19 vaccine will be treated compared to those who are not vaccinated.
Vaccinated players no longer have to undergo daily testing, aren’t required to wear masks at the team facility and aren’t subject to social distancing or quarantine after a high-risk exposure to the coronavirus. Such players also won’t have travel restrictions and can interact with family members while on the road.
Players who haven’t been vaccinated must continue daily covid-19 testing, wear masks at the facility and quarantine for five days after any high-risk exposure. They also may not leave the team hotel during road trips or interact with anyone outside of the team traveling party.
Players in violation of the policy are subject to fines of of up to $50,000.
“I have no problems with it because they are trying to keep people safe,” wide receiver Diontae Johnson said. “I’m comfortable with it.”
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins was fined $40,000 for multiple violations of the NFL policy last season when he was with Washington.
“Rules are rules,” Haskins said. “I wasn’t per se the biggest fan of the vaccine at first, but I’ve gotten it.”
Tomlin said earlier in the week that the Steelers are among the top NFL teams in terms of having their players vaccinated. Coaches and staff members who are not fully vaccinated will not be permitted to do in-person work with players.
“I’m going to do like we have always done, and that is adhere to the protocol to the letter,” Tomlin said. “Our team is going to have the same mentality. We are not going to allow it to become a distraction or discussion. It simply is what it is, and we will deal with it.”