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Tuesday September 23 2014
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Training Camp: BnGG Style

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According to Scarborough Sports Marketing and ESPN sports polls, Pittsburgh has the largest female fan base in the NFL, more than doubling the number of female pro football fans on average. Women comprise 55 percent of the team’s fan base.

And for the past 12 years, the Steelers have been reaching out to women in the unique way that only the Steelers organization can do, opening training camp doors to over 300 women from all over North America to participate in Women’s Football Camp.

John Simpson, Steelers Marketing and Events Manager, believes that Women’s Football Camp is all about passion.

“This year, camp sold out in a record 30 hours. We have embraced our female fans for a long time, and in response they make this event a success,” said Simpson, who added that the “family atmosphere” the Rooney’s have created within the team extends to the fans.Photo by Vikki Tuk

The family affair was certainly front and center at this year’s camp. “Brett’s Bearded Beauties” took camp by storm, led by matriarch Bonnie Liska, her two daughters and close family friends. This is their eighth year at camp, and this year they were rewarded for their creativity by Brett Keisel himself. Nearing the end of practice, he crossed the practice field to take a moment to thank and speak with the group.

“I was like, ‘Mom, Brett’s crossing the field. Mom, he’s coming this way,’ and before I knew it it he was right in front of us,” said Dawn Elder Conley. “Brett was so awesome. He asked us about our day and thanked us for our effort. Camp gives us this opportunity. It’s something we cherish and as a family will continue to do.”

Photos of the group with their namesake landed in newspapers as far away as California.

The camp consists of four rotations, each run by current or former Steelers and assisted by members of the Pittsburgh Passion. The women are introduced to basic skills on Offensive Line, Defense, Receiving and Special Teams.

Former Steelers center Jeff Hartings who put the women through the O-line paces, ex-linebacker

Jason Gildon was relentPhoto by Vikki Tukless teaching D, former quarterback Kordell Stewert flashed his famous smile while showing gals running routes and hurling perfect spirals in their direction. But perhaps the most popular station was the special teams portion, led by long snapper Greg Warren and kicker Shaun Suisham.

“Not too many people know how difficult it is to pull off a good long snap. It’s a specialty,” explained Warren, now participating in his sixth women’s event. “Showing women how to do it is especially gratifying. They are determined to get it right. Plus, the women every year are just fun.”

After lunch, the women were treated to the 2011 NFL Films video recap, highlighted by the ladies’ deafening cheers each time a new player appeared on the screen.

After the film, the ladies were given sideline access to watch practice—with the special bonus of Dan Rooney being in attendance—and the day ended with dinner and an autograph signing by Emmanuel Sanders and Isaac Redman.

Recapping this experience on one page of a newspaper is difficult for a life-long female fan such as myself. It is simply something one has to experience. The entire Steelers organization welcomed the ladies with open arms: from the alumni running the drills, to the players on the field, to the training staff tending with injuries, to the front office folks who seemed to know most participants by name.

Photo by Vikki TukBy the day’s end, it became apparent why and how the Steelers are indeed a family. It’s little wonder as to why Steelers have the largest female following in the NFL. To them, everyone matters. That’s the foundation of Steelers Nation.

I spent three days late last month visiting 18 high schools across the WPIAL. I drove 533 miles, took hundreds of photographs, shook hands with dozens of coaches, athletic directors and principals and climbed way too many stadium steps. I loved every minute of it, of course.
Editor's DeskFeature OneHigh School
Maryland-bound Franklin Regional senior Brett Zanotto rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown to lead the Panthers to a 34-20 win over visiting Indiana on Friday night.
Feature TwoHSCOGOS2014
Visiting Hollidaysburg blanked Belle Vernon 7-0 in an overtime thriller at James Weir Stadium on Friday night.
Feature ThreeHSUSS2014
The Steelers traditional powerhouse defense has set a yearly standard for fans and pundits for decades. But an aging Pittsburgh defense has had a rocky time the last couple of seasons.
Feature FourPure Steel
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Full size video and summary... Misc YouTube Player 1 Xfinity HS FootballHigh School TV Channel
Full size video and summary... Misc YouTube Player 2Pirates TV Channel
Full size video and summary... Misc YouTube Player 3USS HS GOTWHigh School TV Channel
Twenty-two WPIAL football teams will have new coaches pacing the sidelines this season, including a few that will be featured in the CoGo's Feature Matchup this season.
Custom 1HSCOGOS2014
Several of the most coveted recruits throughout the WPIAL have already made their college decisions, most notably Sterling Jenkins of Baldwin. Others, like Central Valley's Jordan Whitehead, are still being recruited.
Custom 2High SchoolKeystone Recruiting
Bill Cherpak misses the way it used to be. Back in the 80’s, when the current Thomas Jefferson High School coach was a player at Steel Valley, the recruiting process wasn’t publicized. It was low-key compared to the present.
Custom 3High School
The Mon-Valley has put plenty of athletes on Division 1 football teams over the years, including several who made it to the NFL. There are a few Mon-Valley natives playing D-1 ball this season.
Custom 4HSUSS2014