A special time of year

Can it really be nearly seven months since the football season came to an end?

At least for most fans in our area, that came at either the end of December or right after the first of the year.

The Steelers, remember, closed their 2018 campaign with a 16-13 win over Cincinnati on Dec. 30, in what was one of the more listless games to ever be played in Heinz Field. Despite the victory, which gave the Steelers a 9-6-1 record, they missed the playoffs.

Ohio State fans, meanwhile, saw the Buckeyes conclude their season with a 28-23 win over Washington in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. And, while fans of just about every other team in the nation would have been happy with the 13-1 record and No. 3 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, there has been the lingering disappointment of not being invited to the Bowl Championship Series.

In case you’ve forgotten, Clemson claimed the national championship with a 44-16 win over Alabama in the BCS title game.

That’s all combined to make for a rather lengthy off-season, but that will change this week.

Training camps across the National Football League open Thursday, and that means the attention of area fans will shift to the campus of St. Vincent College in Latrobe as the Steelers begin preparations for the coming season.

As has become tradition, fans will be able to attend many of the practice sessions before camp breaks on Aug. 16 and the team moves to its training facility on the South Side.

With a few exceptions, the sessions that are open to the public begin at 2:55 p.m. The exceptions are off days on July 30, Aug. 5, Aug. 10 and Aug. 13. Practices on Aug. 8 and Aug 16 will be closed to the public.

The annual night practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 2.

If you can’t make it to Latrobe, the Steelers’ annual Family Fest has been scheduled for Aug. 4 at Heinz Field. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m., with the practice scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. There’s a $10 admission charge to attend, but you’ll be able to meet Steeler greats and take part in other activities.

There also will be activities next to the stadium on Art Rooney Avenue beginning at 4:30 p.m.

The Steelers open their preseason schedule at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9 when they meet Tampa Bay at Heinz Field. They’ll open the regular season Sept. 8 when they visit New England.

Cleveland fans should know that the Browns will open camp Thursday in Berea. They do things a little bit differently in Northern Ohio — all of their public camp sessions are ticketed, and all are sold out. The Browns open preseason play at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8 when they host Washington, and will open the regular season Sept. 8 at home against Tennessee.

Ohio State, by the way, opens its season Aug. 31 when it hosts Florida Atlantic. Also on Aug. 31, WVU hosts James Madison, Pitt hosts Virginia and Ohio University hosts Rhode Island.

Locally, football returns at 7 p.m. Saturday when the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference holds its 74th-annual Rudy Mumley All-Star Game at Wheeling Island Stadium.

That game always sets the stage for the start of the regular season, which will open on a Thursday night, Aug. 29, when Taylor Allderdice visits Steubenville Big Red and Buckeye Local travels to Barnesville.

And, as always, the best way to get ready for the high school football season will be to make sure you get a copy of the Gridiron 2019. Recognized with numerous awards from The Associated Press in Ohio and the West Virginia Press Association, the magazine will be included in copies of our newspapers on Aug. 28 and will be available for purchase at area convenience stores and newsstands.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)