The Steelers got a break from the heat last night with their annual night practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. It’s also a change of routine for the Steelers, and linebacker Vince Williams says he enjoys the Friday night lights, “that’s always a great time cause I love interacting with the fans you know. that’s why I look forward to that. I mean it’s pretty much just practice and getting better and going out there, you know, trying to improve but I just like the interaction with the fans and having everybody out there and it’s nice to get out of the sun.”

The Pirates added two veteran pitchers. Late Wednesday night, the Bucs made a trade with the Royals that bring righthanded pitcher Joe Blanton to Pittsburgh. Blanton’s 34 and comes to the Pirates in exchange for cash considerations. A second pitcher was added to the roster on Thursday. The Pirates confirmed they traded for veteran reliever and two-time all-star Joakim Soria from the Tigers. Two moves that Neal Huntington says will provide veteran depth to the bullpen, “Blanton, obviously a veteran…very experienced, pitching in a long relief, spot start role for them this year., and Joakin Soria, a veteran closer, late-inning reliever. Been there, done that. We feel it lengthens and deepens our bullpen.”

Yesterday Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell spoke out for the first time since the NFL reduced his suspension from three games to two. It’s real simple. Bell says he’s focused on week three. “I’m glad I finally got it over with. It’s behind me…know exactly what I have to deal with, move forward. I’m gonna go out there and help my team do what I can and try to get better as a player and better the team.”

It seems as if every year at training camp, the temperatures heat up just in time for full-pad workouts. This year is no exception. Today the Steelers hit the field for the first time in full pads with the heat index in the high 90s. Mike Tomlin like the tone of practice, and the hot temperatures, “I like the spirit in which they worked I liked the professionalism in which they worked. We get into the pads and we infused physicality. It’s important that we have mututal respect and I like the beginnings of that today. It was good to get out here in somewhat uncomfortable conditions and train.”

On Monday at Grille 36, Jerome Bettis unveiled his new “Bettis ‘Hall of Fame’ Crunch” and I had the chance to talk with him one-on-one. The Bus shared with me the most difficult part about writing his hall of fame speech, “It’s hard because there’s been a lot of people in my life that’s impacted me and that’s helped me and that’s made a difference in my life, but unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to thank them all so I’ve gotta be selective in who I thank and that’s the roughest part.”

The Bus will stop in Canton in a few weeks, but this afternoon, Jerome Bettis made his last Pittsburgh stop before heading to the Hall of Fame. Today at Grille 36, Jerome was on hand for the unveiling of “Bettis ‘HOF’ Crunch,” a honey nuts toasted oats cereal. It’s even got the seal of approval from the Hall of Fame. Events like this are ramping up as Jerome’s induction rapidly approaches, and he offered this special message to his fans in Pittsburgh, and to the entire Steeler nation, “From day one you embraced me as if I was drafted here by Pittsburgh. You’ve been on my side through the ups and downs. You supported me 110 percent through all the endeavors and I will acknowledge you guys because you made a difference in my life, so thank you.”

I’m not a big fan of making season predictions at the all-star break, but since it’s officially the all-star break, I’ll do it anyway. The Pirates are now 53-35. Simple math (if there’s such a thing), tells you that there are 74 regular-season games remaining. That means the Pirates can go .500 the rest of the way, and still finish with 90 wins. To quote Paul Simon, “I WOULD not give you false hope…”

The Pony League World Series, which has called Washington home for the most of the last six decades, has a new name. Today, the logo for the new “Dick’s Sporting Goods Pony League World Series” was unveiled as Dick’s becomes the title sponsor for this Washington County tradition. Abe Key is the President of PONY Baseball and Softball, Inc, “The Pony League World Series has been here 54 out of the last 64 years, and to have somebody like Dick’s Sporting Goods step up to the plate and be the title sponsor of the Pony League World Series gives an exceptional amount of credibility to the event.” Maureen Hester is the Community Marketing Manager for Dick’s Sporting Goods, “At Dick’s Sporting Goods we really truly believe that sports matter and to have an event like this that has so much history that’s in our back yard we feel just incredible about the relationship that we now have with the Pony League World Series.”

Today in New York City, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady pleaded his case against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Brady arrived at NFL offices on Park Avenue this morning. He went in through a side door, but was still greeted by a throng of reporters, photographers and fans. INside the day-long appeal, there were reportedly about 40 people. Brady’s lawyers don’t believe the commssioner has the authority to impose discipline under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. They also say the violation doesn’t support a four-game suspension, and that it’s inconsistent with previous punishments, and they’ll argue that the discipline based on the Wells Report is inaccurate and contradictory. A letter sent to the league by the NFLPA says Brady wouldn’t be satisfied with a reduced suspension. It says Brady wants to be fully exonerated and not suspended at all, feeling he has done nothing wrong.

Steelers minicamp wrapped up today. That’s it for the 2015 offseason workouts. We won’t see the Steelers again until training camp at Saint Vincent College. They’ll have to report by 4pm on Saturday, July 25th, and head coach Mike Tomlin says he’s looking forward to it, “I love camp. I love the environment, where you get the opportunity to get singularly focused on football, and live together and dine together and be secluded if you will, and it’s just a good environment for team building.” Because of the Hall of Fame game on August 9th, the Steelers can report to camp early, and enjoy an extra week at Saint Vincent. Receiver Antonio Brown is also looking forward to getting back to Latrobe, “you gotta embrace it. You gotta enjoy it, and you gotta prepare for it. I mean, it’s football time, so it’s time to have fun being around your brothers, and get the team reaffirmed and get ready to go for 2015.”


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