Courtesy of PNC

Hunter’s Daily Prowl: Follow the new guy around!

Welcome to the inaugural edition of "Hunter's Daily Prowl," where I'll take you to Pittsburgh's South Side for a behind-the-scenes peek at the Steelers' players and coaches as they prepare for their upcoming matchup Sunday vs. the Patriots at Heinz Field.

In this recurring weekly feature, I want to bring you closer to the teams and players you love while also doing a little exploring. Whether at my home base of Pittsburgh or abroad, let's grab some food, let's sip a coffee, and let's see what the city has to offer together.

Side note: I'm always open to recommendations, so let me know some of your favorite spots, and I'll be sure to put them on my list. For now, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with any early questions or suggestions.

____________________

Friday, Dec. 14, 2018

Not an ideal day. Not an ideal day at all. Despite Lolley giving me the green light to work from home today, I fully intended on driving back to the Rooney Complex to watch the Steelers' final practice before their showdown vs. the Patriots.

I knew he'd have everything covered — and he did, per usual — but I'm a rookie in this game, and every rep matters. "Nothing good happens if you don't show up" (shoutout Kevin Popovic for that one) and I wanted to show up, even if it wasn't 100 percent necessary.

Then my dog channeled her inner Regan MacNeil overnight and just started acting... weird. I kid you not, when I explained the symptoms and showed her a video, the vet said, "Do you have spirits or ghosts in that house?" They were just as baffled as us by her behavior. Regardless, they ruled out seizures and they drew some blood, so hopefully we'll have answers soon.

But as far as prowlin' goes, there wasn't much to be had today, friends. I had to take care of the pup, spending the majority of my day traveling to and from the vet.

But I hear there's something going on Sunday at Heinz Field, so I'll make up for it then. Stay tuned.

____________________

Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018

After dropping the pup off at doggy daycare (isn't she gorgeous?) it was back to the Rooney Complex for some more locker room chats and another day of practice for the team in black and gold.

Today, the first player availability came at 12:30 p.m., so there was no lunch to be had. I had to settle for an unsweetened tea and a side of sadness as I observed the tray of Uncrustables from afar. Next time. Next time...

Once the locker rooms opened up, it was business as usual, with media scurrying to their targets. Being the "new guy," I do some observing. I like to see how different players react, how different reporters handle their business, and how the dynamic of the locker room plays out throughout the 15-minute session.

It's ... remarkably chill. These players know anything said can and will be used against them in the court of online law, but they're laid-back, open, and candid from what I've seen so far.

Today, I shadowed my DKPittsburghSports.com colleague Dale Lolley a bit as he caught up with David DeCastro, and No. 66 laid down a few lines I particularly enjoyed.

Regarding the Steelers' current three-game losing streak, Lolley asked if DeCastro and his teammates felt any dwindling confidence.

"Not at all," DeCastro told him. "That’s just how the NFL is. There’s a reason there’s a salary cap, and there’s parity in this league for a reason." 

This echoes what Ben Roethlisberger said yesterday.

"We realize what’s at stake — no panic,” he told us inside the locker room. “We still control our destiny, but it’s not going to get any easier.”

Saying it is one thing. Executing on the field is another. We'll see if their actions back up their words Sunday.

For now, it's off to the practice field. More coming soon (and maybe even some Chris Boswell updates).

____________________

Watching the Steelers practice is pretty incredible. Have you ever watched professional or even college basketball players warm up? They don't miss. OK... they rarely miss. It's amazing how much some defense and live game action can affect their shot.

The Steelers practice reminds me of that dynamic. Catches are made. Kicks go through the uprights. Everything looks sharp and smooth. Watching them every week, you kind of forget there are multiple practices between games where they're doing what they love, what they've done their whole lives.

And win or lose on Sunday, these practices remind you just how good they are.

Today, I bounced around to all the position groups, soaking in as much as I could.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Slow motion for ya #Steelers

A post shared by DK Pittsburgh Sports (@dkpghsports) on

Following practice, Keith Butler and Randy Fichtner held court for some media questions. Lolley got the goods from Butler, while I headed over to Fichtner, getting both an Eli Rogers and a James Conner update.

Side note, journalist hat off: Don't you just want to crack an IC Light with Fichtner? C'mon.

In fact, those vibes were so strong I gotta head home now. It's back to Monroeville. More Steelers goodies tomorrow.

____________________

Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018

Hit the road, trusty flat white in hand, en route to the Rooney Complex, where players will be available to speak shortly. Stay tuned for snippets from there.

First up, Big Ben. Lolley was surprised to see the Steelers quarterback come out first, but I'm sure he was eager to further clear the air and address our concerns.

That said, Roethlisberger held a solid, nine-minute scrum, candidly answering everything and even flashing a little humor to kick things off.

From there, he talked about facing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, he updated us on his rib injury, and plenty more.

While he was almost entirely upbeat and personable throughout, Roethlisberger did flash his competitive side when he was asked about that non-catch from last year vs. the Patriots. You know the one.

For now, I have some more transcribing to do. If you haven't seen, I published articles digging into Roethlisberger's comments on the Patriots and more right here. Then, I doubled down and fleshed out his thoughts on Rocky Bleier's recent criticisms. Check those out when you get a chance.

____________________

You know what doesn't get enough coverage?

The food at the Rooney Complex. You assume professional athletes and staff get taken care of in this department — and they do.

Look no further than this picture:

[caption id="attachment_737482" align="aligncenter" width="560"]steelers-uncrustables-rooney-steelers A tray of Uncrustables awaits inside the Rooney Complex cafeteria. (Hunter Homistek/ DKPS)[/caption]

Are you kidding me? Everybody knows only the rich kids can afford Uncrustables, and there's a whole tray just waiting to be devoured. Plus, these ones are made with wheat bread, which obviously makes them healthy. While I personally prefer the strawberry option, this is a little pile of heaven.

Amazing.

All that said, I took a different route and got the hot lunch today. It didn't disappoint.

[caption id="attachment_737483" align="aligncenter" width="619"]media-lunch-homistek-rooney-steelers Media lunch (Hunter Homistek / DKPS)[/caption]

Buffalo chicken sandwiches highlighted the menu, but I elected to go no bun before sprinkling some bleu cheese crumbles and tossing some mixed asparagus and bell peppers on the side — all garnished with two crab-stuffed mushrooms, because why not?

It's back upstairs to keep working for now. The media room awaits.

[caption id="attachment_737490" align="aligncenter" width="595"]steelers-rooney-media-room Through these doors sit all your favorite Pittsburgh sportscasters, toiling away. (Hunter Homistek)[/caption]

____________________

After cranking out a few more articles, it was time for practice.

This may surprise some, but my high school literally didn't have a football team (shoutout McConnellsburg High School). I didn't play football in high school, not because I didn't want to but because I couldn't. So, my first time gracing a practice field came today, with the Steelers — and here's another surprising fact: They're big.

I'm about 6'3", 210 pounds. This is a different level. A different species, even.

Strolling past Stephon TuittCam Heyward, and Vance McDonald is like walking through a museum (Mom: What are these creatures?!).

Just watch the tight ends hit the sled.

Then I turned around to check out Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and the rest of the wide receivers going through some sideline drills. Check out Ryan Switzer's feet.

Dude is quick.

Then it was out of the cold and back to the media room to churn out an... elite... article you might find interesting before calling it a day.

As I waited on my ride, I watched a Tesla Model X follow a decked-out Acura TL from the parking lot. In their wake was a blacked-out Dodge Challenger, a lifted, brand new Jeep Wrangler, and another Tesla for good measure.

The other media members must have been leaving too.

To continue reading, log into your account: