Pittsburgh Steelers Offering Virtual Autographs


Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Devin Hester of the Atlanta Falcons and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers autograph each other's jerseys after a game in 2014.

Once upon a time it was possible to get autographs from Pittsburgh Steelers players as they walked to and from training camp practices at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. With the Steelers holding training camp 2020 in a ‘bubble’ at Heinz Field, those days are over, at least for the foreseeable future. But the organization has come up with a nifty workaround.

The way it works is that you send the Steelers your favorite picture of the player who is signing on the day in question. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive the picture back with that player’s signature.

Earlier this week running back James Conner virtually signed photos after practice, many of which he retweeted from his own Twitter account. This:

And another gem:

Ben Roethlisberger signing Virtual Autographs Today

This morning the Steelers announced that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be signing after practice today. Per the Steelers’ instructions:

“RT & tweet us your favorite picture of Big Ben for a chance to receive it back with his signature on it!”

Then come back and read about what Steelers legend Mean Joe Greene recently had to say about the state of player autographs in the current era.

Mean Joe Greene on Player Autographs

“Mean Joe Greene can get downright surly when it comes to autographs,” noted The Athletic’s Tim Graham in The Lost Art of the Athlete’s Autograph. It’s not that Mean Joe is opposed to signing autographs; actually, he considers it an honor to be asked.

What irks Greene is how modern-day athletes—football, baseball and basketball players alike—have gotten lazy about signing their name.

“A straight line, that’s their name. And then they put some wheels on it,” Greene told Graham, lamenting how many players sign nothing more than their initials—if that.

“I don’t know why they do it,” Greene said, “for expediency or some form of uniqueness, I guess.”

According to Graham, those in the collectibles and memorabilia industry have seen a noticeable decline in the legibility of autographs in the last three decades. Even once conscientious sports legends no longer put forth the same effort they did in the past, noting that “Joe Montana’s previously readable signature now is a large ‘J’ and ‘M’ with a swirl that might be Charlie Brown’s hair.”

But Greene believes that taking the time to do a well-defined, readable signature not only protects his legacy, but anything he has signed will be easily identifiable—as him—long into the future.

“The bottom line is if I put my signature on any item, in 30 years, when everybody forgot what I looked like, they’ll know it says Joe Greene. No one’s signature should keep that person’s identity a secret,” he concluded.

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