Much like their loyal fans, the Pittsburgh Steelers are anxiously awaiting the opening of training camp and the beginning of the regular season. Some of their anticipation will be stifled as teams begin the second phase of off-season team activities.
As noted in a feature on the teams official website by Teresa Varley, not only will players continue their strength and conditioning work, but now also are permitted to begin working with coaches in the "classroom". As described by RB Isaac Redman, everyone can get something out of it, regardless of the number of years of experience each player possesses.
"You get refreshed and look at a couple more plays. I was at the house on Sunday thinking, ‘Do I remember the plays?' But it comes right back to you. It helps to be here."
"It’s like being in a classroom. The fewer students in the classroom, the more one-on-one time you get with the teacher and the easier it is to learn. The more you can get with the coaches now, before 80 players are here, the better off you will be. I tell these guys to soak up as much as possible now. It’s a lot easier to grasp things and understand what to do before you have a whole bunch of guys here."
While the Steelers have experienced a bit of a turnaround in the personnel department, those who remain have taken the off-season very seriously, with many working out together which will help boost team chemistry. Now, those same players are investing the same sincerity in the organized team functions, because they understand how important they are to the entire process of winning Super Bowls.
Ike Taylor, who notoriously begins each off-season working with his own personal trainer, has been a prominent figure as the team enters the next stage of the process; attempting to provide an example for the new and younger players.
"It’s good for them to get a feel for each other on the field, get to know each other and see how they move. You can do that stuff early, do it now. When you get on the field for the OTAs, coaches will be telling you what to do, but this is a stepping stone. You want to know what to do without the coaches telling you. It shows the coaches you are willing and capable and you are being responsible."
As proof the efforts of veterans like Ike Taylor this year and Troy Polamalu appearing at OTAs last summer do not go unnoticed, the young voice of Cortez Allen acknowledges the message is being received and put into action.
"Being able to get with the coaches in general after being away from them for so long is a plus. They spent a lot of time looking at us individually to let us know what we need to work on, where we need to improve, so to finally get a chance to work with them and work on those areas is good for us."
"It’s been a while since we have been in a playbook, been in a football classroom. It’s good to refresh our memory and also tweak the little things we do, changes in how we play or the techniques we use. It’s a good jump start for us."
The Steelers will have their 2013 rookies in for orientation and some specialized instruction during a mini-camp May 3rd through the 5th. Organized team activities officially begin May 21st. With no contract situations hanging over the team this year, every player is expected to be there when the doors open.
With the football world so focused on rumored fractures from last season, this year's evolution of the roster has a lot to make up for. Building team chemistry has become job one, and these players are taking their team responsibility as seriously as the CBA will allow.