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Steelers 2019 draft class graduate from Rookie University

With the conclusion of the NFL’s Rookie Transition Program this week, the Steelers 2019 draft class are finally able to take a summer break before returning for training camp.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

While the rest of Pittsburgh Steelers headed off for a summer break following the conclusion of mandatory minicamp on June 13, the rookies on the roster have only just been allowed to take their vacation after they graduated from Steelers Rookie University last week.

Remaining in Pittsburgh to take part in a program designed to help players adapt to life in the NFL, the Steelers rookies have been involved in a number of local community projects, as well as series of classroom sessions focusing on issues like financial management, insurance, relationships and etiquette among other topics.

Concluding with the NFL’s Rookie Transition Program, the players also received three days of instruction in a variety of subjects that the league has made mandatory for all teams. As per the NFL, these topics included:

  • A video introduction to the NFL and league policies
  • Player benefits and benefit resources, including their NFLPA player rights and resources, and the NFL programs that are available to them.
  • Player expectations, including the importance of sportsmanship, respect in the workplace, media responsibilities and how to work with their club’s public relations staff.
  • Social responsibility for players, which covers league policies and the ramifications of issues like driving under the influence, or committing acts of domestic violence or sexual assault.
  • Maintaining strong mental health and fitness, and an introduction to the health and safety resources available to all players and their families in times of need.
  • An introduction to the culture, values and history of the league and a player’s club.
  • Rule changes from college to the pros.

Thankfully for the players, the Steelers Rookie University experience included several enjoyable excursions, with a segway tour of Pittsburgh looking like a fun day out for all concerned.

The lessons the rookie learn considered invaluable for their transition to the professional ranks in the minds of many within the Steelers organization. As player engagement coordinator Terry Cousin explained to Teresa Varley of

“It’s really valuable. The more you do it, the more you see how much they don’t come prepared with a lot of that knowledge. Some get experience at home, but it’s eye opening for some of those guys honing in on some of the details and issues they might have coming into the National Football League.”

“Coach Tomlin stresses it. Your awareness has to grow in this business. It’s good to offer something, to spend time developing. To have a guy say, wow, I really appreciated that, I never knew it. Or someone to say they learned something new. That means you are having a good program, we are focusing on the right things based on what we have seen. Coach Tomlin, the coaches, Kevin Colbert, we have all put this together based on our experience with players.”

A sentiment echoed by Mike Tomlin, a vocal advocate of the program.

“It’s so important. It’s the first time for them, but it’s a rerun for us. We do it every year with the new rookie class. We are trying to impart our experience and wisdom on them in as many ways as we can through life skills sessions. You have to give credit to a lot of our veteran guys. They do a good job of giving life and credibility to the seminars and sessions we are taking guys though. When you have guys like James Conner, Terrell Edmunds say things like this is significant, it is a real thing for me, it’s going to play out for you in a couple of months, it did for me. I think that is what adds credibility to the program, the reinforcement the older guys provide the younger guys.”

The activities also act as a bonding experience for all those involved, providing a perfect opportunity for the young players to get to know each other a bit better. As noted by rookie cornerback Justin Layne.

“It keeps us together. Our rookie class, it keeps us together. We talk about all kinds of stuff when we are in the room. Get to know each other. It’s a bonding thing.”