LATROBE, Pa. – The Steelers bid adieu to Saint Vincent College today, a better football team than when they arrived here in late July.
That's always the goal of training camp, but it's not always achieved. Injuries, ineffectiveness or other factors can help derail a team's progress.
The Steelers had none of that this summer. They look like a team ready to tackle the 2023 season with aplomb.
But, as defensive lineman Cam Heyward, the voice of the team, told our Teresa Varley earlier this week, while the Steelers are pleased with where they're at coming out of camp, there's more meat on this bone.
"We're not done here," Heyward said. "I think there's still a lot of work to be done. We still have a couple of more preseason games, but I like where we are."
That's a healthy attitude to have. Teams have to treat a season as if they were a shark. You have to keep moving forward to maintain your existence.
But make no mistake, the Steelers feel like they're in a good spot.
"I just think the individuals bring it. We've been talking a lot about not making things mystical," head coach Mike Tomlin said. "We're responsible for the creation of a great day, individually. If we're positive contributors to it. So we're trying to take the mystique out of some of those things. We're not hoping we're going to have a great day or hoping there's going to be a positive vibe; we're owning our roles in the creation of it, just like we own our roles in the creation of victory. We're not rabbits foot-type people when it comes to creating victory.
"That's been some of the things that's been on the front of our radar as we've developed as a team in this process."
Every training camp has a different vibe to it.
But this camp, from the vibe of the team each day to the thousands of fans that attended each and every session, had a special feeling to it.
The results of this season will show exactly what this camp produced, but the process was a smooth one.
The Steelers leave Saint Vincent College behind, but the lessons they've learned here and the camaraderie they have built won't soon be forgotten.
• A common sight throughout training camp was a number of players working together after practice ended. And it didn't matter what position they played.
Everyone was into helping each other get better.
For example, following Thursday's practice, right tackle Chuks Okorafor was working with rookie offensive lineman Spencer Anderson on his hand placement when playing right tackle.
And he was using rookie outside linebacker Nick Herbig as his training tool, as well.
Anderson and Herbig would run a half-speed rep as Anderson worked on his hand placement. Orkorafor would then offer a coaching tip, not only to Anderson, but to Herbig, too.
For Anderson, the benefit was obvious.
For Herbig, learning what offensive tackles are trying to do against him will pay dividends.
The day before, T.J. Watt had all of the outside linebackers working after practice, showing them how to pull of his devastating dead-leg move. Herbig was there working on that, too.
Those kind of things also happen when the Steelers are practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, but being at Saint Vincent College lends itself to more of that happening.
Guys don't have anywhere to go after practice but back to the dorms, so why not get some additional work in?
• Seemingly every day the past couple of weeks has seen news of this team fighting that team, or in other instances, teams fighting among themselves.
There wasn't even so much of a hint of that kind of thing at the Steelers training camp.
"We appreciate tough guys, but this is not an MMA team that we're putting together," Tomlin said. "And so fights don't help us win football games. So, we've been talking very black and white in that manner, and I appreciate the guys' willingness to make that posture or that position real by adhering to it."
Remember that the next time someone says something about Tomlin's team lacking discipline. It's simply not the case.
• You'd be hard-pressed to find any NFL analyst who is putting together a list of second-year breakout players who doesn't include Steelers wide receiver George Pickens and quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Some list both. Others have only one of the two.
Thing is, if Pickett has a breakout season, Pickens will have likely had a big season, as well. The same also is true if Pickens has a big season. Pickett will have been a big part of that.
Injuries aside, the trajectories of those two second-year players are tied together.
If you think one is going to have a breakout season, the likelihood that the other will, as well, is great.
• The Senior Bowl will celebrate its 75th anniversary when it's held in Mobile, Ala., in February.
With that in mind, the organizers will reveal the game's 75th Anniversary Team.
The Senior Bowl previously announced its 50th anniversary team when it held that celebration back in 1998.
That team included a number of former Steelers, as running back Franco Harris, wide receiver Lynn Swann, center Mike Webster and defensive lineman Joe Greene all made the cut from the thousands of players who have participated in the game over the years.
The 75th Anniversary Team selection process will include input from current NFL executives, the Senior Bowl's executive committee and a fan vote.
That fan vote will open Sept. 4 at www.seniorbowl.com.
The guess here is that the Steelers will once again be well represented.