When Steelers rookies arrived in Pittsburgh on Thursday, they were like college freshmen on the first day of school – unsure of their surroundings and in a completely new atmosphere.
But come Sunday afternoon, when they wrapped up three days of practice, the newcomers all left with a level of comfort that will help them when they return for OTAs later this month.
"It was a great weekend. I think I benefitted a lot from it," said linebacker Sean Spence. "Coming out here, getting familiar with some of the plays, how things are run here as a Pittsburgh Steeler. I am glad we had this opportunity."
The rookies went through five practices, two on both Friday and Saturday and one on Sunday, as well as an introduction to the playbook.
"Over the weekend you feel more comfortable than you did the first day, the second day, learning the system and how to play in it," said linebacker Brandon Lindsey. "It makes you more comfortable and helps you play faster."
The mini-camp was only for rookies and select first-year players, keeping everyone on a level playing field and allowing the young players to get acclimated before the pace really picks up.
"I think it was great for us, it helped us get our feet wet, see where we are going, see what we need to do before the veterans get back and things start running real fast," said Spence. "It's a huge advantage. You don't want to come out here looking like a lost child in front of the vets and be embarrassed. I think getting this experience for us rookies is great."
The lack of veteran presence also gave the rookies more snaps, allowing them to be front and center now before having to share reps when the veterans arrive.
"It definitely is going to help all of the rookies out," said Lindsey. "When the veterans get here we aren't going to get the reps we got this weekend. It will give us a leg up on learning the system, where we are supposed to be, how we are supposed to practice and how to be a Steleer."
There were about 15 first-year players taking part in the mini-camp as well, including offensive lineman Trevis Turner who was happy to get an early jump on offensive coordinator Todd Haley's new offense.
"Last year was my first year in and the lockout was on so we didn't go through these things," said Turner. "It helps me going through all of these things. It's a good opportunity to get more acclimated to the new system and just get better."
Rookies are permitted to return later in May to participate in OTAs and many of them plan on spending the next few weeks studying their playbook so they are prepared when the veterans do arrive.
"I want to bury myself in the defensive playbook and also special teams until I get back here," said Spence.
He won't be alone spending his free time studying.
"I am learning the playbook slowly," said wide receiver Toney Clemons. "I don't have it mastered by any means, but I am learning it and starting the transition. There is a real long way to go, light years to go to where I want to be."