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A rookie welcome

Mini-camp begins for the Steelers on Friday with two practices, the first time the team's new rookie class will take the field.

But on Thursday the 10 draft picks and nine rookie free agents got their first taste of the NFL when they arrived in Pittsburgh.

One of the first things they all noticed was the view when you come through the Fort Pitt Tunnels and the City of Pittsburgh and Heinz Field welcome you.

"It's special," said linebacker Jason Worilds, who played at Virginia Tech. "I came out of the tunnel and going over the bridge and I saw the field to my left and my reality set in. I am ready to get started."

The images of playing games at Heinz Field set in quickly for players when they got the breathtaking view that always impresses those new to the city.

"It felt good," said wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, the third-round pick from SMU."I knew once you got out of the tunnel you could see the stadium off to the left. I just envision playing there and coming out of the tunnel with everyone waving their towels and me running up out of there and hopefully scoring a touchdown."

But after the nice view, it was time to get to work at the team's UPMC Sports Performance Complex. When players arrived they headed straight for the equipment room where they were fitted for helmets, gloves and shoes, the necessities for the mini-camp weekend ahead.

It was then off to have their photo taken before headed to the training room to meet with the team's athletic training staff.

"It's just like being a freshman again," said Worilds. "I walk into the locker room and there are a bunch of guys I don't know, they don't know me and I have to earn their respect. It's just like being a freshman, but I did it before in college and I can do it again."

A few other stops around the practice facility, with hellos from coaches and veteran players mixed in throughout, completed the rookie duties before they joined the veterans for a team meeting.

"Everything is nice, definitely first class," said Sanders. "The situation I am in is very laid back."

The past week has been a hectic one for first-round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey. The day after he was drafted he headed to Pittsburgh for an introductory press conference and then greeted fans the next day at the team's Fan Blitz.

"It's been amazing," said Pouncey. "I came here for the press conference and to go back to the family and see them all and embrace it, it was memorable and amazing."

Pouncey got a jump start on getting to know a few of his current teammates. Max Starks played at Florida and got in touch with Pouncey after he was drafted. Wide receiver Hines Ward also called him, much to Pouncey's surprise.

"That was more exciting than the draft," said Pouncey. "I was like is this really Hines Ward on the phone. Then Max called me and he is from Florida, he played there. We have had some good conversations."

With all of the excitement of the past week, Pouncey hasn't even had the chance to let being a number one draft pick sink in.

"It hasn't hit me yet," said Pouncey. "It probably will when I go on to the practice field for the first time in a Steelers uniform. I can't wait to tell you the truth. I can't wait to get around the guys and see how the Steelers organization does it."

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