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Back to work for the black and gold

The Steelers offseason program has officially begun, with players returning to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for voluntary workouts as part of Phase One of the NFL's offseason program.

"It's really important to be here," said tight end Pat Freiermuth. "Just getting back here, seeing familiar faces, building off of what we did last year, making the playoffs and stuff."

Phase One consists of the first two weeks of the program with activities limited to meetings, strength and conditioning, and physical rehabilitation only.

It got underway with a team meeting on Tuesday morning and Coach Mike Tomlin brought his usual fire to the meeting, getting everyone ready for what lies ahead.

"Any time Coach T is leading the meeting, you get that fire built in you," said linebacker Alex Highsmith. "It was awesome to see him. It was awesome to be back with all of the guys.

"We've got a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces, so coming in and seeing those guys is awesome. I am looking forward to building the team camaraderie during the OTAs."

The weight room will be the hot spot for the early offseason happenings, with conditioning being the key factor as everyone is getting back into football mode again.

"You get to take some time off following the season, refresh your brain, get your body back healthy. And once you get back into it like this, that the fire comes back for ball," said safety DeShon Elliott, who was signed to a two-year contract in March after spending the 2023 season with the Miami Dolphins. "Just being back to work and hanging out with the guys, getting that camaraderie. I think it's good to do this early. I know a lot of guys want to work out at home but getting in the building and getting to the playbook a little bit early, refreshing your brain is good. It's good to be back in the building and get back to the grind."

Players arrive for the first day of Phase One of the Steelers voluntary offseason workout program

The grind is the important aspect of being back, getting in condition for what is ahead, which includes OTAs, minicamp, and ultimately training camp and the season.

But there is more to it as well. It's about togetherness.

"More than anything it's just being around the guys and breaking bread and working out with the guys, just getting to know one another," said Freiermuth. "That's probably one of the biggest things…getting comfortable going to the training camp and the season.

"It's like going back to the first day of school again. I'm going into my fourth year, but there's so many new faces, players, coaches and strength staff. It's exciting. We have a lot of new faces on the offensive side of the ball. So obviously it's big for us to come back and build that connection with both quarterbacks."

Freiermuth had the opportunity to work with quarterback Russell Wilson already, when Wilson gathered some of his receivers and tight ends for a get-to-know-you workout.

"That was big time," said Freiermuth. "He invited us to San Diego and a couple of us went there and got to work out and run routes and get to know each other. That's big. The relationship on the field is big but building that off field is a big thing. It's that trust you can bring over to the football field."

There was a good mix of young players, veterans and those new to the team on hand, and the energy was palpable.

"I feel like I probably could have come out a week earlier just to get to know the people in the building," said Elliott. "I want people to realize that I'm here, I love being at work. It's great. Especially because it's a new system. I've played a lot of ball over the years, but being able to get here just feels good and let people know that I care that I love ball."

Players arrive for the first week of Phase One of the Steelers voluntary offseason workout program