Coach Mike Tomlin referred to Monday's Steelers practice in pads as the "first day of school," and there were plenty of lessons learned, particularly in the backs-on-backers drill.
"It was a good first day in pads, a lot of good energy and enthusiasm." said Tomlin. "There were some confrontations, some physical ones. Some battles were won and lost.
"There is an initial shock that is associated with the speed of the professional game. I think over the course of the next several weeks there will be plenty of opportunities to adjust to it in many ways."
The drill showed Tomlin what some of his rookies were capable of, including first-round pick linebacker Jarvis Jones and second-round selection running back Le'Veon Bell, who were pitted against each other multiple times.
"Two young guys that are high draft picks, a lot will be expected from them," said Tomlin. "To pit one against the other in competition, I think is appropriate. I'm sure they will continue to see more of each other."
Bell was called upon time-and-time again, going up against some tough competition including linebackers LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds and Jones. He won some and lost some, but overall had a good first outing.
"It was intense," said Bell. "It was something new, something I have to get used to. It was a lot different than college. Overall I thought I had a good day. Coach just wanted me to compete. I am a rookie, he wants me to pass protect, so he put me against some of the better players and I just have to get after it.
"I have a lot of technique work I need to do and I plan on doing that and growing. It's a little faster in full pads, but speed wise I was able to compete. I am going to continue to grow as a player."
Tomlin tried to give the running backs a little advantage by taking out some of the element of surprise, letting them know which linebacker was coming their way.
"I acknowledge sometimes that it's a tough enough drill for the running backs, let alone trying to figure out if it is LaMarr Woodley or Lawrence Timmons coming at you," said Tomlin. "From time-to-time I help those guys out to level the playing field."
The linebackers still came out on top in the drill, something that isn't unusual as it is weighted more heavily in the defenses favor with the running backs not permitted to cut block. And Jones definitely did his part to help the linebackers cause.
"I am going to go down the middle and try to light them up," said Jones. "At the same time you have to have a counter. In a game they are going to cut me so I have to have a counter.
"It was a good start, the first day in pads. I came out here with a lot of intensity and it was a good day for us. It was good start, but I am trying to maximize every opportunity I get. I am going to just throw this in the bag and try to get better."
Cornerbacks Cortez Allen (knee) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (hamstring) missed practice on Monday and Tomlin didn't have an update on their injuries. In addition cornerback Terry Hawthorne (knee) also missed practice on Monday.
The Steelers are off on Tuesday, and then return to practice on Wednesday, July 31 at 2:55 p.m. at St. Vincent College.