The Steelers wrapped up their offseason program on Thursday when Coach Mike Tomlin cancelled the final practice of minicamp, giving the players a break as they head into the final month before training camp kicks in.
"I just told the guys it's been a great offseason, but, and I think that but is significant because legitimately, you'd like to find ways to measure offseasons and feel good about it, but the reality is these types of processes are measured based on results," said Tomlin. "So, our offseason, our training camp and our preseason ultimately will be measured on how we perform. I think it's important that the guys understand that.
"I feel good about the foundation we've laid for 2013. I like the efforts of the guys, the messages have been received. We're just in a good place, but that doesn't assure us anything. We understand what we do moving forward is what's really significant. We've expressed that. We'll continue to prepare ourselves for the challenges that await us."
Tomlin met with the team before they left, delivering a key message about them being prepared for training camp.
"The word that I used was 'prepared,'" said Tomlin. "Oftentimes we talk about being ready for camp. I think ready is an emotional thing. I'm ready for camp as I sit here today because I love camp. I love the process of team building. Prepared is another thing. Daily actions between now and then are to ensure that we're ready to take the actions that we desire to take. I'm more concerned about our guys being prepared than ready. We talk openly about the differences between the two."
Linebacker Larry Foote celebrated his 33rd birthday on Wednesday and knows he is one of the lucky ones, entering his 12th NFL season while many players' careers end much sooner.
"It's a blessing being able to be healthy and play in the NFL this long, especially at linebacker," said Foote. "I have been blessed to be healthy and play at a high level still. When you get plus eight years you see guys who mentally they can still do it, but they can't do it physically. The better you take care of your body, the harder you work and get blessed with good fortune you can make a long career out of it."
Foote still has the energy and enthusiasm for the game that he did as a young player, but admits at times he feels like a 12-year veteran.
"I feel like it now," laughed Foote. "I have seen so many guys before me head out the door. The door has my name on it, but I am just trying to prolong it."
Foote knows there are always younger players gunning for his job, but at the same time his experience gives him a huge advantage.
"I have been in it so long and know the defense so well I am going to be able to play fast and make the least amount of mistakes," said Foote. "It's their job to get caught up fast mentally so they can push us out."
Foote will spend the next month making sure he is in the best shape possible when he returns for training camp, prepared to fight off the competition.
"I have to take care of myself physically, be in the best shape I can possibly be and help lead this team back to the Super Bowl," said Foote. "I will be training every day, running, lifting, taking it to the max. During this time it's man vs. himself. After three days of lifting and running, your body says let's take a break. You have to just fight off those thoughts and be in the best shape."
Linebacker Jason Worilds is in his fourth season with the Steelers, but this is the first year he has a full offseason under his belt.
Worilds missed last offseason with a wrist injury, the year before with the lockout, and like all rookies only took part in a portion of the offseason workouts his first year.
He is hoping the extra work will aid him as he has his sights set on the starting outside linebacker spot vacated by James Harrison's release.
"I think just having a full offseason is helping me," said Worilds. "I haven't had one the last few years. Just having the opportunity to go out there in OTAs and minicamp and everything, it's paying off.
"I am excited. As a unit, as a defense and individual we all went out there and took advantage of it and took steps forward."
The Steelers offensive line has been one of the most consistent units participating in the offseason program, working together since day one. While there is still more work to do on their own before training camp starts, they definitely see results.
"We have made a lot of progress," said guard Ramon Foster. "Guys are conditioned. We are communicating well. It's been good for all of us to have been here from the beginning. I hope it pays off in the season."
The linemen know they have to continue on the same path in the month and a half between the end of minicamp and beginning of training camp, something center Maurkice Pouncey doesn't think will be a problem.
"We have done a good job," said Pouncey. "We just have to keep on a steady path, working together like we did this offseason. Hopefully the guys attack it during the time off and show up to camp ready to go."