The final leg of the Steelers offseason is underway with the team’s mandatory minicamp beginning on Tuesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
It’s the final warmup before the team has a five week break before reporting to training camp at Saint Vincent College, something that is already on the mind of Ben Roethlisberger.
“We’re just going to keep the train rolling,” said Roethlisberger. “Latrobe will be here before we know. It’s a more normal schedule now. It does feel a little more like the regular season.”
Minicamp is basically an extension of OTAs, the main difference being the daily schedule as Roethlisberger mentioned. What it does provide is more opportunities for the offense to work together, and Roethlisberger to get comfortable with the receivers he will be throwing to. One of those he is quickly building a rapport with is Donte Moncrief, who signed with the team as a free agent this offseason and is a player Roethlisberger pinpointed when asked who has made a mark this offseason.
“I'd probably go with Donte Moncrief just because it’s new,” said Roethlisberger. “I kind of know what to expect from some of the other guys. I wasn't really sure what to expect when he came in. I didn't know him and now just getting to see his work ethic, the type of person he is, his desire to be great, his knowledge of the offense already. We’ll do no-huddle stuff and I'll give him a signal and I'll be like, 'You good?' and he'll be like, 'Yeah.' He is in with coach (Darryl) Drake every single morning, pretty much all day.
“You see a desire and the want to be great. I've really enjoyed to opportunity to know him and to work with him so far. This is an awesome opportunity that he's here and we're getting to work together. He was with us when we went on our trip. It's just, it's been fun to get to know him as a person too.”
Moncrief is part of a group of weapons that Roethlisberger has at his disposal that includes JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Eli Rogers, Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson, Vance McDonald and a trio of running backs in James Conner, Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell.
“It will be fun,” said Roethlisberger. “There are some holes that have been lost. We have a lot of guys who desire to fill those voids. It’s not going to be one person. It’s going to be a lot of different people. We have a lot of great running backs that not just run the ball well but catch it. It’s going to be fun if we can produce the way we think we can.
“It’s an awesome challenge for all of us to get to know each other, to learn, to do everything we can to be the best. That is what we are trying to do to win a championship. In order to do that we are all going to have to be our best.”
Roethlisberger has been doing everything he can to help out younger players during practice, giving them tips plain and simple on how he likes certain routes run and so forth, to bring out the best in them.
“I know the offense as well as anyone here,” said Roethlisberger. “I try to tell them what I expect. Coaches can coach a guy to do what the paper says on a route. But it ultimately comes down to what the quarterback wants and expects. I try to let them know so there are no secrets. Communication is always important.”
More from Ben:
On what he has seen from Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs this offseason:
“More comfortable, especially Mason. You see him settling into it a lot. Not afraid to step up to whatever group, whatever receiver. In the past you might have felt hesitancy to throw to certain guys. Now they are stepping in ready to go. Josh just continues to grow. A guy that is definitely more understanding, more comfortable in this offense. It’s fun to watch them grow.”
On Smith-Schuster stepping up as a leader:
“JuJu is a young guy, but a guy who has to expand on that leadership role, in his room especially. That room has gelled. They have a lot of fun together. We just want to see JuJu continue to grow the way he has, the path he is on. It’s been fun to be around him and watch his growth every year.”
On if he feels the team is in an underdog role this year:
“We are still the Pittsburgh Steelers. We are going to try and go out and win every game. It’s been a long time since we have been to the big one. If everyone puts forth the effort we all think we can and with the talent we have in this room, we feel pretty confident we can be pretty good.”