Camp Blog: Week 1 Recap

Saturday, July 30

Back together: NFL teams are celebrating 'Back Together Saturday' today, a chance for fans across the league to watch their teams in action, and Steelers fans turned out en masse at Saint Vincent College to watch the black and gold.

Coach Mike Tomlin welcomed the fans back, speaking to them prior to practice.

"I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you," said Tomlin, standing at the 50-yard line addressing the crowd. "It is so awesome to be back in this environment. To see Steelers Nation as we work to be the team we all want to be this year. We have a league initiative called Back Together Saturday. We just wanted to take a pause not only as the Pittsburgh Steelers, but as members of the National Football League, to thank all of you that put so much energy and passion into supporting us. You are a driving force for us. Hopefully we entertain you today and get better. Make a few plays and have some fun.

"We are going to go to work. Have fun today. We love you."

Tomlin also introduced former Steelers tight end Heath Miller to the crowd. Miller was at camp on Saturday as the team announced the Hall of Honor Class of 2022, of which Miller is a member of along with Myron Cope, Sam Davis and Ray Mathews.

After the introduction of the class, Steelers President Art Rooney II talked about what it means to be back at Saint Vincent College with fans in attendance and the community showing support.

"It's special to be back at Saint Vincent College, back at Latrobe,

Opening eyes: Two players who are opening eyes at camp this year are rookie receivers George Pickens and Calvin Austin III.

And one player whose attention they grabbed fast is quarterback Mitch Trubisky. And in his eyes, they haven't even scratched the surface as they are still picking up the offense.

"Calvin and George are kind of in the same boat just picking up this NFL offense," said Trubisky. "A lot of verbiage, a lot of terminology. We're putting them in all different kinds of spots, so it's a lot of learning for them. Once they get it down and get the ball in their hands they can do a lot of things with it."

The Steelers selected Pickens in the second-round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the 52nd overall pick. The Georgia product finished his college career with 90 receptions for 1,347 yards and 14 touchdowns. Pickens missed some playing time in the 2021 season after suffering a knee injury in the spring, playing in just four games and finishing with five receptions for 107 yards.

"You can't even notice he was hurt last year," said Trubisky. "He has so much bounce, change of direction. You are going from a college system to an NFL system, but he is picking it up very quick. Just me and him getting on the same page and me continuing to give him opportunities. He has been making plays and turning heads out here."

Austin was selected in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the 138th pick overall. Austin was a first-team All-AAC selection in 2020 and 2021, contributing not just on offense for Memphis but also on special teams. He finished his career ranked second in school history with 22 receiving touchdowns, fourth in receiving yards with 2,541 and fifth in receptions with 156. He also returned punts, including 29 for 323 yards, an 11.1-yard average, and two touchdowns.

One of the key components of his game is his speed, and as we all know in football, speed kills.

"Calvin is fast man," said Trubisky. "Any way we can get the ball in his hands in open space, it's going to be deadly."

Friday, July 29

A special signature: Kenny Pickett has been a regular signing autographs for fans after practice, but on Thursday he got a reaction from a young fan he didn't expect.

After getting a signature from Pickett, the young fan who was wearing Pickett's No. 8 jersey cried.

"It's really special. You never know how much you can impact someone's life," said Pickett. "That was a pretty huge moment. I am just grateful for all of the fans and the support and hopefully I made his day.

"He was crying, and I said I hope they are happy tears. It was good."

Pickett said it's the first time anything like that ever happened to him.

"That was definitely a first," said Pickett. "It was a special moment for myself, him, his family. It was great."

Off and running: It was just one rep, but for wide receiver Chase Claypool it was also a small but significant step.

The Steelers had waited until Thursday, their second day on the practice fields at Saint Vincent College, to unveil their signature short-yardage/goal-line drill, "Seven Shots."

But for Claypool it was worth the wait.

He caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Mitch Trubisky on the drill's first snap.

"That's what you look to do every practice, start things off strong," Claypool acknowledged.
"It's fun getting that connection down."

Steps are being taken in that direction in the early stages of training camp.

Claypool is encouraged with the progress being made.

"We're talking about certain things after plays, whether we caught it, or, if he threw it to someone else, I would just talk to him and tell him, 'This is what I saw,'" Claypool explained.
"He would do the same thing."

Claypool has also liked what he's seen from and heard about quarterback Mason Rudolph.

"All the receivers say he's one of the most accurate quarterbacks," Claypool maintained. "It's crazy how accurate he is. He doesn't get enough praise and attention.

"He's just as much in the running as each of those guys."

Claypool is as curious as anyone as to whether Trubisky, Rudolph or No. 1 pick Kenny Pickett will emerge as Ben Roethlisberger's successor at quarterback.

"Absolutely, I have no clue," Claypool said.

Claypool has a much better perceived grasp on No. 2 pick George Pickens' prospects for having a productive rookie season catching passes and inflicting damage.

"I think he's gonna be one of the best rookie receivers in the NFL," Claypool said. "I think it's pretty clear when you see him run routes and stuff.

"I really do hope that for him and I believe that."

Taking in the competition: NFL Network's Judy Battista was at Steelers training camp the last few days, her first stop on her training camp tour.

"This is one of the very few quarterback competitions in the league," said Battista of the interest in the Steelers camp. "You just don't have that in training camp very often. And it's the Pittsburgh Steelers and after 18 years with one quarterback, it's a transition to a new quarterback.

"In addition to the quarterback stuff, the whole atmosphere at Steelers camp. This is my favorite training camp site in the league. The campus is so beautiful. It's just compact. It's perfect for training camp. It makes me wish more teams still went away to camp. Not many teams do anymore. You always get so many fans here and I still like teams going away because I think it reaches part of the fan base that maybe doesn't get into Pittsburgh. You give fans a way to get up close with the team that maybe they wouldn't get if you didn't have it here."

While enjoying the surroundings, Battista did keep a close eye on the quarterback position and loves the approach Coach Mike Tomlin is taking, where he isn't fixated on every throw.

"We're not going to micromanage or overmanage this quarterback competition," said Tomlin during his camp introductory press conference. "The depth chart will not rest on every throw. I know that you guys will want to ask me every day and every throw, but we're going to be a little bit more steady than that. I think it's important from a leadership perspective to not overmanage it, to not be too impulsive, so that's what I've relayed to those guys, and our actions will continue to display that mindset."

That is an approach Battista thinks will work well.

"How he said it. That is the only sane way to do it," said Battista. "Everybody gets caught up in the moment and so we see people sort of lose their minds during quarterback competitions. I think they have the luxury with (Kenny Pickett) that he is not the number one overall pick so there isn't a tremendous amount of pressure to start him right away. I think that's good. They have a really capable veteran in Mitch Trubisky. So they have the luxury of being patient and letting it develop and not reacting to every practice and every rep. But let's face it, that's also how Mike is. Even if there were outside pressure to start somebody and think he was ready, he wouldn't do it. That is how I expected him to do it but it's refreshing to hear him do it."

Thursday, July 28

Feeling the love: It's only the second day of training camp, but the players are already feeling the love from the fans, including tight end Pat Freiermuth. And he is giving some love back.

"The fans help us push through a lot," said Freiermuth. "Having that support, hearing them. It makes their day to come out here and watch us practice. If you can't get going for the fans you shouldn't be in this business. You want them to be happy, support us throughout the season. Hearing them roar is awesome."

Making the most of reps: One of the more interesting storylines at training camp is the battle at left guard between Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green, who are both taking advantage of every rep they are given.

"It's a competition," said Dotson. "If they are giving people reps, I have to take the reps I get and make the best of them."

And it's a competition that brings out the best in both, two young players who are part of a young offensive line that plans to use that youth to their advantage. While there are some veterans, with fifth-year players Mason Cole, James Daniel and Chuks Okorafor the most experienced, there isn't anyone who has been here, done that for a long time and that is helping the line gel.

"Not having set ways already, we can still be molded into that type of group," said Dotson. "We're more easily influenced by the coaches."

The goal for the young line though, is to get running back Najee Harris his yards. Dotson said one of the biggest disappointments last year was basically leaving yards on the table for Harris.

"We have the running back to get 2,000 yards," said Dotson. "He was breaking five tackles a game. If we could block two more people, that's another 20-30 yards a game."

Settling in: Last year Chris Boswell came into training camp with a new holder, working with then rookie Pressley Harvin III. There was some anxiety after working with Jordan Berry for six seasons, but that anxiety is gone and then some.

"When he came in, he was just holding for a college kicker," said Boswell. "Not saying that is any different, but you have to be a lot more precise and in tune with each other at this stage. I am 1,000 times more comfortable at this stage than last year at this time. He has worked his tail off to get where he is right now."

Cam's take: There are times, defensive tackle and defensive captain Cameron Heyward explained today, when the need for leadership becomes obvious.

"You shouldn't have your phone out during a meeting," Heyward offered prior to practice at Saint Vincent College. "You shouldn't be tweeting during a meeting. If you're taking off your pads in the middle of a game, we're gonna have a problem.

"There are obvious mistakes. Understand that we do this together. It's not one guy, two guys. This is a team sport and I love it because everybody has to be accountable for that."

It's that accountability Heyward preaches more than anything else while navigating what can be a "fine line" while leading.

"You address what needs to be handled, make sure everybody has a common goal," Heyward continued. "Things happen, but I don't go into it thinking, 'Oh, I gotta change this. Oh, I gotta change that.' It's about growing with these guys right now in this atmosphere and this environment, making sure we're bonding, learning from each other, learning where we made mistakes.

"Holding ourselves accountable, I think that's the main thing. If we can hold ourselves accountable and we can get to a point where it's not the coach telling us we're wrong but it's each other telling us we're wrong that goes a lot further for us. It's easy to say, 'My bad, I messed up on this play.' But how do I change that, not let the same mistake keep happening? One guy makes a mistake, everybody should be learning from that because then that shows that we all have growth."

Engaging in social media and non-football related endeavors isn't perceived as conduct unbecoming in the locker room.

Such pursuits are viewed in many instances as a part of today's game and today's players.

"We play a game and it's our business but it's also to grow our business," Heyward said. "We all have personal brands and we should have good personal brands we can continue to capitalize on. But at the end of the day, we want to play football, we want to have fun while we do it, we want to do it as a team and a unit and we should enjoy it.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Why be so serious where you can't make fun of yourself?"

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Wednesday, July 27

Making plays: It was a good day for rookie receivers, with George Pickens and Calvin Austin both showing why the Steelers drafted them.

Pickens caught a long ball from Mitch Trubisky, pulling it in on the sidelines as he ran with the first team offense.

"I went deep, and Mitch gave me a chance, threw it up and I made a play," said Pickens.

Pickens ran with the first team on Wednesday, but said it's something to not read too much into.

"It really doesn't mean anything," said Pickens. "We really just practice every other play. I just go with the flow."

Austin had one of the plays of the day during the Steelers first practice of training camp, catching a screen pass from Mason Rudolph and showing his speed by taking it around 60 yards for a touchdown.

"Every day for me is going to be important just learning," said Austin. "It's important to show my speed any time I step on the field because that is one of the main factors of my game, something I have to continually show. It's big, but at the same time is something I will be consistent with and hopefully will become the norm."

Austin, who wouldn't say he is the fastest on the team, did admit he didn't even go his full speed on the play.

"I got out, but I didn't even put on the after burners," said Austin. "If somebody was closer, I had another gear or two for sure."

Best time of the year: As the players left the field for their morning walk-thru on Wednesday, a line of cars was already waiting to enter campus at Saint Vincent College, with Steelers Nation fired up for the first day of training camp practice.

And they aren't the only ones pumped.

The players are too, including quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

"First day of school, first day of camp," said Trubisky. "Everyone is ready to go. Everybody is super early to meetings, amped up and ready to go.

"I am excited. It's the best time of year again. Training camp, football season. Excited to be back on the field with the guys and get after it."

Trubisky is experiencing his first Steelers training camp, but he has already heard from teammates what it's going to be like to have the fans in attendance, cheering them on and changing the entire atmosphere.

"It's going to be cool having the fans out here watching us for practice," said Trubisky. "I think it will give us a lot more energy and make practice more fun. I am pumped. From what I have heard there is going to be a great showing of Steelers fans. I am excited about it."

Trubisky will be giving fans their first look at what he brings to the black and gold, but he won't be the only quarterback getting meaningful snaps. Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett and Chris Oladokun will all be working at the spot, and Coach Mike Tomlin said the competition is on that will play out over time and not be micromanaged.

"We're not going to micromanage or overmanage this quarterback competition," said Tomlin. "The depth chart will not rest on every throw. I know that you guys will want to ask me every day and every throw, but we're going to be a little bit more steady than that. I think it's important from a leadership perspective to not overmanage it, to not be too impulsive, so that's what I've relayed to those guys, and our actions will continue to display that mindset."

That is the same mindset Trubisky is taking with him in camp, knowing that it's about the body of work.

"You have to trust coach when he says that," said Trubisky. "He wants us to go out there and play free and he told us that. You are not worried about every single throw. It's practice. You have to go out there and test throws. You have to let guys go make plays. You have to go out there and not worry about every single throw. When you are not thinking about it, that is when you are playing your best anyway."

Trubisky has been in the Steelers system for just a few months now having signed as a free agent in March and taking part in OTAs and minicamp. But he is already feeling right at home with the offense and is ready to go full speed ahead.

"I am very comfortable," said Trubisky. "I feel like I have a very good grasp of the offense and what coach wants us to do. I think the first couple of weeks of training camp we are trying to establish our identity and see what we are good at. My job is to just get the playmakers the ball. It's my job to lead the offense and that is what I am trying to do."

Stepping up: Diontae Johnson is coming off a 2021 season where he set career-highs in receptions (107), yards (1,161) and touchdown receptions (8), and when it comes to his outlook for 2022, he wants to keep things rolling.

"Hopefully I can do the same thing I did last year with the catches," said Johnson. "Hopefully eliminate the drops even more."

Johnson had his struggles with drops in the past, but almost completely eliminated those from his game last season. He knows the reality is drops will come, but he keeps working on it, which means working constantly on his game, something he never shies away from as he has an insane work ethic.

"It's going to happen," said Johnson. "The best of the best are going to drop it. Just get ready for the next play. That is my mentality."

Johnson, who is entering the last year of his contract, stated on Wednesday that he wants to remain in black and gold.

"I want to be here. I want to be here long term," said Johnson. "I am going to just keep doing what I am doing."

And one of the things he has been doing is showing veteran leadership at the receiver spot, much of that coming from his aforementioned work ethic.

"They gravitate to me," said Johnson of the younger receivers. "Certain things they ask me on the field. I am always going to have an answer for them. I might not always be right, but I am going to do my best.

"(I lead) in my own way. I am not vocal. I lead by example. A lot of guys try to come out and get some work before practice. Catches and stuff like that. That is what I am going to keep doing."

And the other thing Johnson is going to keep doing is being present. He didn't indicate what his definite plans are for practice while he doesn't have a long-term contract yet but being at camp is step one.

"I am taking it a day at a time," said Johnson. "I can only control what I can control and keep praying I get something done."

Tuesday, July 26

Chemistry matters: The Steelers defense is one that has a strong mix of youth and experienced veterans, a mix that had Cameron Heyward say today it could be the stepping stone for the defense to be No. 1 in the league this year.

That experience is something that is also valued by Minkah Fitzpatrick, who loved the way the unit has meshed so far, and it's only going to get better with training camp under way.

"We have a lot of guys that have been doing this a long time as a group," said Fitzpatrick. "We have a lot of chemistry together. The new guys that came in fit in really well. All of the guys that got here this year, last year, they are willing to learn the game. They fit our mold.

"We have a lot of experience, and it allows us to do a whole lot more. When you have guys that know the game, know what they are doing and are confident in what they are doing, you can ask them to do more and it allows us to be more flexible."

That flexibility will only matter, though, if the defense steps to the plate this season. The run defense struggled last year, ranked last in the NFL. Fitzpatrick knows that has to improve.

"We need to solidify ourselves against the run," said Fitzpatrick. "Not allowing big plays. Those things last year hurt us. In the secondary we gave up big plays we normally don't. Winning 50/50 balls more often. And solidify against the run."

Setting the standard: Najee Harris wants to be that guy this year.

The one his teammates can come to, the one his teammates can depend on.

The one, who for the offense, sets the standard.

A leader, plain and simple.

"There are all types of leaders," said Harris. "There are leaders who lead from the back. There are leaders who lead in the front, the vocal ones like Cam (Heyward). There are leaders who lead by example. I think I am the guy that tries to lead by example. I try to be that type of person.

"There are all types of leaders. It's who the team feels comfortable with, who can set the best example of what the standard is. For me that is playing by the standard."

Harris has heard Coach Mike Tomlin talk about that standard, as everyone in Steelers Nation has heard him reference 'The standard is the standard.'

For Harris, that standard is simple. 

"The Steelers standard is hard-nosed football. Grit. Stuff like that," said Harris. "The tradition of the Steelers.

"Mine is along those lines too. I am motivated. I want to achieve more. Mine is more a hunger and drive."

Steelers players arrive at Saint Vincent College ready to start camp

Embrace it: T.J. Watt has a passion for football.

And he even has a passion for training camp.

Even on a college campus.

"I tell guys to embrace it," said Watt. "It's a small cafeteria, a small dormitory. You can look at it one of two ways. You can be man, 'I wish I was back in Pittsburgh.' Or you can embrace it and say I love the tradition, I love the history of this place. Really just take it all in and put your best foot forward. I think that is the most important thing for these young guys.

"We have to remember we are living our dreams. This is the best job in the world. This is what we dreamt of as kids. Don't think for a second that you are better than Latrobe, because you are not."

Watt is one of 20 players who has actually experienced training camp at Saint Vincent College after the team was away the last two years because of the pandemic.

And he welcomes the return to football day and night.

"It feels great," said Watt. "We are picking up where we left off. I am excited to be back. I feel really good.

"It's about spending time with each other. There is no escape here. We are all going to be around each other. It's easy to take a young guy under your wing and show them how things go."

The defense has a mix of youth and experience, young players who have made their mark already, and some who are just hitting their stride.

"We're a young team, especially on the defense," said Watt. "We have a lot of potential. It's times like this where it's building a team and it starts here in Latrobe. It's not just on the field, it's off the field. As a defense you have to be tight knit to be successful."

He said it: Rookie Kenny Pickett on the history at Saint Vincent College.

"A lot of legends and greats have come through here. We are all chasing greatness together."

High hopes: If there is anyone who knows what life at Saint Vincent College is all about, it's Cameron Heyward.

Heyward is entering his 12th season in the black and gold and after a two-year hiatus is happy to be back on campus for training camp.

"We're back. It's nice to be back," said Heyward. "It's weird because I think only 20 players have been here. We have a lot to catch up on."

Heyward is a player who understands the importance of camp, the way a team can bond when they get away from home and are around football 24/7.  

"You have to experience it yourself," said Heyward. "You come up here, you get to bond with your team, you get up close with the fans. It's one of those sacred places that will never go away.

"Those nights where you are here bonding with your teammates. You get to work more football. It's football all day, and football all night. I think the bonding is the main thing."

One of the things that excites Heyward about being back together isn't just the bonding, it's the potential the defense has and what they can accomplish in 2022.

"We have guys coming back that know what we are supposed to do, know we can get better," said Heyward. "I thought we brought in some guys that can really help out. Then there is a mixture of younger guys.

"All that being said I think we should have the No. 1 defense. We understand our goals. We understand where we fell short last year. Our aspirations are to be the No. 1 defense every time we step out there."

Taking the next step: Chase Claypool has his sights set on bigger and better things in 2022. After pulling in 59 receptions for 860 yards and two touchdowns last year, he has committed himself fully to improving his game, putting up numbers for the offense.

And that commitment was on display this offseason when he worked on every aspect of his game, with former NFL receiver Brandon Marshall helping to mentor him.

"I just think compared to what I have done in prior years, in terms of prep, studying film, it's 10 times more than what I have done," said Claypool. "I was pretty naive in the past to think I could repeat success without preparation. I have really taken that preparation to the next step."

New to the scene: For many Steelers players, arriving at Saint Vincent College on Tuesday for the team's training camp is a first after camp wasn't held here the last two years because of the pandemic.

And they are embracing the experience.

"Going away for camp. I forgot what that feels like," said Levi Wallace, signed this offseason as a free agent. "I am super excited. I have been watching videos. How much it means to the people who come to Latrobe. The former teams that came here and won Super Bowls. I am super excited to be here.

"It's a factor that nobody remembers how well you get to know guys. That is why you go away to camp. To build that. Getting to know my teammates better. Being at Latrobe which a lot of guys haven't been a part of, including me."

Kendrick Green is in his second season, but his first time at Saint Vincent College.

"It's my first time. I don't know what to expect," said Kendrick Green. "I am ready to get after it. I am going to embrace it because of the rich tradition here. I am ready take it on."

What else Green is ready to take on is responsibility at left guard, a position he is also embracing as the team prepares to hold their first camp practice on Wednesday.

"I am looking forward to it. See what happens," said Green. "Go out there and play hard. I feel a lot more comfortable. That's not what it's about it. It's about playing well. I can be as comfortable as I want. If I am not playing well, it's not going to matter. It's what I am looking forward to."

Steelers Training Camp is set and ready to kickoff at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania

Practice ready to roll: The Steelers will hold their first open practice of training camp on Wednesday, July 27. Practice begins at 1:55 p.m. and is open to the public, but free digital tickets are required. You can secure your daily training camp tickets by visiting: Steelers Training Camp Tickets.