The end of minicamp signifies the end of the offseason program for the Steelers, and from the sounds of things a key factor was accomplished…improving as a team.
"We have progressed greatly," said Eli Rogers. "Initially we first came out in OTAs and it was slower. Guys were getting back into the terminology, getting the plays and concepts back down. From the first week until now we took a big step and we are clicking even more as an offense."
The offseason program isn't about being in the trenches and hitting. It's not about the physical battles, or all out battles for positions. All of that will come soon enough when the team reports to Saint Vincent College for training camp on July 27.
What was accomplished over the three weeks of OTAs and now during minicamp is about the mental side of the game, about the comfort level with the playbook, and about bonding as a team.
"I think we come out with the mindset every day to get better, improve each day," said Anthony Chickillo. "We have had really good weeks as a team, working together, bonding together. There is a lot of mental stuff when you don't have the pads on, making sure you are doing the right thing on a particular play, doing your assignment on that play, and making sure nobody is messing up. Each week you could see the improvement as we watched it on tape.
2017 minicamp is underway at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
"I would say this was more gelling as a team, working on the mental aspect of the game. When we get to Latrobe the physical part of the game will come along with that."
Rogers said that the improvement as a team is the result of each guy getting better on a daily basis, himself included.
"For me, once you start OTAs you are getting back into it," said Rogers. "You are going to mess up, forget things. Every day, every week I felt progress getting back into that natural state of being on the field, the plays, the terminology, and the speed. It's not playoff speed, but it's the speed and getting out there and making plays."
The players will get a bit of a break, a summer vacation of sorts, once minicamp ends. And while they will enjoy a little time away from football, the work will still continue, this time it will just be on their own.
"It doesn't slow down when you leave here," said Chickillo. "It picks up. You have to come back ready for training camp, ready to go. When you leave here it's all about individual improvement. Just preparing your body, your mind for what is coming, and that is training camp. It's the tough dog days, but that is when championship teams are made. Going through that together gelling as a team, coming together and getting ready to play the season."