Discovery mode, Pickett's progression, 'talkin' mess'

LATROBE, Pa. _ What we learned during Week One at Saint Vincent College:

THEY KNOW WHAT THEY DON'T KNOW: There's a plan in place, on a daily basis for practices and for how the team will eventually and ultimately evolve and ascend.

But it's written in pencil, not pen.

Head coach Mike Tomlin's response when asked after the conditioning test on reporting day on Wednesday how the Steelers would fix their red zone woes from a season ago confirmed as much.

"I have no idea," Tomlin acknowledged. "We're here to kind of discover these things, seriously.

"I think sometimes when you have too hard core of a plan in an environment like this, you miss something. And so we're here to grow and develop individually and collectively. And when you're in my position you better be open to being pleasantly surprised or disappointed, to be quite honest with you.

"Some of the things that you guys ask about specifically in terms of an agenda or things I'm looking for, it's a tad premature. We're here to develop our personality, our strengths, our weaknesses, to ascertain what those things are, to divide the labor up. We're at Ground Zero in that regard."

So stay tuned.

Tomlin remains determined to be light on his feet entering his 17th season.

No. 1 pick Broderick Jones isn't making any assumptions, either.

Jones honed a reputation for physicality while playing left offensive tackle at Georgia. But when asked upon his arrival at Saint Vincent what his personality in pads might look like, Jones maintained everyone will have to wait until Tuesday when the pads come on for the first time to find out.

That's everyone, including Jones, who has yet to put on a pair of pads as a pro:

"I really don't know," he said. "I've always been a physical player with a little finesse to it but we just gotta wait and see. It's all new.

"I really don't know what the future holds as of right now so we just gotta wait and see."

Jones' approach falls in line with Tomlin's stated advice for the rookie class as to how to best handle camp.

"This is their first lap around the track so don't pretend like it's not," Tomlin said. "Be open to growing and learning, be a sponge, ask good questions, learn from others, what others say and do, positively and negatively.

"Just don't try and pretend to be at a place that they're not."

PICKETT'S EXPANDING PRESENCE: Quarterback Kenny Pickett was asked if he thought he'd have more input into the gameplan this season, more freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage, and otherwise be more influential as a second-year player.

Turns out he didn't have to wait for training camp for that to happen.

"I think I already have," Pickett said. "I was part of a good process of adding some things this offseason and during the spring, taking some things away that we didn't like, and going back and watching the tape.

"So I feel like I've been a part of those conversations so I think definitely when the gameplan starts coming around I'll have an input, as well."

COMPETITION CRITICAL, CONSEQUENTIAL: The competition periods, particularly "Seven Shots," the signature short-yardage/two-point conversion/goal-line drill the Steelers waited until Day Two on the field on Friday to unveil, are essential on both sides of the ball.

"Camp is built on the premise of 'iron sharpens iron,'" free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick confirmed.

When it's the Steelers' offense vs. the Steelers' defense in lieu of preparing to play an actual opponent, the idea is for both platoons to get better individually and collectively.

"We're helping each other constantly," outside linebacker T.J. Watt assessed. "We feel like we have an offense that has a lot of weapons and, obviously, we feel the same about our defense.

"It shouldn't be lopsided victories all throughout camp (for one side or the other). That's what makes this game so great, we're always continuously competing."

But there are victories for one side or the other, and in the case of "Seven Shots," ramifications.

"We take a lot of pride in 'Seven Shots,'" cornerback Levi Wallace emphasized. "It's the first thing we do each and every day. It honestly starts off our day. I know, especially for defense, when we win 'Seven Shots,' I know, me, personally, I'm talkin' mess to (wide receiver) George (Pickens) and (wide receiver) Diontae (Johnson) for the rest of the day. It just sets us up for a great mood and you kind of just build off of that. A lot of coaches get into it, too.

"I know sometimes we get food involved and some guys eat hot dogs and weenies and some guys eat steak and lobster (for dinner). It's one of our biggest things that we do here and we're super competitive. It kind of just puts us in the right direction.

"I've never been part of a system that just starts off practice at such a high intensity and so much on the line. I appreciate 'Seven Shots' each and every day."

Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2023 season at Saint Vincent College

THE HEAT IS ON, AS IT SHOULD BE: Tight end Rodney Williams temporarily succumbed to heat-related issues on Thursday. Defensive end DeMarvin Leal, tight end/fullback Conner Heyward and wide receiver Diontae Johnson missed practice time on Friday for the same reason.

Such adversities are part of what Fitzpatrick appreciates about camp.

"It brings out the best in everybody, and the worst," he pointed out. "You get to see how people respond to the difficulties of camp, the long hours, the long meetings, the tough practices.

"I feel like that's when you get to learn who you are as a team and as a unit."

Related Content