Last year Marshall McFadden attended Steelers' rookie minicamp. Although he wasn't officially a rookie, having finished his college career a year earlier but unsigned by any team, it was his first taste of an NFL camp. And it wasn't easy.
"When I came in last year during rookie minicamp I was struggling to understand things because it was all so new to me," said McFadden, the first-year linebacker from South Carolina State.
Things are a little different this year. McFadden was one of the first-year players permitted by NFL guidelines to attend the rookie minicamp last weekend, and it was the perfect opportunity for him to get a refresher course on the defense.
"It helped a lot," said McFadden, who spent part of last season on the practice squad, and a limited time on the active roster. "Coming in this year and taking that step again, it was an introduction again. It was great for me because I got a better understanding because I had a year to develop. My mind is clear enough to understand it this year. It was a great refresher for me."
Wide receiver Derek Moye understands what McFadden went through. He was signed as a rookie free agent by the Miami Dolphins last year and attended their rookie minicamp. He went through what a lot of the Steelers rookies went through during minicamp.
"Last year going into rookie camp your head is spinning," said Moye. "First you don't know where to line up, then you don't know what route to run, if you are supposed to block. Everything is going 100 miles an hour. Once you know things, it starts to slow down for you, but then, it all moved so fast."
Moye was signed to the Steelers' practice squad last November, and in his short time with the team got some exposure to the playbook but limited reps in practice. The minicamp and the offseason program he has been participating in allow him to get a fresh look at the offense.
"It was definitely nice to be here for it," said Moye. "I was here for some time last year, but being able to get experience and get the offense under my belt more is going to help me going into the OTAs and veteran minicamp and then training camp.
"Every time you get a chance to brush up on the offense it's always a good thing. For a guy like me it's a lot of help getting some one-on-one time with the coaches. It gives me a chance to show what I can do a little more. It helps me get the offense down to a T."
Both players are hoping the minicamp gives them the springboard they need to not only be knowledgeable during OTAs, but to be competitive as they both battle for a roster spot.
"I can gain a real understanding for our plays, listening to Coach (Keith) Butler and Coach (Dick) LeBeau running through the fundamentals and helping with what I was struggling with last year," said McFadden. "The most important thing is just understanding our plays, that we do things a certain way. It's good when you get the opportunity to talk to your coach. When the older guys get here a lot of attention goes to them. During the rookie minicamp the coaches can spend more time with the younger guys and get a better feel for you. It makes you feel a lot more comfortable.
"I am classified as someone that has to take a big step this year. Once the OTAs start it can do nothing but help me by knowing what to do, playing faster, knowing where to be, where to go. This was perfect for it."