Following the leaders, early confidence, unity up front

What we learned during the third week of OTAs …

Follow the leaders: As a 12-year NFL veteran, an eight-time Steelers team captain and a three-time Associated Press First-Team All-Pro, Cam Heyward is a known commodity.

He clarified this week what he is not.

"It's not like I'm trying to be Mother Goose out here," Heyward maintained.

The context was a conversation with the media about leadership.

Head coach Mike Tomlin annually advises rookies in need of it to attach themselves to a veteran from their position group and pay close attention.

The veterans traditionally comply (many were on the receiving end of leadership coming into the league).

But the vibe at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in advance of next week's Mandatory Veteran Minicamp has been the leadership provided thus far has come more by example than it has been specifically articulated.

"I'm just doing what I do every day," said veteran free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, another three-time First-Team All-Pro. "I'm a big monkey see, monkey do-type of guy. I'm not a guy that's gonna be screaming and yelling and telling people what to do. I'm going to try and lead by example.

"It's more just guys seeing what I do and they're just following. Whether it be catching the passes after practice, whether it's getting in the hot tub, the cold tub, the sauna after practice, guys have kind of picked up on the fact I'm not gonna be lengthy in my words and they've just kinda put themselves under my wing."

Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson has said he takes the same approach (maybe it's a three-time First-Team All-Pro thing).

Heyward acknowledged he doesn't prefer to lecture, either, but if asked he'll answer.

"You just try to be an open book," he said. "Provide as much information as they want and they can do with it as they want.

"These (young) guys have worked their tails off in the offseason, they've come in with the right questions, they're watching tape and I appreciate that."

There's a benefit to explaining things when such information is requested, Heyward is convinced, that pays dividends beyond getting younger players up to speed.

Take a look at the best black and white photos from the third week of the 2023 Organized Team Activities

"It's not only me teaching them, it's a refresher course for me," he added. "It helps out everybody."

Different Perspectives: Heyward has consistently tempered his responses to questions about expectations throughout OTAs, insisting he's not yet been overly impressed by anyone individually or the team's potential collectively.

"Not right now," he said. "We have training camp (coming up in late July). We haven't even put on pads so we have some time to see what everybody's about.

"Latrobe's not just a fun place to hang out. There's plenty of kicking, screaming, all of that. We'll get there when we get there."

But outside linebacker T.J. Watt is already contemplating the possibilities as it relates to the playoffs and beyond.

"I feel like we're capable every year, and that's not cliche," Watt said. "We're all in here, this is our full-time job, to strive to be able to play in those games and win those games. But I feel very confident this season so far.

"Obviously, we're still very early in the process but we've continued to grow, we have a lot of guys that are willing and able and we have a good mix of old and young guys."

Watt isn't concerned about getting ahead of himself by thinking ahead.

He'll alter that approach when the time comes.

"In the offseason you can think bigger picture," he explained. "As soon as we wrap up here in the summer and you get closer and closer to the season, you start to narrow the focus on a week-to-week basis."

All for one: The Steelers have five incumbent starters returning along the offensive line, made two higher-profile additions to the group in veteran free agency and welcomed two rookie offensive lineman in the draft.

So there's competition up front.

But veteran newcomer Nate Herbig has been impressed by the group's dynamic, by "everyone's willingness to help each other get better and point things out.

"There's no hating on each other," Herbig reported. "Everyone wants everyone to do well and to play their best football, and I really appreciate that."