Foote: "When you put the pads on, it's football"

For the first two days of training camp it's been, as Coach Mike Tomlin would say, "football in shorts." And that is not the way the game is played.

All of that changes today. When the Steelers take the field for their afternoon practice expect the energy level to be higher and the competition a bit more fierce as they put on pads for the first time.

"It's a different game," said linebacker Larry Foote. "Without pads it's like two different sports. It really is two different sports. We do a lot of lineman stuff, running plays, but when you put the pads on…it's football."

Everyone is looking forward to hearing the shoulder pads pop, seeing the battles heat up inside, and finally getting a feel for what to expect this season.

"I'm excited," said nose tackle Steve McLendon. "It's an opportunity. All I have to do is take advantage of the opportunity. The physical part of the game changes and the hitting changes."

Veterans can easily remember the first time they put on the pads, and know that when the rookies do it, it's going to be a whole new experience for them.

"You see immediately who likes contact and who doesn't," said Foote. "They are quiet and nervous, especially the rookies, and it's exciting. You see guys swarming to the ball and see the make-up of your team.

"We haven't been in pads since January. You get the buzz the first few days and then you get tired of pads. But the first week it's exciting."

Cornerback Ike Taylor, who never shies away from physical play, knows that everyone is going to kick it up a notch when they take the field.

"Your mentality changes," said Taylor. "Running around getting ready for the conditioning test is cool, but once you put the helmet and pads on it's all about business."

While the defensive players who get to deliver the hits are the ones who normally love putting on the pads, they aren't the only ones looking forward to it.

"Pads are always good," said Burress. "It separates the men from the boys. It's exciting to see what some of them can go out and do, it's a treat to see them put the pads on, be excited and go out and do what they were brought here to do."

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