Offseason Program

Guarded optimism

Defensive end Cam Heyward maintained OTAs are in the eye of the beholder as it relates to the need to participate with regularity in the annual series of voluntary on-field sessions.

"We play tomorrow?' Heyward offered rhetorically this week when the subject of attendance was raised.

The Steelers don't have a game until the preseason opener on Aug. 9 at Philadelphia.

They won't play one that counts until they kick off the regular season on Sept. 9 at Cleveland.

"I'd love for our guys to be out here but at the end of the day everybody has different things going on, whether it's injuries or whatever," Heyward continued.

"Hopefully, they're all out for training camp."

Presence at Saint Vincent College will be required beginning on July 25 for any and all Steelers under contract.

That'll also be the case for mandatory veteran minicamp next week, June 12-14, at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

OTAs wrapped up today, the conclusion to a three-week process Heyward embraced on and off the field out of perceived necessity.

"I need to get better and there are things I have to work on," he said. "I have a new coach (defensive line coach Karl Dunbar), there are new plays being put in, so I have to be back out here.

"And, obviously, we didn't win, so, obviously, I can improve."

As for what they might be capable of this season based on all that's taken place during OTAs, "it's still early," Heyward maintained. "There are some positive things we can take, but we don't know how everybody's going to react in adverse situations yet. You have guys proven like (veteran safety) Morgan Burnett (who arrived as a free agent from Green Bay), and then you get guys like (first-round pick) Terrell Edmunds (a safety from Virginia Tech), who hasn't been on this stage yet. You have new coaches (Dunbar, defensive backs coach Tom Bradley and wide receivers coach Darryl Drake; quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner has been promoted to offensive coordinator). You don't know how our team's going to look yet.

"I'm excited for what's going to happen, but it's too early to tell."

Whether he's been practicing or observing, Heyward has emerged encouraged by what he's seen from the starting offensive linemen as a group of five.

"It's huge," he said. "I've been around when we have had injuries on the O-line and you can't rely on that consistency. So when you can get an offensive line together, because they rely so much on each other, it benefits everybody."