Football is back in session.
Well, kind of.
“It’s like the first day of school, like when you have your clothes laid out for school ready to go,” said Donte Moncrief. “I was ready to go this morning. My alarm went off. I jumped out of bed. I was ready to be here and happy to get going.”
And he wasn’t the only one. You could just see the excitement with the hugs as teammates greeted each other after being apart for over three months. And the genuine affection as they welcomed new players, like Moncrief who signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Phase One of the offseason program is underway and players were back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for the voluntary program, with veterans setting a prime example by being there on day one.
Maurkice Pouncey, Joe Haden, Cameron Heyward, and Alejandro Villanueva, just to name a few, were among those there to kick things off on Monday morning.
The Steelers got underway with Phase One of the voluntary offseason workouts at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex
“It shows the young guys the right way to do things,” said Pouncey. “It shows that team building starts now and starts early. It doesn’t happen overnight. The guys being back is a great thing. This is about team building and chemistry and how important it is to be around the guys.”
Haden arrived at the facility literally from his flight, arriving in Pittsburgh early Monday morning from Las Vegas and he couldn’t have been happier to be back with the guys.
“I am so happy to be back,” said Haden, totally unable to contain his smile. “It’s time to get going. It’s about being with the guys. I missed these dudes so much.”
In mid-sentence Haden did exactly what he was back in town to do, headed into the athletic training room and embraced Pouncey, then introduced himself to a few newcomers to the team.
“I am just so excited,” continued Haden. “This is my 10th year in the league. But to be back, it’s so great. To see Pouncey here this morning. I love my team, I love my guys. The guys who are here are ready to win, ready to work. I am super excited to get it popping.
“Having us veterans here, that is what it is all about. I love ball, I love being around my boys. This is what it is. I remember when I was a young guy and played with Sheldon Brown. I looked up to him, and he would be around. Now I want to be that for these young dudes. I am here ready to go.”
For Vance McDonald, who stays in Pittsburgh year-round, being at the practice facility has been the norm as he utilized it all offseason to work out on his own. But being back officially, with his teammates and the aid of the strength and conditioning staff, is a whole new ball game.
“I think it’s important because you look at anything where you are building a team, getting on the same page, you can’t do that without being present,” said McDonald. “Coming back from a long break, seeing each other, and not just jumping right in to football is key. It seems like a small thing, but I think it’s crucial.
“It starts now.”