For the past month Steelers players have been hitting the weight room, doing on field conditioning, and getting ready for football to begin.
On Tuesday, with the start of OTAs, they get one step closer to doing what they love most. But not quite there yet.
OTAs, which are Phase 3 of the offseason program, are 10 days of practice where the team can do 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, but no live contact.
For Cam Heyward and his defensive teammates, it will be the first opportunity to really put to work what new defensive coordinator Keith Butler has planned for them.
"I don't think there are going to be too many changes," said Heyward. "It's going to be the same details. We will have a couple of new wrinkles, but we won't share them now."
There will be a lot of new faces for everyone to get accustomed to in the defensive huddle with veterans like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel and Jason Worilds no longer on the roster, but Heyward expects young players to step up to the plate and make a name for themselves.
One of those players he has high expectations for is second-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt saw spot playing time early in the season, but stepped into a starting role for the final four games after Keisel was out for the season with a torn triceps muscle. He had the normal rookie struggles, but Heyward saw a lot of progress from him and expects more.
"Tuitt has all of the talent in the world," said Heyward. "Early on he was like a chicken with his head cut off, all over the place thinking what I am doing here. You want it to become second nature. You simplify it and it becomes easier to make plays. You saw it in the Kansas City game where it became second nature.
"He has been in certain situations most rookies don't get to be in. He has been in dog fights. For me, I was behind Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel and they were going through the dog fights. If they weren't playing I would get my opportunity. We expect Tuitt to be ready to go game one. Tuitt has a high ceiling and we are going to see how high it is."
A few other tidbits from Heyward:
-- On wanting to play his entire career with the Steelers: "The Steelers greats don't go anywhere else. James (Harrison) did for a little bit, but he is already back. That is what I want to be, a Steelers great, and that means being here the rest of my life, football included and after."
-- On the easiest way for young players to learn the defense: "I think the easiest way is to put them in situationally where they don't have to absorb as much. I think it takes a good half a year or full year for you to digest and play fast. In college you can think more on the run and adjust more. If you are thinking, you are not ready. We want our guys to be full speed all over the place. If you are thinking and guessing it puts the defense at risk. We trust that everybody is going to do the job. We are expecting these guys to learn and if they are ready to go, we are ready to go. Best man wins."