LATROBE, Pa. - For defensive end Cam Heyward training camp is another step. It's another step on the road to getting the Steelers back to where he knows the team belongs, back to the postseason.
"Everybody has a sense of urgency," said Heyward. "Being 8-8 the past two seasons isn't where we want to be. It left a bit of a sour taste. This is a hungry group from the top to the bottom. Nobody is going to be slacking and we are going to be transparent with that.
"You have to have a sense of pride in what we are doing right now. You don't want to mess up. You see the history in this organization. It starts with the defensive line up front and we need to carry ourselves and lead the right way."
Heyward, for one, hasn't been slacking at all this offseason and won't as camp is now underway. He spent almost every day this offseason, from the moment the CBA allowed for players to be working at team's facilities all the way through the day before reporting to Latrobe, in the weight room, on the field or studying film, trying to get better in every aspect of his game.
"For the NFL season you have to prepare every day," said Heyward. "You have to get some sort of rest, but not too much. To prepare for the NFL grind you have to work at it every day. You will reap the benefits down the road, where late in the season you need those games to go your way and your body is prepared for it.
"A lot of guys buckled down this offseason and really understood if we want to make a deep run this year we have to be ready for the grind and the wear and tear on our bodies."
Heyward, a fourth-year veteran who is mature beyond his years, wasn't alone working out, with an array of players joining him, some here and there, some regulars. But he was a shining example of what a leader is, helping younger players, giving encouragement and showing them what it means to be a professional.
View Photos of the Pittsburgh Steeler's first day of Training Camp.
"I don't want to be known as the old guy in the group, but having the experience helps for me confidence wise in myself and the group," said Heyward. "I feel able to help out more and still do my job. I feel like I can bring guys along in the sense that I have seen things they haven't. When you play in the 3-4 defense for the first time it's a bit of a shell shock the way you play it. It's about getting over that hump and seeing what movements you are going to make.
"We have a good group of guys able to play more than one spot. It's going to be interesting. They can understand from me and Steve (McLendon) because he has played all over the line."
While he has experience, not missing a game in his three seasons, he still knows he has work to do, as does the team as a whole. And that is what training camp is for.
"We need to work on everything," said Heyward. "I know it's hard to say that, but there is so much that can be accomplished during camp, whether it's growing as a team or being in better conditioning as a unit. With this team there is no ceiling.
"For me it's seeing the defense as a whole more, seeing what the back end does so I can transfer it into my position and understand where everybody is coming from. I always want to get better technique-wise, whether it's hand usage, getting off the ball and being more disruptive. I want to be more of a dominant player where I am the more dominant player on the field."
One thing Heyward has already seen from the back end of the defense is speed. It showed during OTAs and minicamp and he can't wait to see what the defense looks like when things really get rolling.
"I think with the speed we have we better be able to hit everything that walks," said Heyward. "That has to be our motto. Whatever steps on that field, we are knocking off. With the speed nobody is going to go untouched."