It's back to work for the Steelers

The calendar says it's mid-April, but if you looked in the weight room at the Steelers UPMC Sports Performance Complex on Monday you would have thought it was football season as it was packed with players on the first day of voluntary offseason workouts.

"You see everyone is motivated, everyone is committed," said wide receiver Antonio Brown. "It's a special place to be. To see all of the guys come in and work is special. It means a lot to see the hunger and know where we want to get back to in 2012.

"It brings back the motivation of the team. It brings everything together. Teamwork made the dream work. It's all about the organization and the team. When you get guys together then you see guys who got better and it's something special."

Players won't actually begin any football activity until OTAs start in May, but the workouts they are going through now build chemistry and keeps the players motivated.

"Last year we had the scare with the lockout," said defensive end Ziggy Hood. "This year we have no problem, we can come back and have fun with each other and start building up that team chemistry that starts when we first come in to the building until we leave.

"When you work out by yourself, even when you are somewhere training, you don't push yourself as hard. But when you work out with a group of guys that you love and respect, it makes the whole team get better. You have guys yelling for you to get better. When it's their turn you try to get them better. It's very good for the team chemistry."

That certainly was the case on Monday as many who signed to the team during the offseason were getting tips from those who have been around for a few years, and you could hear teammates continually shouting out encouragement to each other, happy to be back as a group.

"You get that real drive," said cornerback Keenan Lewis. "It's time to put the pieces of the puzzle together and work as a group, not individuals. We can work together and that is a good thing."

While some veterans continue to work out on their own as they have in the past, Brown was impressed when one of the first players he saw in the weight room was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"It shows us his leadership with him being here, and the offensive line being here," said Brown. "It shows the type of people we are working with. When you have guys who are committed to putting their hand in the pile and willing to be here, it gives you inspiration to be right here with them."

Players were greeted by a familiar face when they returned to work on Monday as running backs Coach Kirby Wilson was back in his office to kick things off.

"When I saw Kirby I told him nothing is going to keep him out of this building," said running back Isaac Redman. "I expected him to be back, but not this soon. But by the grace of God he is here with us and doing well. It was great seeing him first thing in the morning. It was motivation for every one of us."

Wilson was all smiles, joking around with the players and spent a portion of the day at the office.

"It's good to see him," said Lewis. "He has stayed in our prayers, but just to see him again. God blessed that guy with a second chance in life."

Wilson visited with Steelers staff at the team's facility on April 4, but this was the first time he was back with the players since he was injured in a fire at his home on Jan. 6.

"I was just glad he was back," said running back Jonathan Dwyer. "I think they thought it was going to be longer than it was. To see him back this fast shows how hard a worker he is and how dedicated he is to his job and to us."

Many of the players have visited Wilson in the hospital, but seeing him in the office meant a lot to them.

"It's just really good to see him," said running back Baron Batch. "I know he was excited to get out of the hospital. He is excited about getting back to work. That was so cool. It was great to see him back with everyone today, ready to get back to work like everyone else."

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