'It's really good to be a Steeler right now'

The drill was uncomplicated but not uninspired.

Mike Tomlin's running commentary helped keep the proceedings lively.

"All right Bud, chew that grass up."

"All right, 90."

"I like that 2-4."

"Keep coming, keep coming, keep coming."

It's been that way at OTAs, whether the running backs have been trying to elude the linebackers one-on-one in an open-space confrontation or the defense has been trying to deny the offense in the Steelers' signature practice-opening exercise, "Seven Shots."

Interceptions are punctuated with celebrations.

The offense, when it converts, lets the defense know about it.

Danny Smith's frantic instruction reverberates beyond the confines of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex during special teams periods.

Whatever the Steelers have been doing the past two weeks, they've been doing it with enthusiasm.

That isn't a revelation, but for a team coming off a non-playoff season and an off-season of high-profile turnover and tumult, it's been a welcome respite from what had been an unenviable norm.

A recap from week two of the Steelers 2019 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

The chance to participate together in actual football activities for a change, the opportunity to begin the process of team building and team bonding has been embraced by veteran Steelers, by rookie Steelers and by those who would be Steelers.

"Ton of fun," first-year linebacker JT Jones gushed after one of the first six sessions. "Any time you get to put on a helmet, run around and chase the quarterback that's all I can ask for, man, that's all I can ask for."

Veterans concurred, beginning with OTA No. 1 on May 21.

"Man, it's just a good feeling to get back out here," cornerback Joe Haden announced. "When you start putting helmets on, when you start going against the offense, that's just what it's really about."

Added quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "This is kinda the first football thing. To be able to come out here and put a helmet on and get under center and get snaps and throw to guys and go against the defense, it's kinda turned back to football again, it's fun."

Presumably, it's that from Atlanta to Seattle at this juncture.

There's no pressure during OTAs, nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So all the smiles, camaraderie and laughter are, to an extent, standard.

It's been that for the Steelers, but it's also been more than just OTA business as usual.

"The team definitely feels a lot different," offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva maintained during the first week of OTAs. "This is going to be my sixth year and this is by far the most amount of change, positive change that I've seen since I've been here.

"Everybody's extremely excited."

Villanueva wouldn't elaborate regarding the specifics of the changes the Steelers are experiencing beyond "it's a lot of things.

"It's really good to be a Steeler right now," he added.

Guard Ramon Foster thinks so, too.

"You just see a bunch of guys that have their eyes open to everything around them more than anything, and that's being positive about what we have to do," Foster said this week. "It's been fun. It's definitely been a change for us in a sense but guys are locked into it. Guys are aware of what's going on, what has happened, but guys are closer, we talk more, we engage more.

"Even just out here, the way we work is a little bit different too, and that's a positive thing."

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