It was back to work for the black and gold on Tuesday with the first day of voluntary OTAs, and Coach Mike Tomlin likes what he sees so far during a time when team building and laying a foundation are at the forefront.
"We're here to lay some foundational things, to teach and learn, to understand the value of communication. Learn some cultural, foundational things that we believe are important to team building," said Tomlin on the field following the first practice. "To get to know one another. To get some football conditioning in. There's a myriad of things that we have an opportunity to do in a setting like this. Just appreciative of it and excited about continuing to get started and get to know these guys better individually and collectively. To get to know ourselves better. It's a good foundational time for players, but it's also good foundational time for coaches as individuals and collectively. Gaining the cohesion that's required to work cooperatively to train these guys.
"All of us out here are laying some foundational things and getting better and it was a good day from that perspective. And we won't try to draw too many conclusions. We'll just keep rolling that ball out and keep working."
It was a packed house at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for the first day, with the vast majority of players on hand for workouts that are strictly voluntary. And it was more a sign of leadership than anything to see the turnout.
"I know those guys individually and collectively," said Tomlin. "They know the power of their presence is not necessarily about their get better. It's young guys getting an opportunity to see them and learn from them. It's less about what we say in this business and more about what it is that we do. So, we got enough of those examples of guys that understand how we go about our business and are good professionals and can provide some examples for guys. That's what's exciting about it."
One of the hottest topics this offseason has been the quarterback position following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger this offseason, and Tomlin said it's too soon to provide any true insight into the pecking order with veterans Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky and rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett and seventh-round selection Chris Oladokun, but all were on hand working hard on day one.
"We're just working right now, teaching and learning. There'll be plenty of time for that," said Tomlin. "Nobody's going to win a job or lose a job out here in shorts in May. So, pardon me if I don't give you what you're looking for."
It's a tall task for whoever wins the competition, replacing Roethlisberger who spent 18 seasons in the black and gold and is likely headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame next.
Tomlin's advice to the four is simple, though.
"Be themselves," said Tomlin. "Be their best selves. That's going to be required. But be themselves."
More from Tomlin:
On if he had any more clarity on Stephon Tuitt:
"This is voluntary."
On if he would like to see Tuitt there:
"I focus my energy on those that are here. That's how I make it a productive day. Particularly in the football environment that we're in. We all know the nature of these workouts, they are all voluntary, so I'm doing a disservice to the men that made the commitment to be here if I have any other mentality."
On if there is any clarity at the center position:
"I don't know that I'm looking forward here in May. Again, like a lot of things we're just laying some foundational things and teaching and learning and identifying candidates for roles as opposed to divvying up the labor."
On Tyson Alualu coming back from his injury and what he looks for:
"I don't know that I'm looking for anything in that regard as we're out here today, wearing helmets, teaching, learning. Obviously, he has complete medical clearance to be out here. And so that component of his participation doesn't capture much of my attention."