OTAs are beyond valuable for rookies and young players, getting a slowed down, no contact version of what is about to come during training camp.
But for Vance McDonald, who is heading into his sixth season in the NFL, OTAs this year are more valuable than ever.
McDonald was traded to the Steelers during training camp last year, so he has been a regular at the practice facility all offseason, taking in every minute and utilizing every opportunity, and that has continued in OTAs.
"It's nice just having the whole offseason to develop," said McDonald. "Just get more detailed on the plays and getting to know the offense better. It makes a huge difference. For me individually, having those reps, building that muscle memory of running different routes and stuff. You could only do so much last season. Just coming out here you may try something else, something you might see a wide out running in their route trees. It's just fun to have those opportunities.
"It's little bitty nuances I am working on. Being able to work on things that you don't necessarily have the time to do in a small work week when you are in season. Especially with mine, it was fast forward. It's those little bitty details and routes."
McDonald is also using the time to continue to develop a relationship with Ben Roethlisberger. Yes, the two worked together last season. But in season when things are moving fast paced, versus the offseason when there is time to get into each other's heads, talk and get comfortable, is night and day.
"It comes down to getting the reps right now while I have time and build a relationship with Ben and go from there," said McDonald. "It's awesome. You can't just fast forward that and press the skip button. It's stuff you have to do repetitively every day. It's fun to have the opportunity."
McDonald also played in only 10 games last season, starting seven, hampered by multiple injuries that slowed the progress that was already delayed by his late arrival in camp.
"As coaches, they have it on the line, and you don't necessarily put a guy out there that hasn't done it and been able to do it in practice," said McDonald. "Games matter .We only get 16 opportunities. Just being able to come out here and just try things, it gives the coaches confidence. Missing time last year was big. I'm glad it's behind me."
Dirty Red on fire: Another player who is enjoying OTAs is Tyler Matakevich. And again, for good reason.
Matakevich underwent surgery on his left shoulder after the 2017 season ended, the result of an injury that initially occurred Week 6 of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs. It would limit how much Matakevich could contribute on defense, but he could still be a key factor on special teams.
Things went relatively smooth for Matakevich, until the Week 13 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Ryan Shazier went down in the first half with a spinal injury, and Matakevich was called upon to take the reps on defense. He thought he would be fine, but in the third quarter the shoulder popped out again.
"It was frustrating. Very frustrating," said Matakevich. "These opportunities don't come along too often. When you get an opportunity, you have to make the most out of it and run with it. I was excited to get an opportunity. I knew I was going to do it the best I could with one arm.
"The good news is we got it fixed. We have a new season, new OTAs, new training camp and now get ready for the season."
During the offseason Matakevich said his goal was to be back full tilt for OTAs. He has done just that, proving once again don't count out the former seventh round draft pick.
"I have been counted out my whole life," said Matakevich. "That is why I have the chip on my shoulder, and am the way I am. I take it day-by-day, enjoy every day I am out here with these guys, try to get better and help this team."