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Moving on to the next step

The final stage of the Steelers offseason program kicks off on Tuesday, with a three-day mandatory minicamp.

It’s the culmination of what began back in April with Phase One of the offseason, where all players were permitted to do was basically work with the strength and conditioning staff, and has slowly developed into the OTAs, and now the minicamp.

“It’s that last thing before training camp,” said Tyson Alualu. “It’s preparing your body, playing football. When it’s over we go from that to how we trained early in the offseason and back to camp. This prepares you mentally for camp.”

The minicamp isn’t at the level of what training camp is. But there still is competition. And it picks up even a little more from OTAs, even if it isn’t close to what training camp is like.

“It’s a little taste of training camp,” said Tyler Matakevich. “That is what you work hard for, to be ready for training camp, which then gets you ready for the season. This is just another phase that you have to crank up a little bit and get ready to go.

“The intensity is more, the practices are longer, more like regular season. There is more meeting time. That definitely puts you in the football season mode.

“It’s huge. It’s very important. You are another step closer to training camp. It gives you a taste and gets you ready for it to start.”

The schedule will be similar to what the rookies faced during their three-day minicamp early in May, but that will be the only similarity they will see. With everyone on the field, and the pace now picking up more and more each day, it will be different.

“The intensity picks up,” said Alualu. “I think the rookies are the ones that will notice it the most, see the change. It will be closer to what training camp is like, just not with the pads. I think that will be the difference. Guys will be flying around more, getting after it and taking the competition to another level.”

Maurkice Pouncey is getting set for his ninth minicamp, and to him, the offseason is all the same.

“It’s pretty much the same practice, it’s just mandatory for guys to be here,” said Pouncey. “Nothing intensifies too much until we hit training camp and then the season starts up.

“I think it’s more getting ready for the offseason to start up again and getting ready for the real season to start.”

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