The first regular season game isn't until September, but football season got underway for many Steelers' players on Monday with the first day of voluntary workouts. Players are permitted to do conditioning work at the team's practice facility with the strength and conditioning staff, and there was a large turnout for the first session, including a mix of veterans and young players.
"It's great to see so many guys come out, especially after a disappointing year last year," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "Everyone is here on the first day ready to work and hopefully get back on the winning side of things.
"I just wanted to show you don't have to just be a young guy to want to be here. That is why I have been here 12 years. I made it a point, especially in my younger days, to be at all of these. It shows you want to work to get better and you want to keep your job. That is what it's all about."
While there were some familiar faces in the building, offseason moves also changed the makeup of the team, something that hasn't gone unnoticed but was expected by many of the players after the team finished 8-8 in 2012.
"There have been a lot of changes, a lot of guys have moved on," said Keisel. "That is the nature of this business. It's that way every year. Every year you have a different team. We have to find a way to win games with the new team we have this year.
"A lot of teams would be happy to be 8-8, but we are not. We are looking at it as very disappointing. You have to find ways to correct the mistakes. You have to get guys who are ready to step up and play. We are a young team now. Everyone has said how old we are for a long time. We have a lot of young guys that have to seize this opportunity and play great ball."
One player who should get that chance is cornerback Cortez Allen. Allen, entering his third season, is looking to take over the starting left cornerback spot vacated when Keenan Lewis signed with the New Orleans Saints in March. Allen started three games in 2012, and his focus this offseason is taking it to the next level.
"I am approaching it like every offseason, work on the things I felt I needed to improve during the season, continue to get better and elevate," said Allen. "I am focused on getting better individually. I want to be more consistent, stronger mentally and transition to a starting role on the outside. It's a challenge, but I am up for it."
Among the newcomers at voluntary workouts was quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, a seven-year veteran who signed with the team in March. Monday was an opportunity for him to start building a rapport with his new teammates, including Ben Roethlisberger, and he was happy to finally get his Steelers' career rolling.
"Ever since I signed I couldn't wait for this day because this is the start of the 2013 football season," said Gradkowski. "We're excited to get it started. Just to see all of the guys here working hard, Ben, the linemen, Keisel. It's an exciting time.
"It was a great turnout today. You see guys working hard and getting their bodies in shape. It's the time of year to get your bodies right for football. It's about team bonding and getting to know the guys and getting ready for the next process."
Gradkowski, who grew up in Pittsburgh, always admired the organization from the outside looking in, and it only took one official day on the job for that admiration to be fully justified.
"This is the Steelers' way," said Gradkowski of the feeling among his teammates. "It's a championship organization. It's a family. You come here and see how close the team is in the weight room and locker room. Guys are excited to get started. The exciting part is getting around your teammates. There aren't meetings. It's not about football. It's about lifting, running, and getting your body in shape. It's a process and you take it one step at a time.
"This is the time that the season starts. It starts now and it goes until next February when you are holding the (Lombardi) trophy up."