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OTA Blog: Settling right in

Thursday, June 6

Settling right in: The Steelers wrapped up their OTAs on Thursday, completing three weeks of voluntary workouts before their mandatory three-day minicamp next week.

Linebacker Patrick Queen, who signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent after spending his first four seasons in the league with the Baltimore Ravens, said he is feeling good about his knowledge of the defense at this stage of the process.

"I am pretty comfortable right now," said Queen. "The last few days I didn't have any mental errors. That is what I aim for. Just to be able to go home and feel good."

Queen said the time during OTAs has been helpful for him as he adapts to his new surroundings, teammates and coaches before things get intense during training camp later in the summer.

"It's getting to know my teammates now," said Queen. "The more I get to know them, the more comfortable I get, the more we all talk and work through stuff. That is the biggest thing when you step on the football field, being able to have those guys back.

"Right now, it's about learning how those guys play. What they do in season. How they get along with each other. Are guys ones you can joke with or are you serious with them. It's like a relationship, trying to get to know them and the ins and outs."

One aspect the defense has been focused on as of late is communication. And it appears they are on the same page.

"It's real strong. Everybody is comfortable, everybody is getting it down," said Queen. "That is the biggest thing. That is why our defense is playing so fast right now because everybody is talking, everybody is communicating. Even when we don't do the things right, we don't have any egos, everybody goes to the situation, and we try to learn from it.

"There is a lot of communication. When you have the guys we have here, who communicate the way we do, fly to the ball, all the little details the coaches are giving us and put it on the field, you know you have a special group."

The Steelers participate in Day 10 of the 2024 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

Patterson ready for returns: With nine kick return touchdowns in his career, Cordarrelle Patterson is already the NFL record holder in that statistic.

With the new kickoff rules this season that were implemented to create even more kick returns, he hopes to add to that total now that he's joined the Steelers.

The 32-year-old was signed by the Steelers this offseason, with the acquisition announced on the same day the NFL voted to tweak its kickoff rules to create more returns by moving the defenders to the opposite side of the field to lessen the high-speed collisions. The new rule could create more space for return men, and Patterson is the best in NFL history at taking advantage of that.

"Hopefully," said Patterson, who has averaged 29.3 yards per kick return in his career. "It can work in everyone's favor. With this unit we've got, we've got to take advantage of this season. It's going to be new to everybody this year, so we've just got to figure it out and get a head start on everybody."

The Steelers and special teams coordinator Danny Smith have been working hard on that in their offseason program, which wrapped up Thursday. Now, all they have remaining is a mandatory minicamp next week before they're off until training camp in Latrobe at the end of July.

But the new rule has teams across the league scrambling to figure out how to implement and defend it.

"As soon as the rule happened, it was exciting for me," Patterson said. "It's going to be very different. But we've been planning it for a while, so hopefully we get a jump start on it."

It will be a definite change for the Steelers and Patterson. Because of the touchback rules that were implemented in recent seasons, kickoffs had become an afterthought in the NFL. Patterson had just 16 returns the past two seasons in Atlanta. But that also was because he became a bigger part of Atlanta's offense under then-head coach and current Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

Patterson rushed for more than 600 yards in both 2021 and 2022, and then had nearly 200 rushing yards last season despite the Falcons having both Bijan Robinson and Tyler Algier on their roster. A wide receiver when he broke into the NFL in 2013, he also had 52 receptions in Smith's offense in 2021.

Patterson said joining Smith in Pittsburgh was attractive to him when he became a free agent this offseason.

"It's something I know," Patterson said of Smith's offense. "I've been in it for three years, going on four years. When Arthur talked to me this offseason about joining, it was a no-brainer for me. I'm glad to be here, excited. Whatever I need to do to help this team win games, I'm going to do."

-- Blog entry by Dale Lolley

True professionals: Mike Tomlin wasn't as familiar with who Russell Wilson and Justin Fields are as individuals as the Steelers' head coach was convinced of what he was acquiring in both.

"They're professionals," Tomlin assessed as OTAs commenced. "I'm excited about that but I'm not surprised by it. There's an expectation there. Both guys have been franchise-like guys, if you will. They've gotten out of their cars in the morning and worn the responsibility of being that guy for a franchise."

Wilson and Fields arrive with a combined 226 starts, 125 wins and 374 touchdown passes on their NFL resumes. The vast majority of the stats have been authored by Wilson, who accounts for 188 of those starts, 115 of the victories and 334 of the passing touchdowns. Wilson, who will turn 36 in late November, is a former Walter Payton Man of the Year and Super Bowl champion.

But Fields, who celebrated his 25th birthday in March, is a former 11th-overall selection and brings the pedigree of a physical skill set that intrigues.

Both started as NFL rookies. And both have been starting long enough to embrace the expectation Tomlin referenced.

"That's always the standard," Wilson said. "The standard of excellence is always present. It's something that you learn and you're trained to do and you fully become. And you don't ever waiver."

Not if the expectation is to be met.

"We're the quarterback, no matter if it's me, Russ or Kyle (Allen)," Fields said. "If you're the quarterback, you're a leader on this team. The guys expect you to act like it. It just comes with playing the position. I've been playing quarterback my whole life. Quarterbacks are usually already put in that leadership position. I've been used to it."

Wilson is by far the more experienced of the two and the more decorated. And he's the one in the "pole position" to become the starter, according to Tomlin's assessment. But Fields has nonetheless been leading as he's been competing.

"I think we've been doing a good job of sharing leadership on the team," he said. "I think we both know that we've been franchise guys so it's nothing but respect for each other. (Wilson) leads the team, I lead the team and we lead in different ways."

Added Wilson: "I think it's your mentality that you bring every day. It's the attitude, the passion and love of the game. I've been fortunate, this is my 13th year. I've been to two Super Bowls. I've been fortunate to win one. I've been in a lot of amazing moments and games and situations. You use all that experience, and you understand that we have a really great chance to be special here, a really great chance to do everything that we want to do and accomplish. That's what we're working towards every day."

Both Wilson and Fields are demonstrating the appropriate attitude as well as the prerequisite ability at the quarterback position during OTAs. Tomlin is eager to see how it all translates.

"There's residual benefit from that," he maintained. "I'm excited about us receiving it."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Wednesday, June 5

Ready to play 'Minhah ball': If you take a glance at safety Minkah Fitzpatrick's career stats, there is one thing that stands out that he isn't happy about.

No turnovers created in 2023.

It's the first time in his career that the All-Pro didn't create a turnover and he knows it's time to get back to one thing.

'Minkah ball.'

With a revamped secondary and multiple changes on defense, Fitzpatrick is hoping the 2024 season allows him to do what he does best.

"Just let me play ball," said Fitzpatrick after Wednesday's OTA session. "That's it. Minkah ball."

Fitzpatrick is hoping adding players like DeShon Elliott, Donte Jackson, Patrick Queen and Dean Lowry just to name a few will help him be able to play his style of ball.

"As many great players as you could get in the field is going to help Minkah play Minkah ball," said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick is one of the many veterans who have been at every voluntary OTA session this year, the seven-year veteran even arriving a few weeks early before on-field workouts began.

For him, it was a chance to adapt to changes on the roster and the staff so that he is ready from the get-go.

"I think it's important when you have a lot of new faces in the building, and this year we have a lot of new faces, not just players but staff," said Fitzpatrick of his early arrival. "You want to start forming relationships early to make sure everybody's on the same page. If I came in now and they were teaching stuff that wasn't exactly what I was taught, I'd be playing catch up. I'm not big on doing that. I like being on the same page."

The Steelers participate in Day 9 of the 2024 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

Sutton happy to be back: The Steelers on Wednesday signed cornerback Cameron Sutton to a one-year deal, bringing the seven-year veteran back to where he began his career.

Sutton, who spent the 2023 season with the Detroit Lions, was happy to be back where he began his career as a third-round pick in 2017 out of Tennessee.

"All I can say is amazing man," the 29-year-old Sutton said following the team's OTA practice here Wednesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "I came into a great foundation and this organization is still the same way to this day. You know, the people obviously the players, the continuity, just being back around this atmosphere obviously, it's very heartwarming, heartfelt, and just light-hearted, a really light-hearted situation. I'm just here to be myself, be around the guys, and then just help the team win."

Sutton spent the first six seasons of his career with the Steelers, appearing in 84 games and making 39 starts. He became a full-time starter in 2021, making two interceptions that season and adding three more in 2022 before leaving in free agency to join the Lions last season.

Sutton had a career-high 65 tackles and added another interception, helping the Lions reach the NFC Championship.

Sutton brings some versatility to the Steelers' defense. He's played both outside and in the slot during his time in Pittsburgh and also has lined up at safety, at times.

"He's been in the system for a long time," safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said of Sutton. "He's been in the league for a long time. So he has experience, is a versatile player. (He can) play corner, can play nickel, can play dime and even safety if he had to. So he's another chess piece to the chessboard for us."

Getting back onto the field Wednesday was like he'd never left, even though some of the pieces in place were not here when he last played for the Steelers in 2022.

Though Fitzpatrick is a holdover, strong safety DeShon Elliott and cornerback Donte Jackson are new additions to the team this offseason, while cornerback Joey Porter Jr. was a second-round pick a year ago.

"We've got a few changes in the building," Sutton said. "Obviously, it's a couple of new faces around the building as well, but for the most part, everything's still the same. You know what I mean? I'm actually still in the same locker. So that's funny to just kind of see how everything is just kind of falling together and being able to touch the grass again today. Like I said, that was just a heart-felt moment."

As for those who, unlike the Steelers, are not willing to give him a second chance in regard to his incident this spring, Sutton isn't concerned.

"This is an opinion-based world," Sutton said. "My job is not to appeal to someone else. My job is to be the best version of myself. And how do I give that off to everyone around me? I'm in full control of that. So I'm never worried about a narrative. I'm never worried about what people say because more than likely, they don't know me more than anybody else. It gets back to just your foundation, your morals. You know who you are individually as a human being and just what you stand on. I'll hold my head high. Everybody goes through adversity. Everybody goes through things in their life that can change in both directions. So, it's all about how you stand on that, and what you do from that."

– Blog post by Dale Lolley

Steelers add Arnold: The Steelers signed defensive back Grayland Arnold to a one-year contract.

Arnold originally signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent time on the active roster and practice squad throughout that season, appearing in six games, starting one.

Arnold spent the last three seasons with the Houston Texans, appearing in 20 games. In 2023 he had 15 tackles, 11 of them solo stops, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble.

In four seasons he has appeared in 26 games, starting one. He has 26 total tackles, 16 of them solo stops, and two tackles for a loss. He also has one pass defensed and forced fumble. In addition, he has nine special teams tackles, four of them solo stops.

Arnold played college football at Baylor where he appeared in 37 games, recording 107 tackles, 82 of them solo stops, and seven interceptions.

Tuesday, June 4

Ready to make his mark: The Steelers receiver room has taken on a new look this offseason and one player who feels like he can make an impact in the group is veteran Van Jefferson.

Jefferson, who is entering his fifth season in the NFL, brings experience to the receiver room having appeared in 61 games, starting 35. He has 113 receptions for 1,600 yards, a 14.2-yard average, and 10 touchdowns.

He is hoping that his experience translates to his new team.

"I'm just embracing the opportunity, coming in and learning from all the guys and making the most of my opportunity, whatever that might be," said Jefferson. "That's kind of my mindset."

Jefferson is hoping to step into the No. 2 receiver spot with the departure of Diontae Johnson via a trade, but at the same time is willing to do whatever is asked and isn't afraid of working hard to earn whatever his role is.

"That's always the main goal, to come in and have that as a mindset," said Jefferson of starting. "But at the end of the day I am just trying to come in and be the best player I can be and earn the trust of the quarterbacks, the trust of coaches and make the most of the opportunity."

Jefferson has high expectations for himself for the 2024 season, and when asked if he can be a 1,000-yard receiver in offensive coordinator Arthur Smith's scheme, he had no hesitation with his answer.

"Oh yeah," said Jefferson, in a matter of fact yet not cocky manner. "You always think highly of yourself, always think you can do those things. So, I definitely I can do that. You've got to put in the work now in order to get that result. I am just taking it one day at a time, be where my feet are. I'm enjoying the moment now and the results take care of themselves."

One advantage Jefferson has is his experience with Smith. He was traded to the Atlanta Falcons during the 2023 season, earning some experience with Smith's offense. He is still learning, but the familiarity is a big advantage.

"He is an amazing guy, amazing coach," said Jefferson. "I got traded in the middle of the season, so I wasn't that perfect with the offense. Now I've got a full offseason under my belt learn his offense, so it's been helpful."

Jefferson said Smith has brought the same approach he had in Atlanta to Pittsburgh, one where he seeks the best out of every player.

"He still has that personality," said Jefferson. "Just get you going. He wants everything to be perfect. He wants the guys that work hard."

Jefferson was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the 57th overall selection. He spent his first three seasons, and part of his fourth, with the Rams before he was traded to the Falcons early in the 2023 season.

He played in five games for the Rams in 2023, starting four, and had eight receptions for 108 yards, a 13.5-yard average. With the Falcons he played in 12 games, starting five, and finished with 12 receptions for 101 yards, an 8.4-yard average.

Now, he wants more and is ready to work for that No. 2 spot.

"Obviously I have a lot of confidence in myself," said Jefferson. "Like I said, I've got to put in the work to get that opportunity. Nothing is given, nothing is going to be handed to me. I've got to work for that spot and I'm comfortable doing that."

The Steelers participate in Day 8 of the 2024 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

Heyward is back: Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward was at the Steelers OTAs practice on Tuesday, the first session he has attended this offseason.

Watch what he had to say below, or read the full story here.

Happily ever after: Kicker Chris Boswell shared some joyful news on social media this week, that he and Havana Boswell tied the knot. The happy couple were glowing in their beautiful wedding photos.

Monday, June 3

Fun and games for a day: The Steelers traded their helmets for rollercoasters and thrill rides on Monday when the team went to Kennywood Park for a morning of fun and team bonding.

It's become an annual tradition to do something outside the box during OTAs, and this year it was a family affair, as players and coaches were able to bring their families to the park that was filled with laughter and smiles.

"If it's important to Coach Tomlin, then it has to be important to us," said guard Isaac Seumalo. "I think everyone was glad to have a day like that. The biggest thing is families were invited, guys with kids, it was big for them. Guys were having a good time."

Rookie Payton Wilson enjoyed the bonding aspect with his teammates, but also got to experience his first rollercoaster ride.

"It was super cool, especially for me, not being from the area and being able to get out and explore some," said Wilson. "It was great to do with the guys and coaches, the bonding. The best teams are always the closest.

"And this was different. We don't have amusement parks where I am from, so it was massive. It was one of my first times riding a rollercoaster, but I enjoyed it."


Thursday, May 30

Just what he expected: When Donte Jackson was traded from the Carolina Panthers to the Steelers in March, his first reaction was excitement as he immediately said he always 'admired the Steelers.'

Now, with two weeks of OTAs under their belts, Jackson is still feeling the same way and loves the approach and attitude he has seen.

"It's been great. This is a football building," said Jackson. "It's great to get in here with these guys, learn the system, learn the Steelers way and how everybody does things. It's been amazing.

"It's everything I thought it would be when I first found out I got traded here."

One of the things he truly has enjoyed is playing for Coach Mike Tomlin. While it's just been a short time, he is already loving it and said Tomlin is everything he expected.

"When you are on the outside looking in, you think exactly what you see in interviews," said Jackson. "You think he is a very genuine guy. He loves football. He loves the Steelers.

"When you get here, that is exactly what it is. He is a very transparent guy on how he feels, what he likes, what he doesn't. He is a football guy. He is a big reason for the standard and the culture being the way it is.

"Just being here a few weeks, being in the team meetings and seeing him walk around, how he engages with guys. It's everything you thought it would be. It's a blessing being here. You get to see that type of greatness from players and coaches too up close. It's been a great experience."

The Steelers participate in Day 6 of the 2024 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

A sign of the times: Over the past few weeks Steelers rookies have been learning a football language as they adapt to the playbook and calls on the field.

But on Wednesday, they had the opportunity to be introduced to a different language all together.

American Sign Language.

Instructors and students from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf took part in a class with the rookies, teaching them the basics to help them communicate with others as a part of the team's Rookie Development Program.

"We talk about transferable skills, and we talk about communicating. Usually when we travel out of the country, the first thing we say is we wish we spoke that language," said Darrel Young, the Steelers Director of Player Development. "So, you never know when you're in a situation like that. I did a suicide training a few years ago, and it opened my eyes to honing in on skills that we do every day, or people do every day, that we don't even realize that could actually help us. I set this class up before I even knew some of the guys in the rookie class actually understood signing, which was really cool.

"We thought it was a unique opportunity. It's something outside of the realm of sitting in the classroom for a lecture. That was the most interactive rookie session I've ever had. They brought students in, so you actually got to see them doing it, and some of them can hear some, some of them couldn't. But to actually interact and learn their names. And then the school let the kids give the players shirts with their names on the back in sign language.

"But seeing those kids, it was just a constant reminder of how blessed we are, honestly. Just to take advantage of, you know, where you are right now, be present where your feet are and be thankful, but also give back."

For Zach Frazier the class was special as his aunt, uncle and two cousins are deaf, and he has learned some sign language, but is still a work in progress.

"It was pretty special," said Frazier. "I have family who are deaf. It was cool to have the young kids teach us and get to meet them. It meant a lot. They said we can come and volunteer and take some classes. It makes me want to get involved with them."

Frazier was so happy with the class, he reached out to his uncle later that evening.

"I got on FaceTime with my uncle," said Frazier. "I thought it was cool we were doing an ASL class and called and told him. I doubt any other teams do that. It was a cool experience."

Fellow rookie Ryan Watts took an American Sign Language class while at the University of Texas, something he was motivated to do after he wasn't able to communicate with a deaf customer at a job he had early on.

"I took Spanish in high school and I was interested in taking sign language because I had an encounter with a customer when I was working at a snow cone shop," said Watts. "They were signing to me. I had no idea what it was, so I had an interest in learning.

"When I walked into the room and saw what we were doing, I was extremely excited because it's something I did in the past. It brought a lot of joy to my heart. To see everyone else have that fun and be excited to learn it meant a lot to me too, introducing others to sign language. It's a great community.

"It meant a lot to me seeing them there. I was as excited as them. I got to work on what I learned and put it to use."

Beanie Bishop experienced what it's like to have a family member deal with the hearing impairment, as his sister Nia is deaf.

"It was great. It made me want to learn it more," said Bishop. "I want to get into that space and expand my knowledge and ways to be able to communicate with her not through text and being able to communicate with people in other communities."

Wait-and-see-approach: Dramatic rule and procedural changes have revolutionized kickoffs, and those who will be tasked with returning and covering them this season are as eager as anyone else to find out how it's all going to eventually play out.

"The biggest change is it's actually going to be a play now," Steelers special teams captain and 2023 First-Team Associated Press All-Pro special teams player Miles Killebrew suggested. "Teams are incentivized to return the ball. With player safety initiatives taking the forefront of the attention, they're taking a lot of running off of the play itself. We're very interested here in Pittsburgh with making sure that we have a full grasp on the rules, because the rules are so fresh. Once we fully understand what can be utilized and what advantage we can gain, it's only then that we'll be able to start practicing that."

It's all theory in the OTAs stage of team development, but Killebrew's suspicion is there will be fireworks.

"It almost turns into a glorified stretch play," he said. "I think you're gonna see a lot of explosive plays this year. I think there's gonna be a lot of touchdowns because once you get past that first layer there's no one else there. You don't have the time for safeties to fold behind. There's not multiple layers with guys running down the field at different speeds.

"It's gonna be a very impactful play and I think you're gonna see a lot of explosiveness come from that area of the game."

The Steelers signed running back/kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson shortly after the rules changes were announced. But even Patterson, the author of nine career kickoff returns for touchdowns, will have to adjust.

"Oh, 100 percent," Killebrew insisted. "It's different for all of us. As much as we can speculate, unless we've played in the XFL or the UFL we've never done this before. It's gonna be fresh for all of us. I think there's gonna be a lot more people watching this Hall of Fame Game than ever before, myself included. It's probably gonna take the place of one of our (special teams) meetings (in training camp) because we just want to see it in real time."

The Hall of Fame Game is scheduled for Aug. 1 in Canton, Ohio (Bears vs. Texans).

"Technique (in coverage) is going to be paramount," Killebrew continued. "I think a lot of times guys could get away from technique with just speed or pure aggression because there was time and distance to do so. But now it's gonna be all technique because it's gonna be close-quarters combat right now.

"You're not gonna be able to hide behind speed. It's gonna be really quick, it's gonna be fast and guys are gonna have to drop, get their blocks and guys on the kickoff team are going to have to defeat those blocks very quickly, very efficiently. They can't get reach, they can't get out of their gaps because it's gonna be a touchdown."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Wednesday, May 29

Leading the way: OTAs are a time for players to bond on and off the field, and that has been happening across the board through the first two weeks.

And it went to the next level when quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Justin Fields took the offensive linemen out to dinner, something the line appreciated, and Wilson said was good with all the hard work everyone has been putting in.

"It's been cool. These guys are so focused," said Wilson. "They work their butts off in the weight room, on the field, in the film room. Just to be able to share life experiences with one another as much as we can. It's been hectic, it's been busy. The more we spend time together, the better. It was a good dinner for sure."

It's another sign of the leadership both quarterbacks have shown since their arrival in Pittsburgh, Wilson via free agency and Fields via a trade. They have made an impression on their teammates, but for them, it's all about the team.

"Everybody's been working," said Wilson. "It's not just about me, it's about them, it's about us all together. It's been a lot of fun. It's been a cool experience so far. We are just putting the work in, staying focused and doing everything we can to stay successful."

The two quarterbacks, along with other leaders on the team, have kept the energy level high at practice, something that has been noticeable.

"We are competing every day, getting the ball in the end zone, making plays. The defense going back and forth," said Wilson. "The energy is high. We have such a talented team and Coach (Mike) Tomlin does a great job at practice."

Paying close attention: Rookie center Zach Frazier has been a sponge since OTAs began, soaking in as much information as he can from the team's veteran offensive linemen.

And one player in particular who has been a great source for him is guard Isaac Seumalo.

"It's great to have guys like that, Isaac specifically," said Frazier. "It's pretty cool to watch him and just see how good he is and try to pick up how he works, how he practices and ask him things because he's obviously played a lot of football, seen a lot of things and he's a great veteran."

It's every little detail of how Seumalo handles himself that Frazier is taking note of, as he truly understands how important the small things are.

"It's the little things," said Frazier of what he is picking up. "Just the way he moves and stuff. You can tell it's a different speed that he plays with, and I just try to watch him and learn as much as I can."

Seeing his game grow: Receiver Calvin Austin III has a passion for football, but in his rookie season in 2022, that passion was tested when he missed the year on the Reserve/Injured List.

Last year, the passion was in full effect when he was back on the field, loving every minute of his first NFL playing time.

And now, heading into Year 3, he has seen his game grow, even if he knows there is still a way to go.

"I saw my game grow a lot," said Austin. "I didn't reach some of the goals I set out for myself at the start of the year. But I learned a lot. It excites me. I know the things I need to do, the changes I need to make. Especially after playing a season. I have it all lined up and I think I will be able to reach those goals.

"Going into this third year, I know what I need as far as my route detail. I used to say I will work on everything, but now it's specific things that you need to focus on and clean up to steadily improve my game. I would say route detail and overall body composition."

Progress report: Dan Moore Jr. is only entering his fourth NFL season, but with 49 career regular-season starts at left offensive tackle under his belt, "I feel like a vet," Moore acknowledged after OTA No. 5.

Enough of one to give a mid-OTAs assessment of the Steelers' rookie draft class of offensive linemen. First up was No. 1 pick Troy Fautanu, an offensive tackle from Washington.

"I think Troy's doing a really good job with his transition," Moore said of Fautanu, who has been working on the right side after playing left tackle at Washington. "I definitely wouldn't compare him to me because he looks a lot better at right tackle than I did (last year), for sure. He has good feet, he's got long arms, he has a lot of tools that are going to make him a really good player, for sure.

"I guess the biggest thing for Troy (in adjusting to the NFL), with tackles, is just snap count. That's the hardest thing to grasp. Edge defenders are so much faster off the ball. "

As for Zach Frazier, a second-round center from West Virginia, "for him, it's more so the mental game," Moore continued.

"Playing center you have so many things to memorize, snap count, IDs.
"So just trying to calm him down a little bit, take a little bit of the anxiety away from him and just ease his mind a little bit."

The third member of the rookie offensive line class is fourth-round pick Mason McCormick, a guard from South Dakota State.

"I think Mason, he's gonna be a really good player," Moore maintained. "I think he has some good tools, he's football smart. You could just tell he kinda moves like a vet just with his routine and everything. I think Mason's gonna be a good player."

One thing helping the rookies along, in Moore's estimation, is the opportunity to play in new coordinator Arthur Smith's offense, which Moore characterized as "kinda O-line friendly.

"Obviously, a run-first offense," Moore emphasized. "Offensive line, we love it, so looking forward to it. No offensive line likes to drop back in pass protection 45 snaps a game. Those guys on the other side of the ball, they get paid millions to do that (rush the passer). We want to keep them away from doing what they want to do and being aggressive and attacking teams on the ground."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

The Steelers participate in Day 5 of the 2024 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

Tuesday, May 28

Always moving forward: As receiver Calvin Austin III is preparing for his third NFL season, there is one thing that he knows for sure.

Improving every day is a must.

"In this league, you've got to improve or you're going to get left behind," said Austin. "Each offseason you always want to go in with a goal in mind and a mindset. My mindset hasn't changed. I've always been a hard worker and a guy that's going to do the best I can anytime I step on the field. I'm trying to become a complete receiver. I think it'll show on the field.

"If you haven't improved, you're going to get left behind. I feel like the game has slowed down and, I'm really out there knowing what I can do mid-route, before the route, during the route and actually reading and not just going out there running. So, I think the game has slowed down even more and I'm feeling very comfortable."

Austin has seen the Steelers add to the receiver position this offseason, through the draft with Roman Wilson and free agency with Van Jefferson, Scotty Miller and Quez Watkins.

He doesn't let any of it faze him, approaching every day with the same drive.

"I would be like that if they told me I had a guaranteed starting spot. If they brought in nobody. If they brought everybody in," said Austin. "I'm a walk on. That literally has always been my mindset no matter what. Nothing can change it. It's just business as usual."

While that might be business as usual, the Steelers offense under new coordinator Arthur Smith isn't. Smith has not just made changes to the offensive scheme, but also is changing the overall feel.

"It's a lot more intensity and a push behind it," said Austin. "Like we say around here, it's not just lip service, not just saying something. Now we'll say something in meetings and we are going out on the field and Coach is looking for that. He's pushing for that. It's not just saying it to sound good. We're actually going out there and you can feel that we're pushing on offense. We're pushing everybody to be perfect in details and everything. And it's still early. You're not going to be perfect, but you know the coaches are pushing for that."

And that striving for perfection is something everyone is embracing.

"If it's not well received by any player, then that player probably doesn't belong here," said Austin. "We're pushing to be great. We're not pushing to have a winning record. No, we're pushing to be world champions. If you're not, if you don't have that same mindset..."

Untapping potential: As the Steelers began their second week of OTAs, one of the hot topics continues to be the new offense implemented by coordinator Arthur Smith.

The reaction from the players has been nothing but positive, with Smith bringing excitement to that side of the ball.

"I feel like everybody's role has changed with the offense," said tight end/fullback Connor Heyward. "A lot of tight ends, usage of the receivers, fullbacks and quarterback mobility. It's a change for everybody, but it's a good change."

One thing many players have highlighted about Smith's offense is the physicality of play, something that can't be implemented during OTAs but is evident in Smith's coaching.

"Coach Smith, that's his big emphasis, bringing the force to them and not having the defense dictate the line of scrimmage, taking the fight to them with the guys we have up front," said Heyward. "When we get in different personnel, we're going to use that to our strength. We're very versatile in our (tight end) room alone.

"But you have Isaac Seumalo, Broderick (Jones), (Nate) Herbig upfront, and all the guys we drafted. We definitely have made that an emphasis. We know how important it is to run the ball because that's going to open everything up and we have George (Pickens) and so many weapons. I think this year we're going to be able to untap a lot of potential."

The Steelers participate in Day 4 of the 2024 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

Man of few words: Veteran guard Isaac Seumalo is a man of few words, but when he does talk, his words carry a lot of weight.

Especially for young offensive linemen.

Rookies Troy Fautanu, Zach Frazier and Mason McCormick all have their lockers close to Seumalo, and all have leaned on him for advice, or just picking things up from watching him.

And he likes what he has seen from the newest additions to the offensive line.

"They've been awesome," said Seumalo. "Super coachable, obviously super talented. Have come in and all they want to do is learn and get better. And that's great because that's all we're all here to do."

Fautanu admitted from the time he arrived in Pittsburgh that he would lean on Seumalo for advice, but so far the veteran said it's been just fine.

"I think he gets coached so much, I just try to help where I can," said Seumalo. "I don't want to push. I think these rookies, to a certain degree, kind of want to find and earn their own keep. I'll help here and there.

"It's been great, having him here, all three of the rookies. They're going to help our team a lot."

Frazier is in a competition for the starting center job, and Seumalo likes what he sees in the early going.

"He's still a rookie and it's coming along," said Seumalo. "It's coming along quickly. I will say Nate's (Herbig) been doing a great job. It'll be a fun competition for both of them. Whoever shows up, I know will be able to help us a lot."

Grasping the challenge: The competition at slot cornerback includes a fourth-year pro in former Jaguars and Eagles cornerback Josiah Scott, a former fourth-round draft pick who understands the demands of the position in theory and in practice.

"I came into the league as a slot corner," Scott recalled after OTA No. 4. "I'm most comfortable there. I've played many snaps, had many reps there. At slot you're asked to know, I feel like, a lot more of the defense. You have to know what the front is doing. You have to know what's going on outside of you, behind you. You're kinda like a mini linebacker. There's a lot more on your plate, having to take on guard puling, playing in the box, guarding against receivers. There's a lot asked of an inside corner so there's definitely more to it."

Scott, 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, was initially a fourth-round pick by Jacksonville out of Michigan State in 2020. He spent one season with the Jaguars and two with the Eagles before landing on the Steelers' practice squad at the conclusion of training camp last season. Scott wound up on the practice squad/reserve injured last Sept. 14, and eventually ended up back in Philadelphia.

He appeared in four games for the Eagles last season and has played 39 (with four starts) in his NFL career, experiences that have helped him transition back into the picture in the Steelers' secondary.

"I've picked up on the defense really well," Scott said. "I'm able to play fast, just understanding the guys around me and playing with them, knowing what they like, what they don't like, just being communicative and taking advantage of each and every day."

The job at slot corner remains open and Scott intends to win it day by day.

"Regardless if it's open or not, I'm going to come in to work every single day," he emphasized. "Regardless if it's an open spot, or I'm the front-runner, or whatever the case may be, I'm coming here to work every single day. I've been in the league, going on my fifth year now, I kinda know how this business goes. You can't take a day for granted at all. It's just me coming here every single day doing my best."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Thursday, May 23

Learning from legends: There is no better lesson for a Steelers rookie than to hear from the legends who wore black and gold before them. Players who set the standard that they are now working to uphold.

Earlier this week, they got some amazing first-hand advice from two of those legends in Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis and receiver Hines Ward. Both were taking part in the Resilience Bowl at Acrisure Stadium, and the rookies were able to catch up with them on the sideline.

"It's surreal because you grew up watching those guys," said linebacker Payton Wilson. "To be on the sideline, getting inspiration from them. Not only hearing what they are saying, but how they are interacting with people. It's just a good tale of how to live your life both on and off the field. They are so humble, giving back to the community, and they are some of the greatest people to ever play this game. It was truly inspiring.

"It's really cool to see that it's almost a fraternity. I don't know about other players, but it's special how close everybody is. You want to be in a locker room like that."

First-round pick Troy Fautanu quietly watched the players interacting with others and listened intently as both Bettis and Ward shared words of wisdom.

"Jerome told us just come in every day, put your head down and work and do everything you're told to do," said Fautanu. "Don't try and go against the grain. Learn what the Steelers are about and the culture around here, that you're not only playing for yourself and your family, but you're playing for the great City of Pittsburgh."

For Zach Frazier, who grew up in Fairmont, West Virginia and saw some Steelers football when he was younger, meeting some legends that he watched as a kid was special.

"It was amazing," said Frazier. "Getting advice from them. It was cool to see legends like them, get advice and soak it all in. The best advice for me was when Jerome said to absorb everything the coaches are trying to teach you because at the end of the day, those are the people who decide who gets to play, who will be on the field. So just try to do everything that they say. It you make mistakes, correct them how they want you to correct them."


Trust the process: Coach Mike Tomlin always talks about players having the arrow pointed up.

For first-round pick Troy Fautanu, once he got through the first day of OTAs this week, the arrow was pointing up.

Fautanu admitted Day 1 was 'rough' for him, but things changed quickly.

"My first impression of practice is it's a lot different than college," said Fautanu. "Just the adjustment to the speed, especially the guys on the edge. (Tuesday) it was a rough one, but it was a little bit better (after). That's what I'm hearing a lot from the guys. Just find something to get better at. I emphasized that today and felt like I did.

"I'm learning a lot from these guys, especially Dan (Moore Jr.), Broderick (Jones), Isaac (Seumalo). Just everybody in the room. Isaac. They're all taking me under their wing and helping me out."

Fautanu said one of the best things he was told by the veteran offensive linemen is to simply trust the process.

"Just trust the process," said Fautanu. "Just trust in it that every day is going to get better if you just continue to work. So that was the greatest thing for sure."

Off to a strong start: Week 1 of OTAs is in the books and linebacker Alex Highsmith is happy with how things have been so far.

"It feels awesome to be back out here, be with the guys," said Highsmith. "It's amazing. Football is in the air. I love being out here working with the guys, getting better every day. It's been a good first week.

"So far OTAs have been really good. Just trying to build every day. We have a lot of new guys, so I am super grateful and thankful."

A combination of new players on defense, and young guys who have emerged, is a theme this season. And one player who has caught Highsmith's eye so far is second-year defensive lineman Keeanu Benton. Benton played in all 17 games last season, starting nine of them, and finished the season with 36 tackles, 16 of them solo stops, two forced fumbles and a sack.

Highsmith is expecting big things out of him as he takes the jump to Year 2.

"We have seen a lot from him growth wise coming into his second year," said Highsmith. "He is someone who came in and played a lot his rookie year and made an impact. Seeing him come in and make an impact is amazing for us. Him stepping up into a role his second year is going to be awesome for us. There are going to be a lot of guys stepping up and he is one."

One thing Highsmith loves that the front office did this offseason is build depth on the entire defense, whether it be through free agency or the draft.

"I think every position we have a lot of depth," said Highsmith. "They did a good job this offseason of getting a lot of guys who can play. Guys who can come in and be an impact player. We know if someone goes down, we have guys who can come in and make plays."

Different place, familiar faces: Sixth-year wide receiver Scotty Miller is new to the Steelers but also a former teammate of three of the Steelers' other veteran off-season acquisitions.

Miller played in Atlanta in 2023 along with running back/kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson, tight end MyCole Pruitt and wide receiver Van Jefferson under then-Falcons head coach Arthur Smith. Smith has since become the Steelers' new offensive coordinator.

"I've only been here for about two weeks but it's been great," Miller assessed after OTA No. 3 at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "It's a lot of guys that are excited for the opportunity in the room. It's just been fun to get to work with them so far. It's great to be back with 'C.P.' (Patterson), 'Pru' (Pruitt), Van and, obviously, 'Coach Art' (Smith). It's been great. Obviously, we all liked what we were doing in Atlanta with him and the system he runs and what he does about his business.

"It's been great to get up here with him, get back to work. It's weird seeing him in a different color, being the O.C, now, but it's been fun so far."

Such familiarity is easing Miller's transition to the Steelers.

"A lot of the verbiage is very similar," he said. "A lot of what (Smith) does, I think he caters to what personnel he has very well. We ran a lot of bigger personnels because we had a lot of good tight ends in Atlanta. Here we have a lot of different type of guys, good running backs, stuff like that. I think he does a good job putting guys in different positions to make plays."

Miller, 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, arrives with 85 career catches for 1,085 receiving yards and six touchdowns, including 11 catches for 161 yards and two scores last season with the Falcons.

"No. 1, the one thing I bring is big-play ability, something I've been able to show in my career," Miller maintained. "We have a lot of guys that have speed here, as well, but that's something I can be, and hopefully just reliable. It's my sixth year now, so consistency every single day."

Miller spent four seasons in Tampa Bay before joining the Falcons, including the Buccaneers' Super Bowl season in 2020.

"Obviously, I was blessed to work with (quarterback) Tom (Brady) for three years down in Tampa," Miller said. "But it's been great working with (Steelers quarterbacks) Russ (Wilson) and Justin (Fields). Both super-talented guys, both guys that can really throw the deep ball so for a guy like me, I love it. I love going to work with them every day, both great leaders.

"It's been fun to go out there with them."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

The Steelers participate in Day 3 of the 2024 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex