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OTAs Blog: Making connections

Thursday, June 8

Making connections: The Steelers released the training camp schedule on Thursday, and for some newcomers to the roster it was a chance to think about what is ahead when the team reports to Saint Vincent College on July 26.

"I am looking forward to it," said linebacker Cole Holcomb. "I have heard a lot about Latrobe and what goes on over there, so I am excited."

Holcomb, who signed this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, only went away to camp one year while he was with the Washington Commanders, so he is excited for the football all-day approach it will bring.

"When you go to camp it's football 24/7," said Holcomb. "You aren't going to get that amount of focus and time if you are going back to the house, have the wife and kids around, things like that.

"It allows you to eliminate any outside distractions, which I think is important."

He isn't the only one that going to a college campus is going to be a new experience for.

Fellow linebacker Elandon Roberts knows in order to become a team it starts with bonding, and there is no better place to bond than in the confines of camp.

"I think from a team camaraderie standpoint it can do great things," said Roberts. "Right after practice, even if guys go right to the hotel where you are staying, you aren't talking to your teammates. I feel like this type of setting is beneficial from a leadership standpoint. You see guys around the dorm, and you can learn about a guy you didn't know anything about. It's beneficial from a camaraderie standpoint."

Safety Keanu Neal went away for camp one season while with the Dallas Cowboys, but he feels like heading to Saint Vincent College is going to be a unique and special experience.

"I think being in one space together as a collective team builds chemistry, allows us to get to know each other, allows us to be around each other more, which is good to get an understanding of people outside of football," said Neal. "That helps us out on the field building relationships.

"It's all about connecting. Getting to know people. Getting a feel for them. This part of OTAs, minicamp and training camp benefits me getting to know everyone, how they are on the field and off the field and making those connections."

Plenty of laughs: Comedian Matt Rife stopped by the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Thursday, visiting with players on the field and in the locker room, and even making a few plays on the field.

Rife, who is performing in Pittsburgh this week, is known for his comedy specials Only Fans and Matthew Steven Rife, and also appeared on NBC's Bring the Funny comedy competition series in 2019. He also has appeared on Wild 'N Out, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fresh Off the Boat and Burb Patrol and had roles in movies Mountain, North of the 10 and Just Swipe.

Rife has also built a huge following on social media, especially through his TikTok, where he has 14 million followers thanks to his conversations with audience members.

A transformation: 'Scary Larry Ogunjobi.'

That was the way defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal described his fellow defensive lineman when asked about him and for good reason.

"That is what he brings. A scary Larry Ogunjobi," said Leal. "Have you not seen him? Have you not seen the transformation?"

That transformation is an Ogunjobi who said he is working on being in the best shape of his life, spending this offseason working out on a regular basis, something injuries prevented the previous year.

"I think it's just my work," said Ogunjobi, who does look like he is in amazing shape. "Just being able to train the way I wanted to train, get the things done I wanted to get done. That was really important to me.

"I am just looking forward to hitting the goals I set for myself and being in the best shape of my life and seeing how that looks for me."

Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said one of the main things he sees from Ogunjobi this offseason is someone who is comfortable in the defense.

"I see a more comfortable Larry," said Heyward. "I think we signed Larry a little bit later (last year) and Larry was coming off an injury. I just think he is healthier, and I am excited. He has a calm demeanor, but he works his tail off. I am excited for him."

Just don't let that calm demeanor fool you.

"Larry is smart. A veteran," said Leal. "He knows everything about the game. He sees things before they happen."

Kind of scary.

The more you can do: DeMarvin Leal arrived on the third round of last year's drat having played in the interior of the defensive line and off the edge at Texas A&M but wound up proving even more versatile in his rookie season with the Steelers.

"It didn't mirror my college (experience) at all," Leal maintained. "Last year, shoot, it even looked like I was a middle linebacker at one point. That wasn't the case at all in college. There are definitely different things I came here and did and just expended more athleticism, trying to show a lot more in everything I do."

Leal even dropped into coverage on occasion, something he said he was never asked to do for the Aggies. He lost track of how many positions he played for the Steelers.

"I honestly couldn't tell you," Leal acknowledged. "I didn't keep track. I was just doing what I was told. I definitely did more than I thought (he'd be asked to do as a rookie) but I was prepared for it. I just had to listen, know what I had to do, ask the questions that I needed to ask and then everything else was going to take care of itself."

Leal is convinced the experience accelerated his development. As a result, he's prepared to play a variety of roles for the defense again this season if need be.

"Most definitely," Leal said. "You see it from all different perspectives. I got a better idea of who I am. Just looking forward to making it more consistent and just keep moving forward."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Wednesday, June 7

Ahead of the game: Minkah Fitzpatrick is a creature of habit.

He has a routine, one that has him one of the last players off the field on a daily basis, even during OTAs.

It has him following the same path on a daily basis, making sure he is taking care of every aspect of his game, both mentally and physically.

That routine isn't any different this year, but there are some changes. While everything he does is the same, it's those around him who have changed as there has been an infusion of new faces on the Steelers defense.

Creature of habit or not, he is welcoming it, especially with so many veterans in the new faces mix.

"It's been good," said Fitzpatrick. "A lot of the guys that we brought in have a lot of experience. A lot of the guys we brought in are ballhawks. Now it's just finding that chemistry. Learning how each other communicates. Learning how each other sees the game. I think we are doing a really good job.

"I think we are ahead of the game. We are definitely ahead of where I thought we would be, which is exciting. So just keep working and continue it into Latrobe."

Ahead of the game isn't something you often hear in June, but what Fitzpatrick is referring to is being ahead of the game as far as the defense gelling and becoming one with the new additions.

"We're ahead of where I thought we would be," said Fitzpatrick. "There are a lot of new faces in the secondary, a lot of new faces on the defense. When you have new faces, there is a lot to learn. I think because a lot of the new faces we brought in are experienced players, guys that played high level football, that is why I think we are head of where I thought we would be."

At safety, Fitzpatrick is already experiencing working with a new veteran face in Keanu Neal, who was signed this offseason replacing Terrell Edmunds, who departed via free agency. It's Fitzpatrick, Damontae Kazee and Neal working together as the vets at the spot.

"We got a nice rotation, like we did last year with myself, Terrell and Kazee," said Fitzpatrick. "Now it's Keanu instead of Terrell. We're still figuring out what it looks like. It's going to be a little different, but not too much. (Keanu) is a big guy, but he moves really well. He is a physical guy. When you are a big guy who can move, it's definitely a plus."

Another addition Fitzpatrick is fired up about is cornerback Patrick Peterson, the All-Pro who brings experience and then some to the secondary.

"He brings a high IQ," said Fitzpatrick. "He brings the ability for guys to be able to move and not just be stagnant. Me and him are already talking about high level stuff and coaches have to say bring it down a little bit. That is really cool. It's an honor to play with a guy like him.

"I think it's great. I think we have a perfect balance of vets and younger guys. I think when you have that combination, the vets that set the standard and the young guys that bring the energy, the juice every day. It's a great combination and I think we are ahead of where I thought we would be."

High energy: It's only OTAs, but the energy on the field at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex is something that is hard to miss.

The boisterous cheers every time a big play is made, the shouts, the encouragement, the excitement are all there.

Even if it is football in shorts in June.

"Every week it's been growing," said defensive back Tre Norwood. "You can just tell guys are getting more comfortable out there, playing alongside each other. The competitive edge from the top to the bottom in this locker room is great. That is what you have to love, as a teammate, as a player. I know the coaching staff loves it as well. Just going out there from start to finish every day in practice and competing in hard, healthy competition. We love that and it's going to continue to grow."

That energy does come from the team getting closer and more comfortable with each other on a daily basis. And in the defensive backs room it's thanks in part to a group of veterans who lead the way.

"We have Pat Pete (Peterson) who is going into Year 13. He is an All-Pro, future Hall of Famer," said Norwood. "We have Mink (Minkah Fitzpatrick) who is going into Year 6, an All-Pro, future Hall of Famer. And then we have a lot of great young guys, going into Year 3 and stuff, guys like me. We have a lot of experience with this defense, this coaching staff. To be able to combine that into one helps us out a lot in the room."

The addition of Peterson to the secondary is something every player has talked about during OTAs, and in part it's because some of the younger players watched him growing up, including Norwood.

"I would be lying if I didn't say when I was younger that is one of the main guys I watched," said Norwood. "Being able to share the same locker room with him, the same meeting room, and be able to play with him on the field means a lot. He is a great vet. Always open to answer our questions. All-Pro guy we can learn from and lean on."

Chip on the shoulder: There is something rookie Cory Trice Jr. carries with him everywhere he goes these days.

And for good reason.

It's the chip on his shoulder, one that comes from being a seventh-round draft pick when he felt he could have gone higher.

"Every day I think about it," said Trice. "I try to go out there and prove how good I am and just contribute to the team."

Trice has been opening eyes during OTAs with his play, including those of his teammates. But he knows there is plenty of room for improvement.

"I feel like I am having a good camp," said Trice. "Of course, I want to improve. I definitely want to keep getting better and better. I go to the coaches and ask what can I improve on? The players let me know what I can improve on. I am trying to get better every play."

While he is garnering praise around the locker room, he knows one thing still has to come.


"That is just in life. You have to gain respect," said Trice. "You have to earn it, it's never given. Just trying to go in, be the best I can be, contribute and try to improve."

According to cornerback Patrick Peterson, Coach Mike Tomlin refers to Trice and fellow rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. as 'Avatars.' Trice said he hasn't heard the comment yet, and just learned more about what Avatars are.

"I didn't know anything about what an Avatar was," said Trice. "I hear they are tall aliens. I think that is good, especially if Mike Tomlin calls us that. I am going to take it and roll with it. I never heard him say it, but I know he probably said it around."

Taking his shots: Wide receiver Allen Robinson never experienced anything like "Seven Shots," the Steelers' signature short-yardage/goal-line drill, during his previous NFL stints with the Jaguars, Bears and Rams.

"This is my first time kinda having a drill like that," he noted.

Robinson is a big fan of the concept, the offense going against the defense for seven consecutive plays with a touchdown or two-point conversion at stake on every snap.

"I think competitive drills always help a team as far as the trajectory and the experience of iron sharpening iron," he said. "Being able to get some of those tight-window plays and different things like that, some of those are bang-bang opportunities so the more reps you get at them the better you get at them.

"It's exciting, especially having an odd number of plays. There's gonna be a winner."

And there's value to be gleaned for the offense and the defense whether a given day's "Seven Shots" experience is a winning or losing one.

"Whether it's a hold (by a defensive back), whether it's a push off by a wide receiver, whatever the case may be, it's making sure that you have the ability and have the awareness to strain through plays like that to make sure that you're getting them done," Robinson emphasized.

"When you're doing them at times like this, once you get to the season, going against your opponents and people who aren't as familiar with you, those experiences and those reps should be a little easier."

Robinson was limited to 10 games with the Rams last season due to foot surgery.
He's gradually and incrementally working his way back to full speed this spring with the Steelers.

"Physically getting there," Robinson reported following today's OTA. "This is the third practice that I've gone up against defenders in six months. For me it's just about continuing to push myself and make sure I'm getting accomplished on a day-to-day basis what I want I to get accomplished.

"I've been able to do that, being able to knock some of the rust off on certain things, being able to get back to releases against defenders and stuff like that. For me, I'm always trying to push the dial and trying to get things back to how I'm accustomed to being."

-Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

The Steelers participate in Day 9 of the 2023 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

ICYMI: The Steelers signed running back Darius Hagans and offensive lineman Jarrid Williams on Monday.

Hagans played college football at Virginia State and took part in the HBCU Combine that was held in the offseason.

Hagans was originally signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2023 NFL Draft.

His senior season he carried the ball 189 times for 1,012 yards and six touchdowns, playing in 10 games. In three seasons at Virginia State he played in 29 games, carrying the ball 420 times for 2,069 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Hagans also had 31 receptions for 428 yards and five touchdowns in three seasons.

Williams was last with the Philadelphia Eagles, signing a Reserve/Future contract during their postseason run this past year.

Williams originally signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2022 NFL Draft and spent time on the Eagles practice squad last season. Williams also spent time on the Detroit Lions practice squad in 2022.

Williams played collegiately at both Miami, where he started 10 games as a redshirt senior last year, and Houston.

The team also released receiver Cody Chrest.

Tuesday, June 6

The dancing bear: Larry Ogunjobi isn't one to dish out compliments on a regular basis.

Especially to a rookie.

Do when he sang the praises of rookie defensive lineman Keeanu Benton, it opened some eyes.

"I like him a lot. He is like a dancing bear," said Ogunjobi. "He moves really, really well for that size. I think the ceiling is super high for him."

Benton didn't expect to hear those words just a few weeks into OTAs, but the smile on his face when he was told what Ogunjobi said was a sure sign how much those words meant.

"That is an honor that he said that," said Benton. "I feel like I am pretty agile for my size. Just kind of that wrestling background helps out a little bit. That is a great compliment that I got. I still have more work to do."

Benton knows words of praise from veterans has to be earned. He gets it. And he knows that on the defensive line, Ogunjobi is one of the quieter guys.

"He doesn't talk much, so I am glad I got that compliment," said Benton. "He doesn't talk much. That is one of the guys you have to gain his respect to even talk to him."

Benton knows he still has a lot to show to get more than comparisons to a dancing bear, though.

The second-round pick out of Wisconsin understands respect will come, but it's going to take time.

"You have to gain respect," said Benton. "That is something I haven't gained yet. I haven't put anything on film, but it's going to come in time."

Benton said the adjustment to the NFL has gone well so far, and he has the benefit of joining a team that already had three players from Wisconsin on the roster in T.J. Watt, Isaiahh Loudermilk and Scott Nelson, and added fellow rookie Nick Herbig who was his college teammate. 

"It has been pretty fun," said Benton. "The transition was a lot easier knowing that I know people here. I am not coming in alone as a rookie. That was my biggest fear going into the NFL, that I was going to be a rookie and not know anybody. This is the perfect place I landed where I know four people on the team. It's awesome. I feel like the physical part is not there until we get to Latrobe. But getting my playbook down and getting to know all the nuances is a big thing I am focusing on now."

Feeling at home: The 2023 offseason is a far cry from what things were like for Larry Ogunjobi one year ago.

At that time, he was coming off a foot injury, unable to work out, and unsigned through the time when NFL players were at OTAs and minicamp.

He didn't sign with the Steelers until later in June, his third team in three seasons.

This year, things are far different.

Ogunjobi returned to the Steelers after hitting free agency, agreeing to a three-year contract.

He started the offseason on the right foot, working out from the get-go.

And he has been a regular at OTAs this offseason.

"Last year I couldn't run until July," said Ogunjobi. "This year I started training in January, so I feel good, moving around, getting back and really excited."

Ogunjobi knows the importance of the offseason program and how valuable it will be for him, especially since he dealt with injury issues last season as well that hampered him during the week, but not on game day.

"I think it's paramount," said Ogunjobi of the offseason workouts. "Just getting your footing right. You feel right. Getting that football condition. You train all offseason, but there is nothing like football.

"I am just excited to have a full offseason and get out there and play football."

And he couldn't be happier than to be having that offseason in Pittsburgh. Ogunjobi felt comfortable with the Steelers culture last season and fit right in from day one. 

"It's the energy of team," said Ogunjobi. "Going through the injury last year, just how they took care of me, how they welcomed me with open arms was super important.

"Any great career you want to be consistent. That is the key to greatness…and being in a consistent place. To build upon the foundation you laid the year before is super important. It's a blessing. I thank God every day to be in a place I love. Take care of my family. No complaints."


Welcome back: There was a special group at the Steelers OTA session on Tuesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, with Coach Mike Tomlin welcoming some of the Steelers local alumni players to watch practice, join the team for lunch, and get to know the current players.

Those who were on hand spanned different decades, different generations of Steelers lore, all interacting with each other and the current players.

"This is outstanding," said former cornerback Delton Hall, a second-round pick in 1987 who played with the team until 1991. "This gives us a chance to familiarize ourselves with the new players and the positions they play. Just being able to communicate with some of the younger players is outstanding. It's a family. It's a long list of family members and I am happy to be a part of it."

Some of those visiting practice were there for the first time, while others have been regulars as this isn't the first time the alumni have been invited to attend OTAs.

"It's a great feeling number one, to feel welcome," said former linebacker Arthur Moats, who played for the team from 2014-17. "When you have a guy like Coach Tomlin and this organization and they make it intentional, they make it a point to say we want you guys back. We want you to meet the young players and them to meet you, put faces with names. That is what makes this brotherhood and family feel as organic as it does and that is why it continues to grow.

"I love that it's a mix of players too. I am a guy who came to the Steelers through free agency, so I didn't have a chance to meet guys early on. You hear stories about some of these dudes, you hear their names. Now when they come back, it's like even I get to meet some of the guys who played in the 70s and 80s and that is a cool dynamic. And now today's players get to see all these guys come through here from different generations who had varying levels of success. As a player you want to feel included and seeing that makes you feel good about the organization and the love they have for you."

participates in the Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Tuesday June 6, 2023 at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. (Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers)

Buying in: As he enters his fourth NFL season, Steelers running back Anthony McFarland Jr. is at a bit of a crossroads.

The 2020 fourth-round draft pick spent most of last season on the Steelers' practice squad, passed by on the depth chart by Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren and Benny Snell.

But he was elevated from the practice squad for the Steelers' 24-17 win at Indianapolis last season because of an injury to Warren and showed that he can still be an effective piece to the puzzle. McFarland had six carries for 30 yards and two receptions for another 11 yards in that Week 11 win. It was a big boost to his confidence after finding himself buried on the team's depth chart.

"You're always confident, but you have those jitters and butterflies, especially with me being on the practice squad all year. It's like, 'I know I'm ready, but I haven't played a game all year,'" McFarland said. "That game gave me confidence that I can do it if I put my mind to it. Don't doubt myself. Don't do too much thinking when I'm on the field."

With Snell still a free agent, the Steelers have an opening on their roster behind Harris and Warren. McFarland knows that if he's going to lay claim to that spot, it's not just about what he can do for the team as a runner and pass catcher, but on special teams, as well.

Harris isn't going to be tasked with doing anything on those units, while Warren chips in there on multiple fronts. Snell was one of the team's core special teams players the past two seasons. At 5-8, 193 pounds, McFarland will likely never be a core special teams player, but if he's going to make this roster this season, he has to show he can contribute in some way for special teams coordinator Danny Smith.

"That's the only way I'm going to make this team is to be on special teams any way I can on special teams, whether it's punt, kickoff. It doesn't matter," he said. "It's something I have had to to learn. I can't just rely on my abilities. I've got to buy into everything. All I want to do is help the team win. If I really mean that and stand on that, it means I've got to be all-in on everything, and that's special teams."

It's a different mentality for McFarland. One of the top running back recruits in the country when he was entering college, he chose to stay close to home and go to Maryland. He wasn't asked to do anything on special teams in a college career that saw him gain over 1,600 yards in just two seasons before leaving as a redshirt sophomore.

Still just 24 years old, the speedy McFarland has 146 rushing yards on 42 NFL carries and nine receptions for another 76 yards. But he feels he's a much different player now than he was when he came into the NFL as a 21-year-old rookie.

"My mindset, it's just in a whole different place," McFarland said. "I've got things I've been working on, even when the ball's not in my hands. I'm working on everything, being a better teammate, the little things that can help you in many ways be a better player. It's just stuff I'm starting to realize."

-- Blog entry by Dale Lolley

Monday, June 5

Off the field fun: Steelers players took a break from the norm on Monday, instead of hitting the field for an OTA session they went to Three Rivers Karting Entertainment Park for a day of fun and team building.

"It is good being able to hang out with the team, being able to bond with one another, hang out with one another outside of football," said rookie Broderick Jones. "Just being able to hang out and bond outside of the field, away from work and the field is good."

Having such an outing is nothing new during OTAs, an opportunity for the players to be together as one in an off-the-field setting, allowing them to get to know each other in a different environment.

"The tighter you get off the field, the closer you get on the field," said rookie Nick Herbig. "You form bonds, you form connections, you form trust. That benefits you on the field. If you trust each other off the field, once you get on the field it's like a hot knife through butter. It's a smooth transition. I am just glad we got to be out there, get away from football for a little bit and just relax and have fun together."

From go karts, to video games, to corn hole, and everything in between, the players competitive juices were flowing as they went out at it off the field just like they do on the field.

"The competitiveness is always going to be there no matter what we do," said Jones. "That is still a fun factor. It brings the energy and juice to everything, to be able to compete and stay on your toes. It's a good deal."


Thursday, June 1

Feeling young: Cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is entering his 13th season, has been a wealth of information for the Steelers young cornerbacks in draft picks Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr.

But the two corners are proving something for Peterson in return.

"Those guys definitely make me feel young," said Peterson. "Just trying to keep up with those guys. It's tough, but I am giving it my best go. These are guys who are tremendous athletes, big, strong. I told these guys they are new day and age cornerbacks. This is what NFL general managers and teams are looking for. Big, long guys who can run and have those physical attributes.

"It's definitely fun to have these young guys around because maybe they can help me play three more years."

Peterson smiled when he mentioned the 'three more years,' but he isn't joking about what Porter and Trice can bring to the defense.

"To have both of these young, as coach likes to call them avatar cornerbacks, it's going to be special," said Peterson. "Both of them want to learn, want to get as much knowledge as they need to be successful."

New faces gelling: All it takes is one glance around the Steelers locker room to know a fact about the 2023 team.

There are a lot of new faces.

And all it takes is to talk to a few players to quickly learn, those new faces on both sides of the ball are already gelling.

"Like you always hear, the standard is the standard," said linebacker Elandon Roberts, who signed as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. "We've got a lot of new guys, new faces like myself, and we are just adapting to the standard. It's a process. The standard isn't going to waiver, so we are getting on the train and having fun doing it."

Roberts and fellow linebacker Cole Holcomb, who also signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, are among the newcomers on defense who are working together to get on the same page during OTAs so when training camp comes things will easily flow.

"We have a great relationship," said Roberts. "I come to the sideline and ask what did you see, how do you feel about this. We are picking each other's brains. Cole is a very smart linebacker. He is a leader. I feel like us two, we are going to work well together, the same with everyone in our group."

While only week two of OTAs is in the books, Roberts can already see progress from the defense, from young players to newcomers and everyone else.

"As a defense, we are making mistakes but coming back and learning from them," said Roberts. "Even the young guys, you don't see them making the same mistake over and over. We are learning. One thing about this place is we have great coaches that are teaching. They are teaching us as we are doing stuff on the field. As a new guy, we are able to get the correction right then and there so when it comes back up we are able to execute it."

Staying informed: For rookie Joey Porter Jr., getting advice on life in the NFL and adjusting to the game isn't difficult.

His resources are limitless, from his father, former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter Sr., as well as Porter's former teammates who he is close to.

The Steelers locker room is also an incredible resource for him, filled with veterans ready to help.

"They are all trying to give me a good message, good insight on the game and really just learn," said Porter. "Every time somebody new comes up to me, I take that and keep informed."

One player who has stepped to the plate in helping Porter is veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson, who is entering his 13th season, has been a guiding force for Porter early on.

"He has been great," said Porter. "He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. I am glad to have him on my squad. Without him, I wouldn't be able to learn so much about the game so fast like I am right now. 

"The first two days were kind of tough, getting the hang of it, the speed, the pace. Just knowing the defense. Now it's really good. I know what I am doing more, communicating more, so it's been great."

Not satisfied: The Steelers offensive line has some new additions this year, which includes first round pick Broderick Jones and seventh round selection Spencer Anderson, as well as free agents Le'Raven Clark, Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo.

And while the added bodies will create plenty of competition on the line, it's not going to change the desire and drive everyone else on the line has, as each of them are passionate about going further in 2023 than they did a year ago.

"I don't think anyone is satisfied," said center Mason Cole. "We didn't make the playoffs (last year), so there's not much to be satisfied about. True, we ended the season well and the second half of the season we played great. But when you are staying home in January it's not always the best feeling.

"There's always hunger. There's always going to be a hunger, especially in our room. We have a really good group of guys, really good additions. We will build with them."

Cole said the additions to the line have stepped right in and fit in with the group from the day they arrived, each bringing their own style and personality to the group.

"It's been really good," said Cole. "Isaac has been great. He is going to be a really good leader for us. He has played a lot of football. He has been in a lot of big football games. Nate is the same way. And Le'Raven too. Everybody has been so good. We got some characters in there. It's going to be a good season."

Seumalo brings veteran leadership and experience, and in his first seven seasons in the league played in nine postseason games, including Super Bowl LII and LVII.

"He loves working," said Cole. "He isn't going to say a lot, but he is going to be ready to work. He has the ability to explain the times he played in big games. He has been there before. When guys have been there before, you can lean on those guys. They have seen what it takes. We'll lean on Isaac for sure."

The old guy: At 29, Steelers left guard Isaac Seumalo still has a lot of football left in him. But the eight-year veteran also understands he was brought in as a free agent this offseason for more reasons than just to be a good player on the field.

The former Philadelphia Eagles star understands that the rest of the Steelers offensive line, who are all 25 or younger with the exception of 27-year-old center Mason Cole, will look to Seumalo and his 81 career games of experience when it comes to what to expect in the NFL.

"It's been awesome," Seumalo said Thursday of his experience thus far with the Steelers. "The offensive line room is younger, but not necessarily inexperienced. A lot of guys have played a bunch of games. It's been a good opportunity to help out where I can while also honing in on my craft while working against a good defensive line that we have. And Coach (Mike) Tomlin is everything and more. I've enjoyed it so far."

It's a different dynamic for Seumalo than what he had when he was with the Eagles. A third-round draft pick in 2016 out of Oregon State, Seumalo joined an extremely experienced line in Philadelphia, one that included players such as center Jason Kelce, offensive tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson and guard Brandon Brooks.

Though some of the names changed in his time there, the Eagles advanced to a pair of Super Bowls, winning one. And Seumalo learned a lot.

"It was walking into a high stakes poker room in the o-line room," Seumalo said. "It was a great thing. They were willing to help guys, too. They weren't like, 'Ah, we're older.' They were open and accepting. I'm thankful for mentors like that. Hopefully, I can be something like that as my career goes on."

Seumalo hopes to be able to provide some similar veteran leadership to his new teammates.

"Those guys, there are a bunch of good players and we've got good depth," he said. "It's guys that want to win and be good. You see guys always doing work before and after practice. That's what I like. I like guys that are excited to be here and want to get better and want to win games."

-- Blog entry by Dale Lolley

Rookie time: The Steelers rookies attended the annual PNC Rookie Luncheon at Acrisure Stadium, and Kenny Pickett was honored for winning the Joe Greene Great Performance Award, presented to the Steelers Rookie of the Year, last year.


Wednesday, May 31

The right mindset: Darnell Washington knows what it's going to entail to play tight end in the NFL.

Yes, you have to catch passes. Yes, you have to block.

But there is another important factor.

You have to be able to block.

"It comes from the mindset," said Washington. "At tight end, we aren't just catching balls and scoring touchdowns. We also have to block. If you can't block, you can't play in the league for a long time."

The Steelers drafted Washington in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and at 6-7, 270 pounds, he provides a good mix of a pass catching and blocking tight end.

"When I put it all together, I can be a mismatch," said Washington. "I can be anywhere on the field, whether that's running routes or if that's blocking. I need to put it all together. Once I do that, I will be a complete tight end. I am not complete yet. It takes time. Being with Coach Alfredo (Roberts) and working on our game will make it happen.

"I enjoy blocking. I enjoy every aspect of the game. Blocking, running routes, I have done it all. Back in my day, I used to play left tackle and I blocked a whole season. I have played receiver. I have played running back. I have done it all on the field. I enjoy every aspect of the game.

"It means the world to get the opportunity to be at this level now. I am just trying to prove everybody that passed on me wrong and that is what I plan on doing."

Now, it's just a matter of him getting up to speed on the offense, something he has only been working on for the last two weeks during OTAs.

"There are lots of things I still need to learn," said Washington. "I have learned a lot. I played at Georgia, so I thought I would come here and know a lot of things. I still have tons of things to learn, little details, routes, how to sell it. Little things can lead to big things."

Washington is leaning on his fellow tight ends to work on those little things, soaking up every bit of information he can from them.

"I have Pat (Freiermuth) to lean on, Zach (Gentry) to lean on and even Connor (Heyward), he has one more year in than me," said Washington. "So, for sure my position group. No one specific. A little of everyone. Even the offensive linemen. Everybody."

Plenty to prove: A year ago, Jaylen Warren was a rookie free agent trying to find a spot on the Steelers offense and not certain what his future would be.

One year later, he is the Steelers backup running back, one the team is comfortable enough with to use without hesitation, rotating him in for Najee Harris to ensure both backs are fresh.

Despite the growth over the last 12 months, Warren is still working on proving himself.

"I am still trying to prove myself," said Warren. "Personally, I feel like I haven't done anything yet. I don't like to let the talk get to me. I still have goals. My main goal is to help the team win the Super Bowl. I am still going to play my role. I am still going to do what the team asks me to do. Whatever position they put me in, I am going to do whatever it takes to help the team win."

Warren finished the 2022 season with 77 carries for 379 yards, a 4.9-yard average, and one touchdown in 16 games working as Harris' backup. He added 28 receptions for 214 yards, a 7.6-yard average.
He had one of his best games of the season in Week 17 against the Baltimore Ravens, with career highs of 12 carries for 76 yards.

He used Harris as an asset all season to learn from, picking up tips and practice habits and leaning on each other.

"I am still learning from him," said Warren. "We go out there and practice hard. Learning in ways that we can add from one game to another and pick each other's game up."

Warren is looking forward to what 2023 has in store for the team, especially after the additions to the offensive line this offseason. The team selected Broderick Jones in the first round, Spencer Anderson in the seventh round, and signed free agents Le'Raven Clark, Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo.

"You always feel comfortable back there when you have hogs in front of you that you can get the job done," said Warren. "I felt comfortable last year, it's just we didn't have the chemistry. I am excited for what is to come this year. 

"As a unit we are all coming together. The chemistry is building. You can tell we are all comfortable, starting to trust each other. It's cool being a part of that."

Consensus opinion: The high praise Eagles center Jason Kelce recently lavished upon former Eagles guard Isaac Seumalo didn't surprise former Eagles guard Nate Herbig. Kelce called Seumalo "one of the best guards in the NFL," and "probably the smartest player I've ever been around."

Herbig, who has reunited with Seumalo with the Steelers this offseason, took it one step further.

"He's a genius," Herbig insisted. "He is, he's very smart. He doesn't say much but I really look up to Isaac a lot. He helped me a lot early in my young career.

"He's still helping me."

Seumalo's genius, Herbig maintained, is apparent in the way Seumalo absorbs and plays the game.

"His X's & O's, he understands schemes and concepts better than most people that I know," Herbig assessed.

"It's crazy to be here with him, it's cool."

The rest of the Steelers' offensive line room has, likewise, made an impression on Herbig, especially "everyone's willingness to help each other get better and point things out.

"There's no hating on each other," Herbig continued. "Everyone wants everyone to do well and to play their best football, and I really appreciate that."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Tuesday, May 30

Making his Mark: Linebacker Mark Robinson didn't mind talking after Tuesday's OTA session about one of the plays he made, confirming that he had an interception, but played it low-key.

"What's crazy for me is I only see the helmets and the numbers," said Robinson. "I couldn't care less who throws it. I'm here to play against anybody that shows up."

And then he dropped a line he heard from Coach Mike Tomlin.

"It's all nameless, grey faces."

Robinson said it was basically fundamental football that led to the pick.

"That was assignment football," said Robinson. "The ball came to me and I made a play. Opportunities come, and you run with them. It was a ball-aware play. It came to me, and I took advantage of that opportunity."

Taking advantage of opportunities is something Robinson isn't afraid of doing.

The 2022 season got off to a slow start for Robinson, inactive the first five weeks, and after being active for Week 6, he was inactive for seven of the next 11 games.

As the saying goes, though, it's not how you start but how you finish, and for Robinson, he finished strong.

After not seeing much action early on, Robinson started the last two games of the season at inside linebacker, including Week 17 against the Baltimore Ravens. And he took advantage of the playing time, responding with seven tackles.

Now, he is taking advantage of every rep he gets during OTAs.

"Any time we get a chance individually, everyone that comes in this locker room knows any time you get a rep on that grass, it's all gold," said Robinson. "I treat it as such, and I plan on continuing to do so."

Robinson doesn't know what his role will be heading into the 2023 season, but whatever it is, he plans on being ready.

"Whatever that may be…I don't know what they've got planned," said Robinson. "Whatever play we get, whatever rep we get, whenever we are in there, we are all in there. That is the mindset."

Golden rules: Markus Golden had the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning when he talked about his first day in black and gold, as the newly signed linebacker took part in Tuesday's OTAs session.

Golden, who will be entering his ninth year in the NFL, spent part of the last three years with the Arizona Cardinals, the team that originally selected him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

And now, after eight seasons in the league, he is getting to play for the team he wanted to play for when he was first drafted and Coach Mike Tomlin, who he has the ultimate respect for after first meeting him during the draft process.

"I've always been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I love the way they do things," said Golden. "I actually wanted to come here when I was I coming out for the draft, years ago it feels like now.

"It's real special. I always wanted to play in the NFL. When you get to come and play with a tradition like this and an organization like this, it means a lot to you. The only thing I want to do is come out and help this team win."

Golden isn't someone who is just giving lip service when he talks about being a Steelers fan. He rattled off players who he patterned his game after as he watched them growing up.

"James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, watching those guys play back in the day," said Golden. "For a long time, I have been a Steelers fan. I always liked watching the Steelers defense. Troy Polamalu, all those guys. They played like I play. I tried to model my game after those guys. Just flying around on the field and making plays all over the field. Not just making sacks, but plays down the field, always being around the ball.

"Watching the Steelers always made me like them and want to play with them coming out of college."

During his time in the NFL that desire grew stronger seeing the style of defense the team plays. 

"Being able to come here and fly around," said Golden. "I know the rich history of linebackers here flying around and making plays, I wanted to be come be a part of that. This is a great organization."

Golden's role will be to provide depth at outside linebacker where T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith are holding down the fort.

"Any way the team wants me to help, I can help a lot of ways," said Golden. "Whatever I need to come here and do. Whatever the coaches want me to do. I'm going to come here and be a part of that and add to that and be able to help the team win. Whatever Coach wants me to do, I'll be ready to come in and hunt and do what the team needs me to do. I'm all about winning at the end of the day. I'll be ready to do my part."

Plenty of support: Fourth-round outside linebacker Nick Herbig has found playing with his brother Nate, a guard signed by the Steelers in veteran free agency, a surreal experience in the early days of OTAs.

"I haven't really had the chance to sit down and really reflect on it, I'm just trying to live in the moment," Nick Herbig maintained. "But it doesn't seem real some days. Being able to share the game we love, the sport we love, and do it together and do it as a family is pretty awesome.

"My brother's the reason I'm here. He's the No. 1 reason why I'm in the position I am today."

Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt has also been a big help along the way. Watt detailed last week the mentoring relationship he's had with Nick Herbig that predated by a couple of seasons Herbig being drafted by the Steelers.

It began with Herbig reaching out to Watt via Instagram with a question about a specific pass-rush move.

The exchange of tips, techniques and the like has progressed from texts and videos to in-person advice now that the two are sharing practice fields and a locker room together with the Steelers

"I think it's just the type of guy T.J. is," Herbig maintained. "It especially helps that I'm from Wisconsin, too, play the same position. But T.J., that's just the type of guys he is. He's always willing to give back, always willing to help the younger people and give off any information he can."

Watt took a few moments to pass some information Herbig's way during a special teams period.

"That's crazy, too," Herbig acknowledged. "That's a guy I really look up to, a guy I like to model my game after. And now that I get the chance to pick his brain even more, it's just unthinkable. We were just going over some techniques and stuff, little pointers that he was giving me that helps him when he goes through everything. I was just picking his brain as much as I could, man, it's really a blessing."

--Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Thursday, May 25

Taking a dip: T.J. Watt had a sheepish grin after the question was asked.

And if you have seen the viral video, you can understand why.

Watt shared video of himself falling into his pool while cleaning it, a video that looked like it could have resulted in an injury, but he came out of the water smiling.

"I am good. I don't know how I missed the step, but I did," laughed Watt. "A lesser athlete would have got hurt."

One thing Watt did quickly do when he went in the water, was save his phone from his pocket.

"I was very calm. I am happy about myself being calm," said Watt. "The dog didn't react like I wanted him to, but that was because I yelled at him two minutes before that because he was digging into some mud. That is the background on that story."

Watt initially shared the video with close friends on a group chat, and they told him he had to share it after they were highly entertained by it and knew he wasn't injured.

"The only reason I posted it is because I wasn't hurt," said Watt. "It was all in good fun. I put it in the group chat, and they are like it's too funny not to post. You might as well just post it."

It wasn't just swimming pool mishaps that was on everyone's mind on Thursday though.

With so many new additions to the Steelers defense this offseason through free agency with guys like Patrick Peterson, Breiden Fehoko, Markus Golden, Cole Holcomb, Keanu Neal, Elandon Roberts, Chandon Sullivan and Armon Watts, as well as through the draft, the defense is expected to take on a bit of a new look.

Watt knows it's just a matter of time before everything comes together.

"It's never going to happen overnight. It's going to take some time," said Watt. "We just want to continue to take each and every step in the right direction. We have a lot of time from here to there. It's about getting everybody on the same page as soon as possible."

And there is no better time than OTAs to get to work on things, learning at a different pace than training camp.

"Every year we are adding people. I don't know if it's any different (this year)," said Watt. "This time of year is always super important. That is why we are all here. We are just trying to get better each and every day. Trying to grow, trying to learn from each other. Trying to learn how we practice, how we do things here in Pittsburgh. Also being open minded to the guys who are veterans and have done things successfully in other places."

Early impression: Receiver Allen Robinson II has been in Pittsburgh for about a month now, coming in for the early phases of the offseason program.

And one thing he noticed right off the bat is the type of quarterback Kenny Pickett is on and off the field.

Robinson, who is entering his 10th season, has been around his share of quarterbacks, including veterans. What he sees in Pickett, who is entering his second season, is something special.

"For a second-year quarterback he is definitely wise beyond his years," said Robinson. "How he leads the charge. His work ethic day in and day out. Very focused. He is definitely beyond his years.

"I was impressed when I got here. Watching somebody from the outside looking in, you definitely see the talent. Once you actually get in the facility and are able to be around Kenny, you see why he is successful.

"I am a person who watches a lot of football, and I was able to watch Kenny in college in some of those big games. When you have a guy like that who has a knack for winning, a knack for being the kind of player he has been, which is leading all of the groups he has been a part of. I don't think that goes anywhere once a guy gets to the NFL. Once you put other guys around him, you start to see that player evolve into even more of a guy."

Robinson doesn't think it matters how much experience Pickett has. In his eyes, a leader is a leader.

"Leaders are born," said Robinson. "It doesn't take a lot of time for a guy who is a natural leader. I think anybody here can tell that from Kenny. I have been here a little over a month and you can already tell his leadership, how he leads the charge day in and day out. For a second-year guy, that isn't easy. For a guy to be able to take a bull by the horns like that, it's pretty impressive."

Learning from the vets: One of the things Cameron Heyward stressed this week was how important it is for veteran players to be there for younger teammates, help guide them through their early days in the NFL. Coach Mike Tomlin always stresses to the younger players to lean on the veterans, and Heyward wants to make sure the veterans are always there for those guys.

"I think Mike T always says it. Find an older guy, attach yourself to him, see how he goes about his workday, how he takes care of his body," said Heyward. "And for veterans to extend that. T.J. (Watt), Minkah (Fitzpatrick), Alex (Highsmith), guys who have been here. Even a guy like Pat P(eterson), you look for him to lead as well. It's about extending ourselves, and then bringing those younger guys up to speed."

It's a tradition rookie seventh-round pick Cory Trice Jr. is already feeling. He said the veterans have been there for him, guiding him through his first few weeks in the NFL.

"It's been great," said Trice. "I am just soaking it all in, day by day. Asking question after question. The older guys are definitely good people. They are just all helping me out."

Trice has been spreading it out as far as who he is leaning on for help, including fellow cornerbacks and the safeties in the defensive backs room as well.

"I go to Pat Pete, I go to Levi (Wallace)," said Trice. "I go to Sully (Chandon Sullivan), even Minkah. Anybody I go to they are always very open."

Trice wasn't sure what to expect from the veterans as far as getting help, and they have already exceeded any type of expectation he could have.

"This team is great," said Trice. "Coming into this I was kind of nervous. I didn't know what to expect. I talked to a few guys in the league, and they told me it would be kind of weird. But coming here, it's all love. Everybody's got the same goal, everybody is trying to win. Everybody is trying to get better."

The big focus for Trice right now is learning the defense and taking what he is getting in the film room onto the field on a daily basis. 

"The first thing for me is retaining all of the information from the film room so I can apply it to the field," said Trice. "I want to go out there, do my job and make plays.

"I am learning all the schemes. I and getting rep after rep. I am just trying to get better so that when camp does come, I can just go out there and play football."

Happy to be back: One of the happiest guys to be on the field for OTAs is likely second-year receiver Calvin Austin III.

Austin missed the entire 2022 season after the fourth-round pick suffered a foot injury last year that kept him out of the preseason and regular season and required surgery during the year.

"Just to be back out there is great," said a happy Austin. "Everything went great after the surgery. I spent a lot of my offseason here working, rehabbing. I think it all paid off. I am thankful and blessed to have had a successful surgery. The trainers, coaches, rehab, everybody involved in the process. I feel great and ready to keep on attacking."

While he wasn't able to play last year, he didn't waste any time. He used the time to learn the offense and be around the team as much as possible, making sure he is up to speed on things now.

"I can remember going through rookie minicamp around this team last year," said Austin. "Just being on the field now, it just slowed down tremendously. Being out there it just felt right. Last year, learning everything, watching stuff, it definitely helped."

Austin is hoping to be an asset to the offense this year and said what he can provide is based on how much of an opportunity he gets.

"I can help as much as they allow," said Austin. "I have been learning, and you can definitely tell it's a push for the offense. We have to make some big strides. I think I can help any way they see fit. I am ready to go."

He got some work in with quarterback Kenny Pickett already, and loves the approach he brings to the offense.

"I have prided myself on working, on grinding, but having someone like him who does it even more, it makes you push even more," said Austin. "He is going to make sure you are your A-game. That is the thing about having a quarterback like him. He is going to bring everyone else up with him. You have to be at his level or be left behind."

Can you hear me now: Inside linebacker Elandon Roberts has 107 NFL regular-season games and 76 NFL starts on his resume, but he has yet to play a game or start one for the Steelers.
As a result, he's concentrating on establishing lines of communication with his new teammates during OTAs.

"Without communication, (stuff) won't work," Roberts maintained after OTA No. 2. "Take it from a marriage, you don't have communication in your marriage it ain't gonna work. This is like a marriage out here, you're just married to 10 other people.

"You just gotta make it work."

Roberts is embracing the opportunity to get to know those he's playing with "one day at a time.

"Right now, OTAs, you have a lot of wiggle room for trial and error," Roberts continued. "You can learn your teammates. You can get adjusted to what a guy likes to hear and what a guy doesn't like to hear. And you can just learn that guy from a personality standpoint to know, alright, we have this type of situation on the field, he might not be comfortable at that spot. I'm comfortable at that spot, so let me switch with you. Or, vice-versa, I'm not comfortable right here but he is, hey let's switch right here.

"At the end of the day it's about getting the ball stopped and getting it back to the offense, so whatever we need to do. I feel like that's what this time is about, getting the culture around your team, knowing your teammates, knowing what your coach is demanding out of you day in and day out, and being able to make mistakes out there. I might be going on my eighth season but I make a lot of mistakes. As long as I don't let y'all see it on Sundays I'm good to go."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

The Steelers participate in Day 3 of the 2023 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

Wednesday, May 24

Plenty left in the tank: Cameron Heyward made it clear early in the offseason that he was going to be back for his 13th season in the NFL, but he did do some reflection this offseason. Keep in mind though, that's nothing unusual for the veteran and leader of the Steelers defense.

"The reflection period was long," said Heyward. "For me it was understanding I have more years in the tank. Excited to keep attacking it and trying to figure out this puzzle and win the Super Bowl.

"I think I used that to give myself some space to look at the situation. It's not retirement, it's more of a reflection. Just focus on the season. Every year I have to focus on that because I put so much into it, you need that time away to really stand back and see what's happened and what you want to do."

Heyward had a bounce in his step during the start of OTAs, happy to be back amongst his teammates, even learning a lot of new names and faces as a lot has changed in the locker room.

"It's great," said Heyward of being back. "We have a lot of new guys. You have to take advantage of this opportunity to get to know guys, let them know what we do here and just create a rapport. That's offense, defense, special teams. Everybody is just looking to grow and find different ways to make sure this team meshes well."

One way for the team to mesh is veterans taking the rookies and younger players under their wing. It's a tradition that has gone on in the Steelers locker room for decades and continues through the leadership of Coach Mike Tomlin.

"I think Mike T always says it. Find an older guy, attach yourself to him, see how he goes about his workday, how he takes care of his body," said Heyward. "And for veterans to extend that. T.J. (Watt), Minkah (Fitzpatrick), Alex (Highsmith), guys who have been here. Even a guy like Pat P(eterson), you look for him to lead as well. It's about extending ourselves, and then bringing those younger guys up to speed."

Heyward knows every position on defense has young blood ready to make their mark, and he also knows it takes time for those young players to get the point where they truly can make that impact.

"We have young guys everywhere," said Heyward. "For us, how close are they going to be ready to play for the first game. There's a lot of things that go into it. I don't like putting too much stock into those guys, but hopefully they can catch up pretty quick and we'll give them every opportunity to do that."

It's not just young players who dot the Steelers roster, but also an influx of new veteran talent signed this offseason. It has many rightfully excited about the Steelers prospects this season, but when the words Super Bowl came up in a question after just the second OTA practice, Heyward had to smile. 

"Everybody wants to freaking talk about it in May and June," said Heyward. "I am talking about taking kids to school and everybody else is talking about Super Bowls in June. Do we have a good team, I think yeah. But time will tell where we are at."

A new beginning: The Steelers 2023 draft class has been in town since the team's rookie minicamp, but things picked up a bit for them this week with OTAs now underway.

"It was amazing being out there with all of the guys," said Joey Porter Jr., the team's second-round pick. "Seeing everybody compete together. It was cool to be out there."

Porter said he is already benefitting from the input of the veterans in the defensive backs room, all of them sharing tips, giving advice, and helping him as he feels his way through his first month in black and gold.

"They are helping me a lot," said Porter. "The first day I got in they started to help me, teaching me the ropes and how everything goes around here. Obviously, I have been here since I was a kid, but as an actual player there is stuff that I don't know. They have been helping me with that."

Porter said in particular Minkah Fitzpatrick and Patrick Peterson, who signed with the team this offseason, have been invaluable.

"All the old heads like Minkah and Pat Pete teaching me how to watch film in a different way," said Porter. "Just get actual work in after practice, little things like that to help my body.

"Minkah is something else. He is not the most outlandish person. He is not going to be the most vocal. He is going to pull you to the side and tell you this is what you need to work on, or you need to do X, Y or Z to get better at this. He is really understanding of the growth that we have to do as young players."

Minkah being Minkah: While Joey Porter Jr. was singing the praises of Minkah Fitzpatrick's willingness to help younger players, safety Damontae Kazee was on the other side of the locker room talking about how Fitzpatrick can even help a veteran like himself.

Kazee, who is in his seventh season, has a locker right next to Fitzpatrick's and soaks in all the knowledge on and off the field.

"You have to let Minkah be Minkah," said Kazee. "You don't move him too much. You just have to let Minkah be Minkah."

Kazee said working him on the field last year, and this offseason in a different setting, has made a difference for him. 

"It's good," said Kazee. "This year was the first time I did an out of the facility workout with Minkah. I see what type of stuff he does. I see why he is that type of player. He is a good leader. Minkah is going to be Minkah at the end of the day.

"It helps a lot. He knows how to break it down. Different people learn in different ways. He can break it down and teach everybody and do his job as well."

It's that type of relationship with Fitzpatrick and other teammates that made Kazee want to re-sign with the Steelers this offseason, after originally joining them in 2022.

"The coaching staff and the brotherhood we've got up here," said Kazee. "I love everything about here. The brothers here. The coaches."

Welcome addition: New Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson's resume speaks for itself. A 12-year-pro, Peterson is on a Hall of Fame path in his career.

But when the Steelers signed nickel cornerback Chandon Sullivan, Peterson's teammate in 2022 with the Minnesota Vikings, some wondered about the move. After all, the Vikings allowed 265.6 yards passing per game last season, the second-most in the league.

But Peterson has now qualms about what Sullivan brings to the roster. In fact, he helped recruit the veteran slot corner to the Steelers.

"No doubt about it. I said, 'Chandon, this might want to be a spot for you to come check out.' Sure enough, he ended up signing here," Peterson said Wednesday.

The Steelers signed Sullivan immediately after the NFL Draft to help offset the loss of Cameron Sutton in free agency. They also then released Arthur Maulet, who had shared their slot corner duties with Sutton the previous two seasons.

Sullivan has appeared in 71 career games, including 31 starts, making 169 tackles and five interceptions in his time with the Packers and Vikings.

"Sully is a smart player, a tough player. He's a guy that fits this Pittsburgh mentality," Peterson said. "He's a guy that is going to stick his face in the fan, mostly from the slot. He's a highly competitive guy. Chandon is going into year (six), he's been around the league. He's been in some big-time games. He understands the ramification of games. We're definitely happy to have a veteran presence with Chandon."

Don't read too much into the numbers posted by the Minnesota secondary last season, either. According to Peterson, the Vikings played almost primarily zone coverage, which inflated some of those passing stats.

The Steelers mix things up far more.

"It's night and day. In Minnesota last year, it was a lot of eyes on the quarterback. We were relying on our edge rushers to get there," Peterson said. "Teams started max protecting us and it made it difficult for us to be successful because when you're running a zone defense, all the receivers have to do is get into a hole or window in the zone defense and the quarterback can deliver a strike, especially when we're relying on four pass rushers to get there and they're blocking with seven. It's impossible. We had those things in our playbook, but that wasn't (former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell's) style. He's a (Vic) Fangio disciple. Those guys like to depend on their edge control. That's what they call it, edge control. That was just something coach lived with. What really saved us was turnovers. I can't remember where we landed, but I know we were top 6 in turnovers. I believe that's something that definitely helped us win ball games, as bad as our defense was yardage wise."

-- Blog entry by Dale Lolley

The Steelers participate in Day 2 of the 2023 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

Moore of the same: The drafting of left offensive tackle Broderick Jones at 15th overall isn't going to influence how incumbent left offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. attacks his daily endeavors, Moore maintained following OTA No. 1

"I'm gonna approach every single day like I do already, that's getting better," Moore insisted. "There's things you can't control, you know?

"Control what I can control, that's it."

Moore has started 33 consecutive regular-season games since the Steelers selected him on the fourth round out of Texas A&M in 2021 (16 as a rookie and 17 last season). He also started the Steelers' playoff loss at Kansas City at the conclusion of the '21 campaign.

Moore said the Steelers haven't clued him in on what they might have in store for him in the wake of adding Jones into the mix.

Moore added such a clarification of expectations was unnecessary.

"It's a professional business," he said. "They expect me to treat it like a professional."
Moore also said he hasn't been approached by anyone on the staff about taking reps at right offensive tackle but has asked to do so on his own.

As for Jones, "Oh, man, he's a smart kid, obviously," Moore assessed. "Crazy athletic, crazy ability, I'm looking forward to watching him grow,"

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Tuesday, May 23

Focused on his goals: Diontae Johnson smiled when the question was asked.

Yes, it's only May and it was only the first day of Steelers OTAs.

But when he was asked if he had any personal goals yet for the 2023 season, he didn't hesitate with his answer.

"Definitely All-Pro," said Johnson. "Pro Bowl. Over 1,000 yards. Over 100 catches. Top 10, top 5. Saying that in the most humble way. Really, that is pretty much it."

For that being 'pretty much it,' they are goals if he achieves the Steelers offense will definitely be headed in the right direction. Johnson has one 1,000-yard season under his belt, when he caught 107 passes for 1,161 yards in 2021. In 2022 he had 86 receptions for 882 yards.

His goals are attainable, but he isn't pressuring himself.

"I pray over my goals," said Johnson. "If I achieve them, I achieve them. If I don't, I just keep working. At the end of the day that is all I can do."

Johnson said the way he attacks his role on the team is what gives him the belief he can achieve the goals, as he is a player that never stops, putting in extra time all season long.

"Really just preparation and how I am feeling," said Johnson. "Being comfortable out there and knowing what I am doing. Everything comes after that. Everything is flowing, going in the right direction, I feel good."

Some of the extra work Johnson puts in happened this offseason when he and others worked with quarterbacks Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky in Florida. He also worked on his conditioning, something that he wanted to focus on.

"I didn't change anything, just trying to stay more conditioned," said Johnson. "I tried to run a little more. Focus on routes, catching the ball. I can get better at every aspect of my game."

An easy decision: Less than a week ago quarterback Mitch Trubisky was signed to a new three-year contract to keep him in the black and gold through the 2025 season.

For Trubisky, it was a no-brainer.

"It was a pleasant surprise," said Trubisky of getting the new deal. "It was an easy decision on my part."

Trubisky cited the Steelers culture as to why it was such a simple decision for him, including Coach Mike Tomlin, General Manager Omar Khan, and team President Art Rooney II.

"It's the family atmosphere," said Trubisky. "It's the teammates. It's the people. It's just a great fit for me, my family. We just love everything about it. We love Coach T, Omar, Mr. Rooney and his family. It's a special place to be a part of. We got really close as a team last year and I felt like I wanted to be here for the next three years. When they asked me to, it was an easy decision."
Trubisky originally signed a two-year contract with the Steelers at the start of free agency in 2022. He played in seven games in 2022, starting five of them. He opened the season as the team's No. 1 quarterback, starting the first three games, and stepped in later in the season when Kenny Pickett was injured.

He said his relationship with Pickett is a great one, even though the young quarterback took over his starting role, and his main focus is to help Pickett and the team any way possible.

"Me and Kenny have gotten so close," said Trubisky. "I want to help him any way I can. We've got a really great quarterback room. We love having Mason (Rudolph) back too. We're going to have a lot of fun and get to work. Anything I can be for Kenny, a soundboard, extra coach, extra eyes on the field, I am going to be here for him, and he knows that. I think that is also why they wanted to have me back, to be in that role and help him any way I can. I am excited about it."

Trubisky said it is that relationship, that willingness to work together, that makes the dynamic work.

"It's just being transparent and being yourself," said Trubisky. "I think we both have personalities. We get along with each other. We are friends inside the building and off the field. We hang out all the time. It's a great dynamic on this team. When you have that chemistry, the honest conversations are easier to have. We go in there and be ourselves.

"We all just want one thing…the Pittsburgh Steelers to win and for ourselves to be the best that we can be. We just come in here and compete and help each other towards a common goal."

Trubisky knew last year when Pickett took over the No. 1 spot that he couldn't dwell on it or let it eat away at him. There was too much at stake for the team for him to let it become personal. 

"When things go how they go during the season last year, and you're pushed into a new role, you have some personal feelings you have to put aside," said Trubisky. "You just embrace your role to help the team for a common good. That is what I try to do. I think people see how I come to work, how I am as a person, as a teammate and they appreciate that. It was genuine coming from me that I want this team to win, I want to help the guys be as successful as they can. I am excited to be a part of this team."

Keep on grinding: "I would say that by the time we get to the opening game, the best five offensive linemen will play."

Those were the words of General Manager Omar Khan after the Steelers selected Broderick Jones in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Khan said his job was to bring in the competition for those five spots, and now it's in Coach Mike Tomlin's hands as to who the five will be.

But there is no doubt, Jones' name is one a lot of people include in the top five already, even if he is a bit more laid back when he talks about it. Jones isn't putting his name out there just yet by any means, knowing there are veterans on the roster he will be competing against for the role. But he is ready to compete and knows there is only one way to be a starter come opening day.

"Just being the best version of me," said Jones.

And how does he do that?

"Show up every day, give 110 percent and keep grinding," he added.

Jones isn't one who is driven by earning that starting job right now, or at least that is the message he is delivering. He is happy with where his role in at the start of OTAs and just wants to keep on working. 

"You just come in ready to work," said Jones. "Grind as much as possible so at the end of the day you can show what you can do and be the best you. Coming from where I come from, just being a part of the team is such a big blessing."

Where he came from collegiately is the University of Georgia, where he was a two-time national champion, started every game in 2022 for the Bulldogs and was an Associated Press All-SEC first-team selection. That background prepared him for the next level, giving him the work ethic and confidence to tackle it head on.

"Georgia prepares you like no other for the next level," said Jones. "I think nobody does it as good as Georgia just because of how hard we worked at Georgia, how hard they pushed you, how hard they stayed on you. Just every aspect. Coming from Georgia and being in that program helps a lot."

Holcomb settling in: New inside linebacker Cole Holcomb was signed to help solidify the position for the Steelers, but he's easing his way into things with his new team.

Holcomb, 26, saw his 2022 season with the Washington Commanders ended by a foot injury after just seven games. So, the Steelers are being careful about Holcomb's workload during OTA sessions. He said Tuesday, he was able to do positional drill work, but watched the team portion of practice. But, as Holcomb noted, he's a player who can learn from watching.

A former walk-on at North Carolina, Holcomb had to learn the defense there by watching as opposed to being on the field early in his career.

"That's been the story of my life," said Holcomb of taking mental reps. "I've learned how to get good at that."

But that doesn't mean the foot injury isn't healing well. The Steelers' medical staff have determined its best to allow the fifth-year veteran to have extra healing time to get him ready for a 17-game season rather than push things now.

"Feeling good. I'm champing at the bit," Holcomb said. "But we're still taking it a little slow. Be ready for September. Our coaches, our training staff, they all have the right mindset. I'm behind them 100 percent.

"Whatever they allow me to do, I'm going to participate. Whenever they tell me to chill out a little bit, OK."

Besides, football is football.

"The more you understand defensive concepts, the more you can just play," Holcomb said. "Teams might have little things they like to do differently, but in the end it's mostly single-high, two-high coverages, quarters. It's football."

-- Blog entry by Dale Lolley