The Steelers hit the road for their OTA session on Tuesday, practicing at Heinz Field instead of their normal routine at the team's practice facility on the South Side.
It was an opportunity to give rookies and newcomers a chance to get a feel for the surroundings at Heinz Field, as well work together for the first time this season on the field where they will be playing.
"It's for the guys who haven't been on the field yet to let them know there is nothing mystical about this place, other than we come here and play good football," said cornerback William Gay. "We want to get them acclimated to the field, how it looks. It's to come out here and have some fun and change the look during OTAs."
Even though the atmosphere provided by the game day crowd was missing, for rookie Dri Archer it was the chance to get a feel for practicing in a stadium bigger than any he has played in before.
"It was nice," said Archer. "It felt good to come out here at Heinz Field and get used to the environment and get used to the field and get the experience. It's a little different. I never played in a stadium this big. There is a lot of tradition on this field and just to be able to participate on it is a blessing."
Veteran Mike Mitchell has played at Heinz Field while with the Oakland Raiders in 2009 and 2010, but this was his first time wearing the black and gold there. And he celebrated what was a big day, his 27th birthday, with his first interception of OTAs.
Don't forget to wish @MikeMitchell34 a Happy Birthday! pic.twitter.com/MyLByzxtdS — Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 10, 2014
"It was my first time in here as a Steeler. I played here twice before as an opponent but, it was my first time as a Steeler and to get a pick, that is a good omen," said Mitchell. "And it's my birthday, so I was super excited.
"For me it was about getting familiar with the environment again. It's an open-ended stadium so the wind is a little different here tracking the football. The grass is really good. Obviously they are taking great care of it. It felt good today to be running around and playing in the stadium."
For those who have played at Heinz Field there was one very noticeable difference during Tuesday's practice, the addition of a new scoreboard in the Northwest corner of the stadium. Practice was streamed live on the board, as well as the scoreboard in the South Plaza, and the players loved what they saw and can't wait to see the new board in action this season.
"That is going to be awesome," said Gay. "I can't wait until they show the close-ups getting the crowd pumped up. It's going to be like being at home watching the big screen TV."