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Practice Report: July 27

LATROBE, Pa. – The setting was the Saint Vincent College campus, but what happened on those wonderfully manicured grass fields on Thursday afternoon looked a whole lot like what happened at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex back in June.

The Steelers officially opened their 2023 training camp on Wednesday, July 26 when all of the players reported by 4 p.m. and took part in the team's conditioning run, the outcome of which pleased Coach Mike Tomlin.

"Everyone showed up adequately conditioned and then some," Tomlin said that day. "It appears that we have a very good group from a health standpoint. There were some people who were somewhat limited in the spring for a variety of reasons. We don't see anyone at this juncture who will be limited as we embark on this thing (Thursday), which is a good thing."

With that, the Steelers put in a 90-minute workout with the players wearing only helmets, as is allowed for what is referred to as acclimation day No. 2.

"Really excited to get started," said Tomlin at the conclusion of the Thursday session. "We really appreciate our fans coming out and welcoming us. It was just initial day things – teaching and learning and getting acclimated to our environment, and the pace at which we work are all things that we value culturally, particularly for the new guys. Communication, whether it's formal or informal, coach-to-coach, player-to-player, coach-to-player, etc., were some of the things that were in our focus. Broad sweeping, football agenda-like things, such as ball security on offense, ball searching on defense, obviously we've got a long way to go, but it's just great to be back up here, starting this process and watching guys compete and make a few plays in the midst of it. So we'll just continue with that."

One of the issues that attracted a lot of eyeballs had to do with which players were on the field with the first group on both offense and defense. As an example, the starting offensive line consisted of – from left to right – Dan Moore, Jr., Isaac Seumalo, Mason Cole, James Daniels, and Chuks Okorafor. During the same period, the "starting" 11 on defense included defensive linemen Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi, edge rushers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, linebackers Elandon Roberts and Cole Holcomb, cornerbacks Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson, and safeties Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, and Tre Norwood, with Minkah Fitzpatrick watching from the deep middle of the field.

Tomlin, who is well-known for his disdain of depth charts – especially at the early stages of a training camp – threw a wet blanket over reading anything into that.

"Don't look too much into what groups people are running with at this juncture, or you're going to lead yourself down a bad path," Tomlin warned. "I wasn't involved in the discussion in terms of who we sent out here first, because I really didn't care. We just tried to get to know people, and we're going to continue to roll them through. (Elijah Riley) made a play at the nickel position, Duke (Dawson) was working at the nickel position, (Chandon Sullivan) is working at the nickel position. At some point we're going to put Pat (Peterson) at the nickel position. Don't pay too much attention to the depth at this juncture. Just being honest."

And he also advised not to make too much of Fitzpatrick playing the role of spectator, either.

"(It was) nothing of any significance," said Tomlin. "Sometimes when we know a lot about guys, we minimize them in an effort to get to see others. You probably didn't see a lot of Diontae (Johnson), and we probably didn't see a significant amount of Cam (Heyward). There's gonna be a lot of that in this process. We've got 90 guys out here that we're going to get to know. Some of them who we really know, like a Minkah (Fitzpatrick), sometimes we minimize them in an effort to see others."

"Thankfully, we didn't have any health issues today. I think tight end Rodney Williams got a little bit fatigued via the heat. We'll evaluate him and see if we can get him back out here (Friday), because availability is a big component of this thing, particularly at the early stages. That's how you get better. You make yourself available, you snap the ball, you work, you repeat the process, and in the midst of that you analyze and adjust and so forth. And so, player availability is there."