Saturday, May 13
Chip on his shoulder: The Steelers added a pair of defensive backs in the 2023 NFL Draft, including second-round pick Joey Porter Jr. and seventh-round selection Cory Trice Jr.
While the two didn't know each other before they became teammates, they have quickly bonded since arriving in Pittsburgh on Thursday for the team's three-day rookie minicamp.
"He is definitely a great guy," said Trice of Porter. "We just continue learning off of each other. Continue trying to make each other better and perfecting our craft. He is definitely a great guy. We just keep chopping it up off the field and keep trying to make each other better. We've been clicking."
Trice said both he and Porter have similar styles with how they attack playing, with a willingness to do whatever is asked.
"We like to press, get hands on," said Trice. "We like to run with guys and just tackle."
Another thing they both have in common is coming in with a chip on their shoulder. Both were predicted to be drafted higher than they went, and they aren't letting that go.
"I definitely got a chip on my shoulder," said Trice. "I came here ready to prove myself.
"All my life I had to prove myself. It's just one of those things. I have to prove myself once again and I don't mind doing it."
Trice said having to prove himself began in college when he made the switch from safety to cornerback, and he knows that need to prove himself isn't going to stop now.
"I switched to corner, I had to prove myself, establish myself out there," said Trice. "I came back from an injury in 2021 and had to prove myself. Now I have to prove myself again."
The injury Trice is referring to happened when he suffered a season-ending ACL injury in 2021, after starting the first two games. It was a long battle to get back on the field for the 2022 season, but he isn't afraid of a battle and put the injury behind him right away.
"Whenever I had to step back on the field, I had to really put it behind me," said Trice. "I got on the field, and they don't care about my injury. I had to just move past it.
"It motivates me to be in the position I am in now, knowing I was injured last year around this time. It's definitely exciting. It motivates me."
Learning from the vets: Cornerback Joey Porter Jr. is hoping to have an impact on the Steelers defense his rookie season after the team selected him in the second-round of the draft, the 32nd overall pick. But before he does that, he knows he has to be a sponge and learn from the veterans.
"I feel like I can have a big impact, but I am really just trying to learn from the old guys and come in and just try and get their respect and show them what I can do on and off the field," said Porter.
The main learning aspect for Porter is obvious.
"The playbook," said Porter. "Just trying to really understand the playbook and all the checks that come with it."
Porter said the best advice he got was to have a desire to continue to keep learning, understanding the learning never stops.
"Just come in with your head high and want to learn," said Porter. "That is what we are all doing together. Just trying to learn as one and work together as one. We are all trying to get the feel for each other."
Opportunity of a lifetime: Among the players taking part in the Steelers three-day rookie minicamp is kicker Alfredo Gachuz, who was invited to participate after he impressed team representatives at a Steelers kicking clinic in April.
Gachuz received the invitation to take part when General Manager Omar Khan called him to deliver the news.
It was a special moment for him, as is the opportunity to impress the Steelers coaches this weekend, especially special teams coach Danny Smith.
"I'm trying to take it all in, one step at a time, just like football is one play at a time," said Gachuz. "I want to be present here and now, and not look ahead so that I can make the best out of this experience and for the rest of my life.
"I'm trying to enjoy this and take advantage of this opportunity with all of the resources I have available to me being here. I am very grateful for this opportunity, and I want to keep learning.
"It's not just about adapting to a new environment, but more to just trust the new environment, the people and professionals around you and your teammates so that great things can happen."
Gachuz, who is from Mexico, plays for the Raptors in the LFA, Mexico's professional football league. He was also drafted in the first round of the 2023 CFL Draft earlier this month.
"I played multiple sports growing up," said Gachuz. "My dad always believed in the values that sports add to your life, so I was raised that way. I started playing both soccer and football, and I've always been a kicker since I started playing football.
"I'm very determined and I have a strong work ethic. I always go after my dreams."
Fast learner: Learning the offense, learning the playbook is a common thread among the rookies during minicamp, and for tight end Darnell Washington his experience at the University of Georgia helps with that.
"I am a pretty good, fast learner," said Washington. "Georgia was a program where we ran pro-style offense in a way, just different terminology, so I've just got to remember what we called it at Georgia. Just switch the terminology. I would say I am a quick learner. So far, so good."
He said it: Fourth-round draft pick Nick Herbig on the Steelers expectations.
"You have to be smart, tough and dependable here. Coach (Mike) Tomlin has a great culture, great tradition here and I couldn't be happier to be a Steeler."
Been there, done that: Quarterback Bryce Perkins isn't the typical kind of player who usually winds up at a tryout during a rookie minicamp weekend.
First, he's 26 years old. Second, he actually started an NFL game last season. Third, he's got a Super Bowl ring.
In the words of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Perkins could be considered a "been-there, done-that" guy.
Perkins, a former starter at Virginia, appeared in five games for the Rams in 2022 after not seeing any action in his first two seasons with the team as a practice squad member.
Perkins was signed off the practice squad by the Rams during their Super Bowl run in 2021, then appeared in five games, making one spot start in a 26-10 loss to the Chiefs.
All told, he completed 19 of 34 passes for 161 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for the Rams last season.
"They reached out and I was blessed with the opportunity," Perkins said of the tryout this weekend at the Steelers' rookie minicamp. "I had heard a lot about coach Tomlin and the tradition here. I definitely wanted to come out here and get some work in. Other than that, I'm blessed with the opportunity to come out, show what I've got and see what happens from there."
After spending three seasons with the Rams, Perkins has a little bit of a leg up on rookies Tanner Morgan, signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent after the draft, and former Clemson product Hunter Johnson, who also was in for a tryout this weekend.
But that can be a two-edged sword. Perkins said he caught himself a couple of times looking at how the Rams might try to do things as opposed to how the Steelers want him to do it.
"It's still all new, though. You can get caught up in the habit of seeing things. It's really making sure you're coming out here and adjusting," he said. "You're just coming out and trying to translate the things you've done for three years. It's a new process, but it's been fun.
"A few times out here, I kind of got caught up in it. 'Oh man, we did this, but you guys do this.' It's similar things, but you do it a little different. Automatically, you kind of just revert back to some of the hold stuff. It's good to go into a different system and really kind of look at the intent of the play. It's different than maybe it was in the past. So it's like, 'How can I do what they're trying to have me get done?' It just takes reps. It's been a fun learning process."
-- Blog entry by Dale Lolley
Friday, May 12
Getting started: The Steelers rookies hit the field for the first time on Friday morning as a part of the team's rookie minicamp, and for No. 1 pick Broderick Jones it was great to just get to work.
"It felt great being out here with the guys, grinding, getting it in," said Jones. "I am ready to get it going, see what everybody's got, see what I can do. Make it work.
"Just being around the guys, getting to know them, getting to know everybody's name. Just trying to bond with them. Just trying to get to know everybody, who they are, what they like, how they like to play."
It was simply a walkthrough on Friday morning, an introduction to what is yet to come for the rest of the weekend and when OTAs start in a few weeks. Jones said he primarily lined up at left tackle, but it was just the basics with the other rookies on the line.
"It was O-line stuff," said Jones. "The whole line, you never know what can happen. (Working at) left tackle as of now."
Jones was asked if his mindset was to come in and win a starting job on the line, but he let it be known for now he is just focused on learning the offense, picking up the playbook and adapting to his new team.
"I have the mindset of coming in ready to work," said Jones. "I am not looking forward to winning the job right now. My biggest focus is coming in and doing the best I can do. Learning the playbook and being the best version of me.
"Just being physical, technique, just getting it done."
If he does win that job, he will have no choice to just get it done right off the bat as the Steelers host the San Francisco 49ers and defensive end Nick Bosa, the reigning defensive player of the year in Week 1.
"Yeah…Nick Bosa and the 49ers," said Jones. "Something to prepare for, something to look forward to. Put my best foot forward every day working towards that day. Just trying to get to that point and be the best version of me."
Taking it all in: For Joey Porter Jr., Friday was a time to take it all in.
Porter is the son of former Steelers linebacker and assistant coach Joey Porter Sr. and spent endless hours at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex as a kid during his dad's time with the team.
Now he is there on his own.
"It was something crazy," said Porter of his first practice. "Something I checked off my bucket list now that I am an actual Steeler. It was good.
"I feel at home already. As a young kid I used to come through these doors and work out, and now I am a grown man doing the same thing, so it feels good."
As he stood at his locker Porter said he took a few moments to realize what he has accomplished and how his journey has come full circle.
"I soaked it all in," said Porter. "It took me like three minutes to get outside because I was just standing at my locker. I did that whole little scene and prayed. I looked out here through the whole field and was like, dang I used to be out here as a middle schooler, as a person in high school and now I am really out here."
Getting an advantage: Rookie Nick Herbig came to Steelers minicamp with an advantage over some of the other rookies.
Herbig has the inside scoop on the team as his brother, Nate Herbig, was signed this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
"He can be there to guide me and give me little keys and nuggets for what's to come," said Herbig. "I would say that is definitely a benefit, having an older brother, especially a guy that has been through it all, he's seen a lot, especially being undrafted and going on his fifth year now. He has seen a lot and met a lot of people, and he is very knowledgeable. I have learned a lot from my brother."
Herbig, who was drafted in the fourth round, is living out a dream of not just playing in the NFL, but playing with his brother has taken it to another level.
"Just being in the NFL first of all is a dream come true in itself," said Herbig. "But to be able to play with my best friend, my brother, that is like a whole other world. The chances of that happening, I don't even know what the chances of that happening are, but I am just happy to be here.
"Walking in this morning, looking around and seeing Ben Roethlisberger (picture) on the front, guys like Franco Harris. I am walking the same hall as these guys. One day I want to be up there with them. I am ready to work."
Veteran presence: Among the players taking part in the Steelers rookie minicamp are five veterans on a tryout basis. Per the NFL-NFLPA agreement, the Steelers are only also permitted to host up to five veterans for the three-day tryout.
Those veterans include former Ravens tight end Nick Boyle, who is transitioning to being a long snapper, quarterback Bryce Perkins, who was with the Los Angeles Rams in 2022, and linebacker Quinton Bell, who spent time with Tampa and Atlanta over the last two seasons. In addition, first year players center Mike Panasiuk and offensive tackle Chidi Okeke are also participating.
Keeanu's home: One of the things the Steelers liked about second-round draft pick Keeanu Benton is that he played nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme at Wisconsin that is similar to what he'll be asked to do with the Steelers.
Still, it's not exactly the same, and the young nose tackle is quickly trying to get up to speed.
"It's something I have to get used to," Benton said. "Coming to Wisconsin, it's kind of the same, everything is coming at you 100 miles per hour. The more you play the game, the more it slows down."
But Benton, the second of the Steelers' two second-round picks in this year's draft, likes the pace at which the Steelers attacked things at their rookie minicamp.
Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar didn't take things easy on his group.
"Even through just the walkthrough, you saw that sense of urgency," he said. "I wouldn't expect anything to be different because when you want to be great, you have to have that sense of urgency. You have got to have that care for each other. I love how family-oriented it is here."
-- Blog entry by Dale Lolley