Rookie minicamp in a virtual world

The cold, raw, rainy weather in Pittsburgh, a day more reminiscent of November than May, would have made for a miserable day for the Steelers to hold their rookie minicamp.

But given the alternative, it might have been a welcome respite for the team's rookies.

The Steelers held their first day of rookie minicamp on Friday, all of it in a virtual world. The on-field drills that have become the norm were completely replaced by virtual meetings, with the players together for their first time to get a look at the playbook.

"I want to get a good grasp on the playbook after this," said second-round pick Chase Claypool. "Obviously you can't get the whole playbook in a few days. Just a good grasp on the concepts, the terminology. That is what I learned today, those basic things, and we are going to progress as days go on.

"It's definitely different. We have a couple of different websites that we use to get in and out of meetings that has information and stuff. They were able to supply me with an iPad that has some of the basic terminology and stuff, but not the entire playbook. It's kind of hard to dissect it that way. That is what this rookie minicamp is for. It's definitely a unique experience."

Claypool said he has been training at home in Canada since the draft with his own trainers and is taking everything that he has learned out onto the field and working on it, even though the information has been limited to date.

"I am working on some of the things I have picked up on," said Claypool. "The installs are just getting started. But we have gone on the field and just walked through those things, so I get an idea of how to do it on the field."

The day started around 11 a.m. for the players and went until around 4 p.m. It kicked off with a meeting with Coach Mike Tomlin, and also included meetings with position coaches as well as special teams work.

"We met all of the coaches today on the rookie minicamp zoom call today, and got familiarized with them," said Claypool, who has heard from Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer and Eric Ebron since the draft to see if he needed anything. "We are meeting with the receivers now as a group.

"Ben has a group chat going with all of us. He said as soon as we can get together, we can get together and learn the offense together. That is as far as the playbook has gone. Other than that, I have just been learning through the recources I have been given, the iPad and that, and the rookie minicamp."

It's been a unique experience for the rookies this season, first going through a virtual draft, and now a virtual rookie minicamp because of the restrictions due to COVID-19.

"There is a little uncertainty there," said seventh-round pick Carlos Davis. "This is a different draft class. We aren't able to be there, so it does raise a little concern. I am just focused on learning the playbook right now and when we get to be there just doing the work.

"We dove into the playbook with Coach (Karl) Dunbar, me and him. I got to go over the plays before we did it as a rookie class. This is my second time going through the installs. I am trying to fine tune everything and dive into the defense."

Davis said he has been working out on his own, doing on-field conditioning and football drills since he doesn't have access to a weight room. His brother Khalil, who was drafted this year by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been going through the same thing with him, and the two are encouraging each other as much as possible.

"We are on two different schedules. Usually we are meeting at the same time. We do our own thing," said Davis. "We can look to each other, see what each other is doing. We check up on each other while we are doing it. We just go off of that. We just talk about what his team is doing different than mine."

Davis has also talked to some of the veterans on the defensive line, including Cameron Heyward, who has provided plenty of advice.

"Cam has reached out to me. He seems like a really good guy," said Davis. "I have talked to a few of the guys. Mostly asking for advice, being in my shoes, how they handled it. Any piece of advice I can get going into this thing. Little things about keeping your body right and staying in the best possible shape that you can.

"I also feel like me and Coach Dunbar get along really well. We have been on Facetime and stuff, going over plays. I have been meeting with him since the draft. I like the way he coaches and teaches. I am excited."

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