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Rookie minicamp is a new beginning

Coach Mike Tomlin didn't stand still for long out on the fields at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex during the team's rookie minicamp practice on Saturday. He methodically made his way from position to position, watching each group work, because the main thing right now is getting to know the players and how they work in person, not on film.

"We're really excited about the work that's being done here," said Tomlin. "It's introductory weekend. It's an opportunity to get to know them, for them to get to know us. The things that we're trying to build here environmentally, the culture, familiarize ourselves with our draft picks, our rookie free agents."

It's also an opportunity for Tomlin to eye up the 28 players who are there on a tryout basis, players trying to catch someone's eye and show they can bring something to the table.

"It's a rookie tryout weekend and so we're really watching a lot of guys who are putting their best foot forward in an effort to maybe launch their NFL careers," said Tomlin. "So, we're excited about that as well."

Tomlin said there are times when a player can open eyes, whether it's a draft pick, free agent or tryout player, that leads to more. He cited Devlin Hodges, the quarterback who was signed by the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2019 and went on to start six games with the team as an example.

"A number of years ago, we had a guy Duck Hodges out here," said Tomlin. "We didn't know that he would start some games for us at quarterback, for example. And so, you work out here in these circumstances with an edge. You really respect all the participants. You look at what they have to offer, you forecast maybe how they could get better here in the next few months. And then you make the necessary decision.

"We're very much in the midst of that. It has been a highly productive weekend. We expect it to continue as we as we continue to press forward."

Tomlin said he enjoys the minicamp, something that hasn't gotten old for him during his time at the helm.

"It's the beginning," said Tomlin. "It's the beginning for them. It's the beginning for us. It's the first exposure for them. It's a dry run for us.

"From a coach's perspective, we got a finite amount of material and given a finite amount of time to present it. Just the vocational component of lesson planning and so forth. We're all here to get better in this, at the very beginning stages of team development.

"There is some excitement, some anxiety, and the edge with the beginning process."

More from Tomlin:

If he has learned anything new about first-round pick Kenny Pickett since rookie minicamp began:
"Not particularly with him, but obviously I got a heck of a lot more exposure to him. Particularly from a personal standpoint, the man relative to some of his teammates."

On second-round pick DeMarvin Leal, who said he has already put on more weight:
"He's speculating if he thinks we want him to put on weight. We're just here getting to know him and his body and how it works. Oftentimes in draft preparation, guys hear things from NFL people, and they try to do what they think we want. The reality is we're trying to get to know the athlete, the pedigree of the athlete and how his body works, what's the optimal condition for him to be in. It would be much too premature to talk about desired weights and so forth with any of these guys, because we're just getting to know him."

On if it's important to see players in person, in particular the receivers, to envision how they run out of the slot, outside the numbers:
"Particularly at the wide receiver position, you glean a lot of that stuff and on video. In some other positions, it's more difficult, but at the wide receiver position, you have a pretty good understanding I think of those type of capabilities. But make no mistake about it. Laying a firsthand eye on them in a venue like this confirms some of those things, but so does Pro Day travel. And that's why getting out for Pro Days and seeing them in person and working at their universities prior to the draft is an important component for us."

On what he sees from receiver Calvin Austin III that makes him not worry about his size:
"Speed. Speed. Run extremely fast. When you're small, man you better be fast in this game. And that's the reality of it. That's nothing new. It's not earth shattering or groundbreaking. That is his distinguishing trait, and it has to show up in all aspects of his play."

On if he has to be careful not liking what he sees in minicamp too much:
"I don't have to be careful. That's easy."