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Rookies take steps, more to come

They got their introduction to the Steelers' playbook during the team's rookie minicamp in mid-May, when it was just them and a handful of first-year players working together.

Now a month later, with advice and guidance from the team's veterans along the way, they are putting a bow on a productive offseason.

Several rookies shared how far they have come, and what they still need to do before the team reports to training camp at Saint Vincent College on July 25.

Stephon Tuitt, Defensive End, Second-Round Draft Pick


How much progress have you made since rookie minicamp a month ago?**
"I have learned the playbook a lot better. I am a lot more comfortable with it. I understand the defense a lot more. I am still learning the defense, but understand it more. The most important thing is learning to play alongside your teammates and that chemistry."

How helpful have your teammates been?
"They have been very helpful. They are letting me know what everything is about. This is the Steelers defense, the Steel Curtain defense. You have to have the mentality to come out here and destroy."

What do you need to work on between now and training camp?
"I want to get my cardio up, be able to run all day and become more powerful. At the same time come ready to play."

**Rob Blanchflower, Tight End, Seventh-Round Draft Pick

Steelers veterans and rookies participate in day 3 of the 2014 Minicamp at the Steelers' practice facility.

How much progress have you made since rookie minicamp a month ago?**"You can't play fast and be aggressive if you don't know what you are doing. I think for most rookies when you first get here you are so overwhelmed with taking everything in, the new atmosphere, the coaching staff, everything. It clouds your vision a little bit. Now that you are acclimated to Pittsburgh, your teammates, the system the practice schedule, it gives you time to actually focus on what you have to do physically. Being able to go out there and not worry about your assignment and play football is when you get to show your true colors. I think most of the guys are doing that now."

How tough is it when you have to be out there thinking all of the time?
"You always hear on TV how they say the speed of the game changes at this level. I think at a certain level physically people are bigger, faster and stronger. But I think mentally is what they are talking about. Everything is just so quick. You have to make 1,000 decisions in the three seconds it takes you to get to the line of scrimmage and execute perfectly. It's a challenge all of the rookies are going through and I think we are all doing a good job."

What do you need to work on between now and training camp?"I want to learn the system so well that I don't have to think; so I can go out there and apply my physical talents without thinking too much."

**Shaquille Richardson, Cornerback, Fifth-Round Draft Pick

How much progress have you made since rookie minicamp a month ago?"**I think I have been getting better every day, trying to take steps forward and learn from the veterans who are teaching me small things on and off the field. I think I have progressed well, but I have a lot more progression to go."

In what areas do you see the biggest change?
"Knowledge, I've learned a lot. A lot of perspective from the older players more than the physical side. The intensity of minicamp, training camp and the preseason will pick up and they are teaching me how to be prepared for that, controlling myself on the field physically and mentally."

What do you need to work on between now and training camp?
"I need to improve my conditioning to be prepared to go the length of the season. I haven't ever done that. I need to be ready to try and handle it the best I can and just keep working at my craft and technique."

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