Steelers back to work as OTAs begin

The heat and humidity on Tuesday made it feel like the first day of training camp, but on this spring day it was the beginning of OTAs (organized team activities) that had the Steelers sweating it out at the team's practice facility.

"Hot weather is a good ingredient for team building, particularly from a physical condition standpoint," said Coach Mike Tomlin after putting players through drills on day one. "Of course, we're at the very beginning of the offseason program and those are some of the things that are at the front of our minds, just simply starting with a good base of overall physical conditioning. It was a very positive day. The first rule of getting better is showing up and our football team did that. I'm excited about seeing the guys and getting started with our journey for 2013."

It's the first time the team is allowed to go through 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills, and it was a packed house, with rookie Markus Wheaton who can't attend because of school the only one missing.

"I kind of expected it on day one," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the turnout. "There were a lot of good things. It's good to be back out here."

Many of the players felt there was a lot of focus and determination, even on day one, after a disappointing 2012 season, which ended without a playoff appearance.

"That sour taste, going 8-8 and not making the playoffs," said cornerback Ike Taylor. "That is something we pride ourselves on, making the playoffs, having the opportunity to get to the championship game and we came up short last year.

"You put in so much effort starting right here at OTAs to at least get the opportunity to get in the playoffs. When you put in all of that effort, OTAs, training camp, minicamp, going along through the season, having opportunities to make it and you don't, it's frustrating."

Receiver Antonio Brown said he, as well as his teammates, spent the last few months looking at their own play and taking the necessary steps to assure there won't be a repeat of last year.

"There are a lot of things you do differently," said Brown. "You critique the crap out of your game and find things you can do to be better. Ball security is going to be a key and making big plays for the team."

Brown also feels like he has to take on a leadership role on offense, despite the fact that he is only in his fourth season.

"I have to be a vocal guy, set the tempo, set the standard around here," said Brown. "That is what I am here to do. I have been here a couple of years. I understand the tradition, how things need to be done."

Rookie quarterback Landry Jones, who played at the University of Oklahoma, has been closely following the coverage of the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. Jones is saddened by what he has seen and knows the feeling of always having to be prepared for the unexpected weather in the Midwest.

"Once it's this time of year it's tornado season out there," said Jones. "You are going to have at least one or two a year. You have to have your plan and know where you are going to go when the sirens go off."

Jones' wife, Whitney, is in Norman, Oklahoma, about 30 minutes north of where the tornado hit, and getting in touch with her was tough.

"Cell phone service was down, internet was down," said Jones. "It was hard to get in touch with people. Once the night went on I was able to get in touch and make sure everyone was okay back home."

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