Phase I of the Steelers' offseason program has a developing theme, according to defensive end Cam Heyward.
"Me and (center Maurkice) Pouncey have talked about it a little bit," Heyward explained this week at the Steelers practice facility. "I think the main thing is we're worried about what we can do right now. Just learning (about) guys, getting guys to meet guys, and just be honest with each other. We're trying to be a very transparent group that just comes to work every day.
"We're trying to be an honest group and make sure everybody is accountable. That's our main goal this offseason."
The Steelers are a team in transition this offseason, especially the defensive line. Ziggy Hood and Al Woods signed with other teams as unrestricted free agents, and Brett Keisel currently is without a contract here or anywhere else. Cam Thomas has arrived as a veteran free agent from San Diego.
"It's definitely different," Heyward acknowledged. "I'm an older guy (he'll turn 25 on May 6, but he's a fourth-year pro). That's different. Me and Steve (McLendon, 28) are old, and that's weird.
"But we're trying to bring Cam Thomas along. We have guys like Brian Arnfelt and Nick Williams learning a lot. We're just trying to grow. It's trying to pick them up where guys haven't played or have played at different places and just trying to get them used to playing Steelers football."
Among the other subjects Heyward broached:
Whether Steve McClendon can be considered NT-capable:
"I think he's established that. I thought the way he started off last year, he definitely has the potential. I know 2013 didn't go the way he wanted, but I'm expecting a lot out of Steve. I think he knows what he's got to do on the field, and he wants to do it. He's struggled with some injuries, but that's part of the game, and he's not going to be one of those people to talk about it. He's definitely grown a lot and he sees his mistakes and he wants to be the best he can be."
Where Cam Thomas might fit in:
"I think he's going to be more of a swing man, as Al (Woods) was last year, being able to play end and nose. He's definitely got the body to play nose, but he's also got the ability to play outside as well. We'll just see what he's comfortable with, and we'll go from there."
Whether the team can expect production from Brian Arnfelt and Nick Williams:
"I think so. Nick, coming off an injury, we still have to see where he is. But Brian has put in a lot of work this offseason. He's been here almost every day with me working out. He's definitely come a long way. I though him being around, not even playing that much but being around guys like Brett Keisel and Ziggy (Hood), he got to learn a lot.
"Every day through practice you saw Brian get better. You could see at the end of practices towards the end of the year, he was really starting to strive and make a lot of progress. Going against our offense and our offensive line, it's only going to make you better."