The Steelers are packing up and heading out of training camp at St. Vincent College, but the work is far from over. The team still has three preseason games left, starting Monday night against the Washington Redskins, and the growth process will continue when the team returns to their practice facility on the South Side next week.
"Camp is coming to a close, but it's really just about the midway point of the team development process," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "I am not looking at this with any type of finality. We have three preseason games left before we determine who are the Pittsburgh Steelers for 2013. We are just simply changing locations of where we work as we exit camp."
The last three weeks has given Tomlin a good indicator of the talent on the team, and their competitive demeanor has been fully exposed with the introduction of live tacking in this camp.
"We want to increase the avenues to evaluate men, or increase the avenues in which people can distinguish themselves," said Tomlin. "When you are playing tackle football it does that. The opportunities to impress are very few and we are just trying to increase them with how we work."
Younger players, like first-round pick Jarvis Jones have taken snaps with the first-team as well as the third-team during the live tackling drills, something Tomlin is using as a barometer to learn about each individual.
"We are just going to provide guys reps," said Tomlin. "Don't read too much into what group people are working in. We are going to mix and match, pit people against one another. Sometimes it's just to see how people perform once fatigue sets in.
"We do things for different reasons, trying to gather information about the people we are trying to evaluate."
Tomlin said there was nothing in particular that changed the approach to practice, instead something that helps in the overall development of the team.
"I just try to give each individual group what I think they need to be ready," said Tomlin. "I felt like that is something this group needed. I can't forecast what the next group will look like, let alone what they need. I thought it was appropriate for this group.
"They have done a nice job of accepting the challenge and going about the business of displaying their skills in that area on a day-to-day basis."
Some have labeled this camp one that will be known for its live hitting, but in Tomlin's opinion there are no themes to camp, only results downs the road.
"I come to camp for one reason and one reason only, that is to get ready for the season," said Tomlin. "Ultimately camps are measured by the results of those seasons."
There are a lot of thankless positions on the football field, and the gunner spot on punt and kickoff returns is a prime example. They are the players running down field full-speed ahead with one mission only, come down the sideline untouched and tackle the returner.
Tomlin said those that do the job the best, are those that are willing to do the job with everything they have.
"It's not about what you are capable of, it's about what you are willing to do often times, in particular in that job" said Tomlin. "There are a lot of gory jobs in football, and that is a gory job. Demeanor has a lot to do with it.
"Thankfully we have a guy that takes a great deal of pride in how he plays in Curtis Brown in that regard. He provides a good example for guys who are aspiring to do that for a living, how to approach it and how to excel at it."