LATROBE, Pa. - The Steelers reported to training camp on Thursday at Saint Vincent College, but if you ask the players, football begins today because it's when the pads come on.
After an offseason of 'football in shorts,' and even the first few days of camp in that same mode, things get physical today and players are ready.
"I can't wait," said Ryan Shazier. "I think you start to see the guys who are really football players from the guys who are t-shirt All-Americans. I am just excited to be out there and get back into football shape and get ready for the season.
"We don't play games without pads. The first few hits you have to get used to them, then once you get going you remember how fun it is. I can't wait to get out there and start playing some football."
Just the thought of putting the pads on brought a huge smile to Bud Dupree's face.
"It's always fun to be able to hit somebody," said Dupree. "You can't hit the quarterback, but you can hit somebody. It's fun. It's physical.
"You see where you are with the pads on. It tests your stamina. Pads put a whole different perspective of stamina. They are heavier, harder to run. You see if your hard work paid off in the offseason."
Putting on the pads is nothing new for William Gay, who is headed into his 11th season, but the first day in pads still is special.
"It's real football now," said Gay. "You get to have some contact. It lets you know that now the 2017 season is here. Everybody looks good in shorts. With the pads, it's back to football and the contact element. It's going to be fun. Everybody is excited. The rookies are probably excited to get it out of the way."
This will be the first time coaches and teammates get to see No. 1 pick T.J. Watt wearing the pads in practice, and Watt is ready to show what he can do.
"I am excited," said Watt. "You are in a helmet, shorts and t-shirt for so long that you want to get out there and show the coaches what you can do. It's not a real evaluation until you have the pads on."