They went through a long offseason, through football in shorts in May and June and padded practices against their teammates in training camp.
On Friday night, though, it all gets real.
The Steelers open their preseason against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field on Friday, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m., and players are ready for a change of pace.
“I am really looking forward to it,” said Ola Adeniyi, who injured his hamstring last year in the preseason and then missed time in the season. “This is what all the work is for. The first game of the preseason. Get the jitters out and ready to go.
“I get to start all over, make a name for myself. Every day I come out here Coach (Mike) Tomlin says, ‘Are you available today Ola, are you ready to go?’ I just want to get that conversation out of the picture. If I can be healthy this whole preseason it shows I am available and ready to go.”
For guys on defense, who have been hitting their own teammates, Friday is finally a chance to let loose on someone else.
“I can’t wait to hit someone in a different jersey,” said Jordan Dangerfield. “Once you get into Heinz Field you know what time it is. Just to get out there in front of the home crowd is going to be great.”
While things change dramatically during the regular season for game prep, just getting a taste of it this week is enough to fire some of the guys up.
“It’s nice to get back in a little rhythm of things, how the week goes, preparing for the game week,” said Tyler Matakevich. “It’s nice not to hit the same people every day. Get out there and hit somebody else, a different opponent. Just get out there.
“You just have to go out there and perform. You know your job, what they expect. You just have to go out there and play football.”
Taking the next step: Mason Rudolph hasn’t taken a game snap since the preseason last year, and he is definitely chomping at the bit to get out there on Friday.
“It’s going to be fun to get back out there and compete against a new set of jerseys and let it rip,” said Rudolph. “We have a great plan put together. It’s tough when you’re practicing and still installing things, but also putting together a plan. The coaches do a great job preparing us and we will be ready to go Friday.
“I have to make plays and show trust is there on the field of play. It’s a complete collective showing of it. I am excited to do it.”
Rudolph admits it wasn’t easy last season being on the sidelines, but used the year to learn and grow.
“It’s never fun. It’s a big change,” said Rudolph. “I definitely made the most of it, enjoyed it. I took what I could from Ben’s (Roethlisberger) preparation, his on the field game tape and experience and watched him operate. It was fun. I tried to add some new processes. I am ready to let it go this week.”
Rudolph, one of the team’s third-round draft picks in 2018, is competing against Josh Dobbs for the role of Ben Roethlisberger’s backup. Rudolph said he feels much more comfortable in his second season, but also knows there is a lot of work to be done.
“I am having so much more fun,” said Rudolph. “Things have slowed down. I am ready to play. We get to play a different set of uniforms, not our guys, and get out there and let it rip.
“I am competing against myself. There is always going to be someone else on the roster you are competing against. That sharpens you. Last year I was competing against myself. I couldn’t get out of my own way. I was a little hesitant. I wasn’t as aggressive. That comes with the territory. Year two I have already felt 10 times better.”
Take a look at photos from the Pittsburgh Steelers 10th day of training camp