The peaceful serenity that has enveloped St. Vincent College over the last few months came to a screeching halt on Wednesday when SUVs, sports cars, smart cars and even Brett Keisel in a front-loading tractor descended upon campus at the first day of Steelers training camp.
Players arrived throughout the day, checking in to the dorm rooms they will call home for the next four weeks with all of the necessities from home – including comforters, video games and of course, lots of snacks.
But after reuniting with teammates, coaches and staff, it was time for serious business as the team held their annual conditioning test in the afternoon.
"I thought we got off to a great start today," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "It's obviously an exciting day for us. The guys check in and go through the checking in procedure.
"Part of that procedure is the conditioning test. I was really pleased, largely with the group. We talked about everybody having the responsibility to show up and be ready to play, and everybody had the right to expect others to do the same. I think I can say unequivocally that we got that done. That was impressive work by the men, young and old.
"There were a number of guys for a variety of reasons that didn't participate but that's common business for us. But largely, those that participated are ready to go and we are excited about that. Now on to the business of why we come here to Latrobe, which is to develop our football team and ready ourselves for the season."
Tomlin mentioned the team's three rookie draft picks on the offensive line, David DeCastro, Mike Adams and Kelvin Beachum, when talking about some of the run test surprises.
"I thought largely the group was impressive," said Tomlin. "I think any time you have young, big people that represent themselves well – I like what the young offensive linemen did, DeCastro, Adams and Beachum. Those are potential candidates that struggle, number one because of the size of their bodies, and number two, this is new to them. So it puts them in harm's way on two fronts. But those three guys ran extremely well and that was somewhat surprising. "
Among those that did not participate are six players the team placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list - linebackers James Harrison and Jason Worilds, tackle Max Starks, defensive back Damon Cromartie-Smith, running back Rashard Mendenhall and nose tackle Casey Hampton.
"We will continue to monitor the health of those men," said Tomlin. "As they get closer to readiness, we will start one-by-one taking those guys off the list but not prior to.
"More than anything, some of these guys that are getting close to coming off injuries, we want to get them in this setting, look at them, work them out and be certain that it's something that is behind us before we proceed. In many instances, it might be viewed as precautionary measures. We feel that it is that important that we make sure we have some things behind us before we move forward with a number of these men. We are looking forward to starting with the guys that are healthy and are here, first and foremost."
The only player who did not report to camp was wide receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace, a restricted free agent, has yet to sign the one-year tender the team offered him.
"On a not so positive note, Mike Wallace was not here today," said Tomlin. "I don't know when he is going to be here. Obviously we have a desire for him to be here. We want him to be a part of this thing, both short term and long term. We've been in negotiations with him. He's not here today. That's unfortunate for him.
"One thing that experience has taught me is that this is bigger than all of us. It's bigger than Wallace and it's bigger than me. So I mean that when I say that it's unfortunate for him that he's not here. This group that is the Pittsburgh Steelers will continue to push on, and we will focus our energy on readying the people that are here. When he shows up, he will show up."
Tomlin said it's been a few weeks since he has spoken to Wallace, and while he wants him there, he has to focus on working with the players that are there.
"I am less concerned about negotiations from a coaching standpoint," said Tomlin. "I want the player here. We extended a tender to him but of course, he hasn't signed it. I am focused on the guys here that are working. I won't focus on him until he gets here."
Tomlin also briefly addressed the three-year contract extension he signed, and only because he was asked about it as he rarely focuses on such things.
"Obviously I am honored and happy that the extension got done," said Tomlin. "But you know I don't talk too much about my job security or care for that matter. I'd be in another line of work if that was my chief concern or one of my chief concerns."
Mendenhall recently tweeted to the effect that his knee was wonderful, something Tomlin was asked about.
"I agree with Mendenhall, his knee is doing wonderful," said Tomlin. "He's looked good. He's worked extremely hard to get back to us as quickly as he could. When he does, we will proceed. In the meanwhile, we are excited about a group of talented, young people. There may be questions in regards to the length of their resume but it's not a concern for us. We are going to have a great deal of concern about the ability of the group. More than anything we are concerned about sorting through the group and working out a division of labor within the group. But we have those issues at many positions, cornerback being one of them. And I am sure there are some at other positions that I am sure you guys would be glad to mention to me."