Offseason Program

Unfinished business

There's an understanding regarding what they're after, an unchanging, uncompromising standard that's so well established and has been such a bedrock of Steelers' culture for so long now that it really requires no annual clarification.

But defensive end Cam Heyward decided to set the record straight while looking ahead, anyway.

"We're not just doing this to be regular-season champions," Heyward maintained at the conclusion of OTAs and mandatory veteran minicamp. "At the end of the day, that doesn't win a Super Bowl."

The Steelers won 13 games and the AFC North Division championship last season.

No team in the NFL won with more regularity in 2017 (New England, Philadelphia and Minnesota also went 13-3 in the regular season).

But for the Steelers it wasn't enough, particularly in the wake of the 45-42 playoff loss to Jacksonville the Steelers absorbed on Jan. 14 at Heinz Field.

"We're all prisoners of the moment," Heyward continued. "We all struggle with the last game. We were hard on ourselves, too. But we have to understand, we had a good year. We didn't end where we wanted to.

"(A franchise-record) 56 sacks is nothing to blink at. But we always want to strive to be better. There are a lot of things we can improve on and we look forward to it. We embrace the challenge. This is a good team but it's about getting over that hump, about taking that next step. You don't want to just get there. You want to go all the way and finish the job."

Work toward that end commenced in OTAs, continued through minicamp and will resume on July 25 at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.

The early efforts have been encouraging, if not defining.

"You see a lot of guys that have been playing with each other for a while get a chance to come back together, form that chemistry again, pick up where we left off last year," defensive end Stephon Tuitt assessed in the spring. "It's a great start even though it's not the finish line, this is just the beginning. For us to be out here together working, getting better, I saw a lot of guys progress and become better football players."

Added Heyward: "We're building something new."

Something sustainable, not just through the regular season but throughout the playoffs.

That, at least, is what they have in mind.

"I think we have a good culture, but I think the thing we have to build around is we're not satisfied yet," Heyward said. "I think we have to build around nothing's guaranteed. There's a lot of things that can happen between now and the first game. And there's a lot of things that happen during the season.

"To say we were AFC North Champions last year means nothing to this year. But I look forward to having this good group of guys, I know we're a very talented bunch but talent doesn't win all the time. At the end of the day we gotta get the job done.

"It's an assortment of things we can grow. To grow, you have to be more disciplined. You have to be more technically sound. You have to understand the moment, understand that our technique makes us better and we trust each other more in that.

"We have a good offense. We have a good defense. We have good special teams, but it's about being a whole team. We can sit up here and talk about the last game, but there are other games we did well on defense and the offense did bad. We have to work together on being a more complete unit. I look forward to that because when all three levels are working together we're a much better team."

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