Here We Go, Again

Steelers rookies and first-year players symbolically turning a page and unofficially commencing the countdown to Denver. Mike Prisuta explains.

The signs on the double doors leading from the locker room to the green grass on the South Side instructed those passing through to "Take The Field." For Mike Tomlin's players, that's supposed to be as much of a mindset as it is a physical act.

It's been both this weekend.

Those are only rookies and other relatively inexperienced invitees out there, some with pedigrees (David DeCastro), some with names that are as difficult to spell as they are to pronounce (Igbinosun Ikponmwosa). But for this weekend, at least, they're all Steelers. And they're all playing football, something a group of Steelers hasn't done since Denver.

In doing so, these Steelers rookies and other relatively inexperienced invitees, from Mike Adams to Jimmy Young, are symbolically turning a page and unofficially commencing the countdown to Denver.

Their head coach has already done that.

"For me, it starts when this process starts," Tomlin maintained midway through the festivities. "Once I start building this group, when you're at Mobile [Senior Bowl] and things of that nature, looking at the next crop of talent, it starts for me at that time."

For others, the draft, the first day of veteran minicamp or the first day in Latrobe imply much more of a first-day-at-spring-training feel as it relates to the jumping off point of a new season.

But that said evidence that the Steelers have rebooted the computer is everywhere down at the practice facility. No. 51 is now Sean Spence, not James Farrior. No. 91 is now Corbin Bryant, not Aaron Smith. And No. 68 (offense) is now Kelvin Beachum, not Chris Kemoeatu. No. 68 (offense) went the wrong way in a drill at one point on Saturday; some things never change.

The numbers that figure to draw as much if not more attention than any others as the process continues are Nos. 66 offense (DeCastro) and 76 (Adams). Their freshly-assumed spots on the offensive line have been consistent this weekend, for what it's worth.

"We value the concept of position flexibility," Tomlin said. "You gotta start somewhere. But these guys that are going to be viable candidates, they're gonna have more than one skill set. And of course we'll get to a point where we'll see who's capable of doing multiple things.

"We gotta start somewhere. Particularly if you're talking about the early (-round) guys, DeCastro's a right guard at Stanford, that's where he starts here. The same can be said of Mike Adams. He's a left tackle at Ohio State, that's where he'll begin here."

In other words, we're all still free and clear to continue visualizing lineups, assessing roster spots and roles and otherwise contemplating the possibilities.

We will be until they make it all the way down to the Final 53.

The Steelers have a lot of ground to cover between here and there, but they're taking their first steps in that direction.

"We're having a really good weekend," Tomlin said. "Getting to know these guys, introducing ourselves to these guys, introducing these guys to some fundamental things that we believe in from a football standpoint, beginning the process of helping them develop skills that they're gonna need to earn jobs.

"But largely it's an instructional camp. These guys are working extremely hard. We're having a heck of a time."

That's never a bad thing for openers.


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