View Full Version : A productive mini-camp for rookies

05-07-2012, 01:45 PM
A productive mini-camp for rookies
Posted May 6, 2012

Teresa Varley

When Steelers rookies arrived in Pittsburgh on Thursday, they were like college freshmen on the first day of school – unsure of their surroundings and in a completely new atmosphere.

But come Sunday afternoon, when they wrapped up three days of practice, the newcomers all left with a level of comfort that will help them when they return for OTAs later this month.

“It was a great weekend. I think I benefitted a lot from it,” said linebacker Sean Spence. “Coming out here, getting familiar with some of the plays, how things are run here as a Pittsburgh Steeler. I am glad we had this opportunity.”

The rookies went through five practices, two on both Friday and Saturday and one on Sunday, as well as an introduction to the playbook.

“Over the weekend you feel more comfortable than you did the first day, the second day, learning the system and how to play in it,” said linebacker Brandon Lindsey. “It makes you more comfortable and helps you play faster.”

The mini-camp was only for rookies and select first-year players, keeping everyone on a level playing field and allowing the young players to get acclimated before the pace really picks up.

“I think it was great for us, it helped us get our feet wet, see where we are going, see what we need to do before the veterans get back and things start running real fast,” said Spence. “It’s a huge advantage. You don’t want to come out here looking like a lost child in front of the vets and be embarrassed. I think getting this experience for us rookies is great.”

The lack of veteran presence also gave the rookies more snaps, allowing them to be front and center now before having to share reps when the veterans arrive.

“It definitely is going to help all of the rookies out,” said Lindsey. “When the veterans get here we aren’t going to get the reps we got this weekend. It will give us a leg up on learning the system, where we are supposed to be, how we are supposed to practice and how to be a Steleer.”

There were about 15 first-year players taking part in the mini-camp as well, including offensive lineman Trevis Turner who was happy to get an early jump on offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s new offense.

“Last year was my first year in and the lockout was on so we didn’t go through these things,” said Turner. “It helps me going through all of these things. It’s a good opportunity to get more acclimated to the new system and just get better.”

Rookies are permitted to return later in May to participate in OTAs and many of them plan on spending the next few weeks studying their playbook so they are prepared when the veterans do arrive.

“I want to bury myself in the defensive playbook and also special teams until I get back here,” said Spence.

He won’t be alone spending his free time studying.

“I am learning the playbook slowly,” said wide receiver Toney Clemons. “I don’t have it mastered by any means, but I am learning it and starting the transition. There is a real long way to go, light years to go to where I want to be.”


05-07-2012, 01:46 PM
Rookies ready for next step
Posted 8 hours ago

Teresa Varley

If there was one rookie who knew his way around the Steelers practice field during this past weekend’s mini-camp it was linebacker Brandon Lindsey.

Lindsey, an undrafted free agent, played for the University of Pittsburgh, who shares the UPMC Sports Performance Complex with the Steelers.

Despite the familiar surroundings, there were still a lot of adjustments for Lindsey as he is making the transition from college to the NFL.

“I am learning a whole new system, how they say things and do things,” said Lindsey. “That is the biggest difference. It seems like I will do more dropping (into coverage) than I did at Pitt and it’s something I welcome. I will be ready by the time camp comes.”

Lindsey plans on getting ready for camp by learning as much as he can from the Steelers standout outside linebackers, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, during the team’s OTAs that begin on May 22.

“You can’t ask for more than learning behind players like Woodley and Harrison,” said Lindsey. “I am going to pick their brains as much as I can.”

After not being drafted Lindsey plans on coming to OTAs and training camp with a strong drive to prove that he does belong in the NFL.

“I was disappointed, I was mad, in tears,” said Lindsey of the draft. “It gave me something to shoot for. I was told I could go in the third, fourth or fifth round. I stopped watching after the fifth round. I went to sleep and took a nap.

“I have to come in with a chip on my shoulder. I just have to be hungrier than the man in front of me. He can make the team and I could go elsewhere.”

* * *

The Steelers took only one wide receiver in the draft, seventh-round pick Toney Clemons, but also added rookie free agent receivers Connor Dixon and Marquis Maze to the mix at the position. Clemons welcomes the competition, knowing it can only make him better.

“Everybody is fighting for a roster spot,” said Clemons. “It’s motivation. But you have to go out there and play your game and prepare the way you do. At every level there is competition, here it’s just more elite. I have to be prepared, be on top of my stuff and find ways to get better every day.”

Dixon, who is from the Pittsburgh area and attended Duquesne University, was happy that the rookies got a chance to get more repetitions during mini-camp with no veterans taking part.

“It helps to get acclimated better with just the rookies here,” said Dixon. “You aren’t thrown to the wolves with the veterans. It’s a chance for us to get acclimated to this game, how they coach and everything.”

* * *

Steelers’ rookies had information flying at them at a fast pace over the weekend and running back Chris Rainey loved every minute of it.

“I learn fast so it’s easy for me,” said Rainey. “I came out of a good program at Florida. I am just out here having a blast.”

Rainey has a lot to learn as he is being looked at not just at running back, but as a returner as well.

“It’s not hard,” said Rainey. “If you know the plays and are a fast learner and have the talent, if you can put it all together, it’s not hard. You just have to put it all together and show them what you’ve got. You just have to do what you can do and have fun with it.”


05-07-2012, 01:46 PM
It's now a reality for Steelers rookies
Posted May 3, 2012

Teresa Varley

As they walked through the front door of the Steelers offices at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex on Thursday afternoon, it finally hit home for many Steelers rookies.

After almost a week of well-wishes and congratulations from family and friends for being the newest members of the black and gold, it was time to go to work as they arrived for rookie mini-camp.

“I thought I was still in a dream and then it finally hit me,” said running back Chris Rainey, the team’s fifth-round draft pick out of Florida. “It finally hit me when I got here, looking at the locker room, all of the pictures. It’s a dream come true and I am ready to play.”

For some of the rookies it was the first time walking into the team’s practice facility, while other rookies made pre-draft visits to the team, and the top three picks David DeCastro, Mike Adams and Sean Spence came in for the team’s Fan Blitz last Saturday.

But for everyone it was still the same reaction, because now they are here to play football.

“Last weekend when I came here it was cool to see some of the new faces,” said Adams. “Then to come in and actually have guys from the team here, guys I work with now, it’s a bit of a reality check.

“I have been waiting to get here for rookie camp. Now that I am here I am excited to get started.”

There was some business to get out of the way for the players on Thursday, from a stop in the equipment room to get fit for a helmet, gloves and more, checking in with the athletic trainers, getting their head shot taken and then a look around the locker room to get comfortable with their new surroundings.

“It is reality. I am here, getting ready for work,” said tackle Kelvin Beachum, one of the seventh round draft picks. “I am really happy to be here. I want to get acclimated. I came here for a pre-draft visit. This is the real thing. I need to get acclimated to do what I need to do to make the 53-man roster.”

The team will hold five practices over the weekend, with it just being the rookies and some first-year players taking part.

“Having guys who are going through the same thing take part is an advantage,” said Adams. “We are all in the same boat. We are all going through the same thing. It’s great to get in here and meet the guys and get to work with them.”

And while many of the rookies are anxious to get on the field with the veterans, they like that their first practices will have everyone on the same level as far as being familiar with the offensive and defensive systems.

“It won’t be like it is when the veterans are here,” said wide receiver Toney Clemons, also taken in the seventh round. “It’s good to go out there with guys that have the same sense of nervousness, but confidence that they belong on this level. We get to bond together, push each other and encourage each other.”


05-07-2012, 01:47 PM
Is it August yet? I hate this time of year with nothing of substance football-wise.

05-07-2012, 01:51 PM
Good weekend so far for Steelers rookiesPosted May 5, 2012

Teresa Varley

Steelers’ rookies hit the field on Saturday for their second day of the team’s three-day rookie mini-camp and Coach Mike Tomlin is pleased with what he has seen so far.

“We’re having a really good weekend, getting to know these guys, introducing ourselves to these guys, introducing these guys to some of the fundamental things we believe in from a football standpoint,” said Tomlin. “We’re beginning the process of helping them to develop skills that they’re going to need to earn jobs, but largely this is an instructional camp. We’re having a heckuva time, and these guys are working extremely hard.”

With just rookies and select first-year players on the field it’s giving the coaches a chance to see the versatility of the players.

“You know that we value the concept of position flexibility,” said Tomlin. “You have to start somewhere. These guys who are going to be viable candidates are going to need to have more than one skill set, and of course we’ll get to a point where we see who’s capable of doing multiple things.”

* * *

When linebacker Sean Spence (http://www.planetsteelers.com/team/roster/sean-spence/be819128-6117-419b-8586-f0c71facd389/) was first assigned his number during rookie mini-camp, he knew right away about the guy that wore it before him. Spence was assigned No. 51, the number worn by former defensive captain James Farrior.

“They just gave it to me,” said Spence. “I don’t think any other number was open. I understand James Farrior wore this number. He was a great linebacker. I am not James Farrior. I am just trying to come in and compete and help the team any way I can.

“I watched the Steelers a lot. They were my favorite team growing up. I watched the defense a lot. I knew he had this number. Being that I was a defensive guy, the way they played defense and flying around all of the time, I liked them.”

Farrior is a player who knew the Steelers defense inside and out, and Spence feels that with time he will grasp it as well.

“It’s complicated. There are a lot of different things,” said Spence. “Once you get the hang of it it’s going to be fun. You have to get a lot of reps which is what we are doing out here this weekend. It’s that and muscle memory. You have to get constant repetitions, studying the playbook on my down time and just putting in work.

“You just play ball. That is the best thing you can do. The coaches know we are going to make mistakes but the best thing to do is get to the ball.”

* * *

Fourth-round draft pick Alameda Ta’amu came in to rookie mini-camp weighing around 346 pounds, close to the playing weight the nose tackle is shooting for and nothing close to a reported weight of 380 pounds he was once at.

“I was 17 and coming into college then,” explained Ta’amu of his weight. “I didn’t even know I was that big. I thought I was around 330 pounds and it kept going up the scale. I fractured my right foot in high school and I think that’s how I gained weight, sitting around all day.”

Ta’amu said he is feeling good now, comfortable as to where his conditioning is after the first few days of mini-camp.

“In order to get in football shape, you have to play football,” said Ta’amu. “I was doing drills back home but I was worried I would come here and it would be different. I feel good. I feel in good football shape.”

* * *

Wide receiver Toney Clemons (http://www.planetsteelers.com/team/roster/toney-clemons/b03d7ffa-cb07-46c3-99d4-b70a99d77933/) had a sheepish look on his face when he was asked about breaking the collarbone of Dan Rooney, the son of Steelers President Art Rooney II, when he played against him in high school.

Clemons’ Valley High School played against Rooney’s Shadyside Academy team on a Thursday night, with the game televised on FSN Pittsburgh. Rooney, Shady Side’s quarterback, broke the collarbone when he was hit by Clemons.

“He was lighting us up,” said Clemons. “He was going in to score. I came in and got a lucky shot on him to keep him out of the end zone, but I didn’t mean to hurt him. I didn’t know I hurt him. When I got the news I felt terrible about it.

“I remember that play. Now I am out here trying to make plays for his family. His uncle said something to me yesterday. He came up to me and told me I broke his nephew’s collarbone. It was surreal. I apologized to him as well. I haven’t talked to him. I talked to some of his former teammates on Twitter. They reached out to me and we reminisced about that and playing in high school.”


05-07-2012, 01:52 PM
Rookies get right to work
Posted May 4, 2012

Teresa Varley

Steelers’ rookies got their first taste of the NFL on Friday when the team began their rookie mini-camp.

“It feels good,” said running back Chris Rainey. “It’s still a dream come true. It feels like I am still in the dream. I am looking around thinking is this really the NFL? Yes it is and I am just having a blast.”

The players went through drills in shorts and jerseys in the morning, with temperatures more like those during training camp at St. Vincent College than early May.

“It’s nice to be able to practice and play football again and have a team, a group of guys here,” said guard David DeCastro. “It’s a whole new process. We went through long individual periods and then two short team periods. It was pretty good.”

One thing the rookies did notice is the pace of practice is different from what many of them were used to in college.

“Everything is more up-tempo,” said wide receiver Toney Clemons. “The pace is faster. The preparation for it is different. The drills are different, everything is full speed. They don’t waste time here and they don’t waste reps. You have to make the most of your reps when you get them. That’s the mindset you have to have every practice.

“That is the biggest difference making the transition from a college player trying to be a pro player. If you made mistakes in college they would slow it down, restart periods. But judging how things went here I don’t think they will be doing that. I get to come out here and see what it is like to work like the pros work and do it in a great facility with a great organization.”

The rookies aren’t wasting a minute of time learning their playbook either. A portion was introduced to them before practice and they immediately dove into it, knowing it’s going to take a lot of time to learn it completely.

“It’s something I feel like I can pick up and learn with time, practice and studying,” said Clemons. “You can’t just open it and know it. You have to study it. You have to know more than you knew in college.”

* * *

DeCastro came out to practice wearing a number that one of the great guards in Steelers history wore – Alan Faneca’s No. 66.

“He is one of those guys you looked up to when you were in high school and college and watching him play,” said DeCastro. “I liked the number and wanted to pick it.”

DeCastro, who said he doesn’t feel any added pressure wearing the number as being a number one pick comes with pressure in itself, wouldn’t mind talking to Faneca one day for some advice.

“He would be a pretty good person to talk to,” said DeCastro. “I think he knows what he is doing.”

* * *

One rookie has already talked to a player he looks up to, something he said will help his adjustment to the Steelers.

Troy Polamalu called nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu after he was drafted, welcoming the fellow Samoan to the team.

“He represents a lot of the Polynesians, especially on the West Coast,” said Ta’amu. “When he called me I didn’t think it was really him but then you know his voice from those Head & Shoulders commercials. I was talking to him and it was crazy. I couldn’t believe I was talking to somebody a lot of Samoans look up to. I couldn’t hold it in. I had to tweet it.

“He was talking about if I need anything hit him up. We are brothers. Just having him out here, and especially him calling me, makes me feel better out here.”


05-07-2012, 01:55 PM
Tomlin on rookie orientation
Posted May 5, 2012

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media following the Saturday morning on-field session of rookie orientation.

Tomlin: We’re having a really good weekend, getting to know these guys, introducing ourselves to these guys, introducing these guys to some of the fundamental things we believe in from a football standpoint. We’re beginning the process of helping them to develop skills that they’re going to need to earn jobs, but largely this is an instructional camp. We’re having a heckuva time, and these guys are working extremely hard.

Q. Does this feel like the official beginning of the 2012 season to you?

A. No. For me it starts when this process starts. Once I start building this group – when you’re down at Mobile (for the Senior Bowl) and things of that nature looking at the next crop of talent, it starts for me at that time.

Q. Having not been able to go through this kind of stuff last year because of the lockout, do you have an appreciation of how much you can get done here in a couple of days?

A. Missing last year has nothing to do with it. I do have an appreciation for this process.

Q. As far as where you are lining guys up this weekend, is it just that you have to start somewhere? Is there anything to be read into certain individuals playing certain spots?

A. You know that we value the concept of position flexibility. You have to start somewhere. These guys who are going to be viable candidates are going to need to have more than one skill-set, and of course we’ll get to a point where we see who’s capable of doing multiple things.

Q. Specifically, when you look at the offensive linemen, Sean Kugler said that was something that was going to sort itself out?

A. Certainly, but we have to start somewhere. Particularly, if you’re talking about the guys drafted early – David DeCastro was a right guard at Stanford and that’s where he starts here, and the same can be said for Mike Adams. He was a left tackle at Ohio State and that’s where he’ll begin here.


05-07-2012, 10:36 PM
Thanks for posting, Ruth - awesome reads! HERE WE GO!!

D Rock
05-08-2012, 07:38 AM
Thanks for posting, Ruth - awesome reads! HERE WE GO!!


05-08-2012, 01:00 PM

Is this the dog from those Bud commercials?

05-08-2012, 01:41 PM
Is this the dog from those Bud commercials?

That's Weego. Here Weego!!!


05-09-2012, 09:24 AM
No, here is the dog from the Bud commercials.


05-09-2012, 11:37 AM
Is this becoming the freakin Humane Society????

How about some football talk???

05-09-2012, 12:54 PM
Is this becoming the freakin Humane Society????

How about some football talk???


LeBeau is the Football God of Defense!! All hail DL!!!! :lol:

05-09-2012, 01:18 PM

LeBeau is the Football God of Defense!! All hail DL!!!! :lol:

No way...you can't teach an old dog new tricks...he's taken our beloved Blitzburgh rottweilers and turned them into a bunch of poodles...he should be taken out behind the woodshed like Ol' Yeller...bad dog, BAD DOG!!! :)

05-09-2012, 01:32 PM
Pouncey, Gilbert welcome young linemen
Posted May 8, 2012

Teresa Varley

Center Maurkice Pouncey kept a close eye on the recent NFL Draft, checking in on who his new Steelers teammates would be. When he learned the first two picks, and three overall in the draft, were going to be joining him in the offensive line room he couldn’t help but be thrilled.

“It’s definitely exciting,” said Pouncey. “The draft picks we got are really, really good picks. Hopefully they get in here ready to work. I know all of the guys will be excited about it and I know the coaches will be too.”

The Steelers selected guard David DeCastro in the first round, tackle Mike Adams in the second and guard Kelvin Beachum in the seventh round, continuing a trend that started when Pouncey was a first-round pick in 2010 and tackle Marcus Gilbert a second round pick in 2011.

“It’s always good to add on and improve your room with good, young, talented offensive linemen,” said Gilbert. “We are looking forward to having them in our room. I think our coaches addressed what we needed. We needed depth in the offensive line room with the injuries last year. These young guys can come in and help us tremendously.”

If there is one thing everyone on the line is hoping for this year it is stability. There were nine different starting combinations on the line last year, beginning week one when tackle Willie Colon was lost for the season. Injuries throughout the year had the coaches continually shuffling the line, something that nobody wants this year.

“You have to build chemistry with who you play next to,” said Gilbert. “If you build a bond with the guy you are playing next to that can help tremendously. With all of the injuries it was difficult, especially going into the next week not knowing who you will have. It was frustrating last year, but I think we have a lot of guys that can come in and help us and are willing to push and get ready to play.”

It’s too early to know what type of role the draft picks will play, but the veterans are anxious to work with them and get them up to speed and ready to roll.

“I talked to DeCastro and Adams after the draft,” said Pouncey. “They were both excited about it and ready to get to work. They sounded young and excited like I was. I remember when I first got drafted and Hines Ward called me and I figured it was my time to start doing that so I reached out to a couple of them, especially the offensive linemen.”

Gilbert also spoke with both, and is willing to share some of the lessons he learned as a rookie. Gilbert didn’t have the advantage of a full offseason last year because of the NFL lockout, and wants to be certain this year’s draft class doesn’t waste a minute learning the offense before training camp.

“They are willing to come in and follow the older guys lead and compete and help the team any way they can on the field,” said Gilbert. “They need to know how to study the game as a professional. Around this time last year I missed it and never really learned how to watch film and break down an NFL defensive scheme. I went into the season not knowing all of those details and how you see the game as an offensive lineman. I think these guys will have a better understanding. They won’t need to rush through plays and getting to know the different schemes.

“It’s basically learning how to handle the week as a professional. I followed the lead of the older guys on the team and seeing how they really handled themselves during the week and prepared. What I learned is the harder you go during the week in practice and the film room, the easier the game will come to you.”

While Pouncey and Gilbert might still be young players themselves, they are more than willing to step up to the plate and be leaders this year.

“Coach (Mike) Tomlin addressed that with both of us,” said Gilbert. “He wants us to take a bigger lead and make it our room and get these guys going. We want to bring a lot of energy to the offensive line room.

“It means a lot that he wants that from us. It shows how invested the coaches are in you and what they think you are able to bring to the table. I think last year I was able to show them that. It just means a lot. I took a lot from the older guys last year as far as leadership. I want to take it to the next level."


05-09-2012, 01:36 PM
Hometown rookies are living the dream
Posted 16 hours ago

Teresa Varley

It’s not unusual to hear people who have grown up in Pittsburgh talk about how they dreamt about playing for the Steelers when they were kids. They love to reminisce about wearing their Steelers jerseys in the backyard, catching passes as if they were Lynn Swann or Hines Ward, tackling their friends the same way Jack Lambert or James Harrison would.

They have dreamt about putting on a Steelers uniform, running out of the tunnel at either Three Rivers Stadium or Heinz Field with the Terrible Towels twirling and the crowd screaming.

For most it’s just that - a dream. It hasn’t gone any further than the backyard fun, the neighborhood bragging rights.

But for three Steelers rookies, the dream is becoming a reality.

Wide receivers Toney Clemons and Connor Dixon and linebacker Brandon Lindsey are living their dream, the same dream so many of their friends had, playing for the hometown Steelers.

“I did dream about this,” said Dixon, who played at Duquesne University and attended South Park High School in the Pittsburgh suburbs. “I think a lot of people did, but it’s just not a reality. I didn’t think it would be happening to me.

“It’s great. It’s hard to describe. There is nothing better. I was the biggest fan growing up. I really liked everybody. I liked Kordell Stewart because I played quarterback. I liked Neil O’Donnell. I was also a big Jerome Bettis fan, I liked the Bus.”

He wasn’t alone in having watched the Steelers play while growing up, knowing all about current and past players.

“I was a fan of all of these guys playing now and even before,” said Clemons, a seventh round draft pick who played at Valley High School in New Kensington, Pa.

Clemons understands the tradition that a Steelers’ receiver has to uphold, and while he was too young to watch them play he knows all about Swann and John Stallworth. But it’s a receiver who played in the 1990s, Yancey Thigpen, that was one of his favorites.

“It’s all the guys, all of the great receivers that played here,” said Clemons. “I grew up here. I had a Yancey Thigpen jersey when I was little. I got to see him play. I liked how suave he was. He played so smooth. He was crafty and a competitor. He competed for the ball, every play, every snap. That’s what I like to do, go out and compete.”

While Clemons knew he was joining the Steelers after the draft ended, the dream took a bit longer coming for Dixon and Lindsey. Both of them were signed with the Steelers as free agents following the draft, something that was a no-brainer.

“After the draft we were looking at the teams, at their depth charts, where I would have my best possible scenario, where I would get on the field the fastest,” said Lindsey, who played at the University of Pittsburgh and Aliquippa High School. “You can’t go wrong staying in your hometown, playing for the Steelers. It’s the franchise that has the most Super Bowl wins in history. The legacy speaks for itself without me having to say anything.

“It means a lot. My family grew up Steelers fans and would love nothing more than to see me play for the Steelers. It’s a dream come true for them and me.”

When all three first arrived for the team’s rookie mini-camp, they were admittedly excited about seeing their names on a locker, seeing the Super Bowl trophies, the entire history of the team in front of them. But they also made sure that excitement didn’t hinder their approach on the field.

“I took pictures of my helmet when I first saw it,” said Clemons. “When they fit me for the helmet and the chinstrap went on, it was like wow. I dreamt about wearing one of these helmets.

“But now, it’s time to get to work.”


05-09-2012, 03:03 PM

LeBeau is the Football God of Defense!! All hail DL!!!! :lol:

Rational football talk not delusional hero worship ;)