LATROBE, Pa. – Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel sure knows how to drive home a point.
Coming off an 8-8 season and with his team an AFC North afterthought compared to the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and rising Cincinnati Bengals, Keisel arrived an hour before Friday's training-camp reporting deadline in a huge, yellow off-road dump truck.
He promptly pulled up to Rooney Hall on this leafy St. Vincent College campus and dumped his luggage from the truck's bed onto the dormitory's front lawn.
Then, the bearded Keisel stepped down from the cab to deliver his underdog team's 2013 mantra.
"Since it's kind of a reconstruction zone here, I brought my hard hat,'' said Keisel, wearing a black-and-gold No. 99 construction dome. "We're constructing our new team.
"We are excited about this year. I think everyone has written us off. But we think we can construct a championship team.''
After moving on from free agent receiver Mike Wallace, linebacker James Harrison, cornerback Keenan Lewis, tailback Rashard Mendenhall, defensive tackle Casey Hampton and offensive tackle Max Starks, this is a younger team with seven new starters, including rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones and running back Le'Veon Bell.
Never before has a franchise rookie class been so heavily counted on, as the Steelers morph from an older team into a younger one counting on new faces and new energy to help return them to the playoffs. Keisel, who turns 35 in September, is one of five returning starters age 30 or older, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, 31.
"The biggest thing we need is our young guys have to step up and seize the moment,'' Keisel said. "Training camp is hard, especially for the young guys because they are taking most of the reps. I am excited to watch them and see the strong ones rise up and do things to help us win games. I feel like we are going to be tough.''
Then, Keisel confessed he was only capable of driving the rig around the corner after a couple of professionals delivered it for him.
"I probably would have gotten pulled over if I tried to drive down Route 30,'' he said, laughing.
Keisel's statement entrance was echoed by veteran linebacker Larry Foote.
"Not making the playoffs and the team east of us (Baltimore) win the whole thing, adds a little extra to things. When we got together in May, guys were upset,'' Foote says.
"Everybody counts us out and talks about our age. Guys in that lockerroom, we like to prove people wrong.''
Coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger, who had arthroscopic clean-up surgery on his right knee in June, still is experiencing "a little discomfort.''
But Tomlin quickly added the quarterback "will be fine,'' and doesn't expect the two-time Super Bowl winner and team leader to be limited during training camp.
Four players were placed on the physically unable to perform list, including tight end Heath Miller, last year's team receptions leader rehabilitating from January surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Everyone passed Friday evening's timed run test. That includes second-year right tackle Mike Adams, who has made a full recovery from his June 1 stabbing after a car-jacking by three men in Pittsburgh.
"I'm feeling good,'' says Adams. "I'll be ready to go.''
That's encouraging news for a young promising line anchored by three-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, tackles Marcus Gilbert and Adams and guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro.
The Steelers are also converting to a zone-blocked run scheme that figures to feature second-round tailback Bell.
"We're looking forward to getting back to a great run game,'' back Isaac Redman said. "It's going to be heated competition at running back.''
That is another good thing considering how a 26th rushing attack disappeared for a team that lost five games by three points.
"We're excited about moving forward,'' Tomlin said. "We have some young capable guys and we'll give them an opportunity to prove that.''
Tomlin entered the Twitter-verse Friday morning and already has 42,975 followers.
"It should be exciting, me delving into the social media world,'' Tomlin says. "We spend a lot of time talking to our guys about what to do, what not to do.
"I thought it would be an appropriate time for me to show them – if I can do it in a professional manner. I thought it was an appropriate time to show them. Follow me.''