It has been an annual tradition for some time now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have utilized one of their 10 allotted OTA practice sessions to have a team-building day outside of the practice facility. In recent years, Head Coach Mike Tomlin has shuttled his players over the Dave & Busters for a day of games and casual competition.
If I’m not mistaken, it’s usually reserved for the final OTA session, but this year Tomlin scheduled it at the start of the final week of OTAs. They have three more practice sessions over the course of the next three days before they wrap it up. Only mandatory minicamp next week stands in the way of a long layover until training camp starts in July.
I do think it’s certainly more valuable to build that personal chemistry with fellow teammates outside of a work environment for a day than it is to get that one last OTA practice session in. The Steelers obviously agree, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it every year. But this year more than most, if feels relevant.
Aside from the obvious opportunities for the rookies to bond with their new teammates, there are several other new faces in the building that are still finding their way a bit. That includes a couple of players that they added last August, who had not had the opportunity to have an offseason with these players before.
Joe Haden and Vance McDonald would be those players, both of them important starters. Haden immediately became the team’s number one cornerback, and the Steelers believe that McDonald can be a highly productive tight end.
“It’s really important. Just that bonding sense. We are here for OTAs, we are working hard and everyone is trying to get better”, Haden told the team’s website. “But to be able to relax, have fun with each other, eat and play games, it’s a great time”.
Even newer to the team are safeties Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe and linebacker Jon Bostic. Burnett and Bostic are likely going to start this season. Burnett in particular is new to change. He spent his first eight seasons in Green Bay and has said that he feels like a rookie again in some ways.
Aside from that, it’s also a nice release following a season of seemingly weekly drama—not that that has been completely alleviated this offseason, thanks to certain comments from certain players who shall remain nameless.
Said second-year starting outside linebacker T.J. Watt, “this offseason we have done a great job of hanging out off the field, but to do this as a team, to have all of the guys here together in one spot is special and will pay dividends down the road”.
“It makes that bond unbreakable”, he went on. “It makes you want to work that much harder for the guy to your left and the guy to your right. That is what makes teams special come that January time of year”.