Today marked the first day of mandatory activities for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and many other teams around the league. It’s been a more significant date than normal due to the large number of players who opted not to participate in the voluntary portions of the offseason this year, which led many to question if players might skip minicamp as well.
At least as far as it concerns the Steelers, that is not an issue. Head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed after practice that they had perfect attendance on day one of minicamp. That would be 89 players; however veteran defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt had an excused absence as he attends to his family following the tragic passing of his brother last week.
While it can be implied based on Tomlin’s comments, multiple observers specifically noted the presence of veteran guard David DeCastro, whom beat writers noted previously was not in attendance during OTAs. Rashaad Coward, according to Noah Strackbein of Sports Illustrated, ran in his place during that time.
DeCastro was said to be in street clothes, however, so it is unclear if he had any on-field participation. His health status is unknown (it’s possible that he had an offseason surgery after dealing with injury in training camp last year), but it could also simply be the coaches keeping him off the field to help newer players get involved, if indeed he did not practice.
Aditi Kinkhabwala mentioned that numerous defenders stayed on the field after practice to continue working. T.J. Watt was noted, as is typical, but she mentioned that senior defensive assistant Teryl Austin kept the defensive backs working. The secondary is breaking in multiple new components this offseason, and Cameron Sutton is now working in the starting lineup.
We only have a couple more days of practice left before the Steelers are off for an extended break until training camp, but they do report earlier than other teams, since they will be participating in the Hall of Fame game this year, squaring off against the Dallas Cowboys.
The vast majority of players made some appearance at one point or another during the course of the three weeks of OTAs that preceded the opening of minicamp this week, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who appears to have been active every day.
The Steelers were among more than half of the teams in the NFL who previously saw players issue a statement through the NFLPA stating that they would not be participating in voluntary workouts. However, dialogue between players and coaches that took place throughout the league resulted in high attendance across the board, including from Pittsburgh. For the most part, minicamps around the NFL have gone very much as expected.