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Steelers OTAs Takeaways: Competition, Intensity Bring Out the Best




PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is famous for his sayings, and one of his most famous applies to the team’s organized team activities, or OTAs, which just wrapped up their second week at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

“Football in shorts,” is what Tomlin has called them. He has also used the term “football-like.”

In the past, he has emphasized that he treats these three weeks of practices, and the minicamp that follows, when the team is exclusively without full pads or hitting, as a time for learning and team development. Any actual competition between players won’t take place until training camp at St. Vincent College, when actual football can be played.

But that doesn’t mean that the Steelers OTAs aren’t competitive. In fact, the exact opposite. Nearly ever session involves some level of competition, usually between the team’s offense and defense, and there has been the usual level of pushing and shoving and jawing between players that comes along with that.

Or maybe, it isn’t that usual. Patrick Peterson is in his 13th OTA of his career, and he seems to think that this one is a bit more intense than most.

“Guys have a lot of energy,” Peterson said. “I love the way practices are going so far. I can’t wait to see what training camp is going to be like, because when the pads come on, we know the intensity level goes to a whole other level, but guys are definitely enthused to be out here with one another.”

The competition level, even why guys are being told they aren’t competing, remains high. On Thursday, defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal found himself in the center of some words being exchanged. 

“The defense, whenever it’s competitive, we always get to talking a little trash,” Connor Heyward said. “It gets everybody to rise to the level of competition. It’s always good.”

That’s probably why the Steelers have excellent participation from their veterans in the optional workouts.

“Everything is going pretty smooth so far,” Peterson said. “We’ve got great participation.”