Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin likes what he’s seen over the last few months, even though he knows it won’t matter much if the Steelers can’t build on it when they report for training camp next month.
The team wrapped up minicamp on Thursday, meeting with coaches before Tomlin let his players go early rather than take the field.
“I just told the guys it’s been a great offseason,” Tomlin said. “But, and I think that but is significant because legitimately, you’d like to find ways to measure offseasons and feel good about it, but the reality is these types of processes are measured based on results.”
The results didn’t meet Pittsburgh’s lofty standards a year ago, when the Steelers slipped to 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
The roster underwent a significant makeover, with veterans like James Harrison, Max Starks, Mike Wallace and Casey Hampton leaving, replaced by younger players who need to make an impact if Pittsburgh wants to bounce back.
So far, Tomlin is pleased.
“As I sit here today, I feel good about the foundation we’ve laid for 2013,” he said. “I like the efforts of the guys, the messages have been received. We’re just in a good place, but that doesn’t assure us anything. We understand what we do moving forward is what’s really significant.”
Veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote, entering his 13th season, is among the team’s elder statesmen and prepared to become a leader in the locker room.
“There are only a couple guys in here who are older than me, so it’s a big challenge,” Foote said. “Not pressure, but I want to lead this team into the playoffs. I’ve been led, and I’ve been following other guys, so hopefully I can lead this team deep into the playoffs all the way to the Super Bowl.”
It’s a role Foote is growing into, trying to do for others what his mentors did for him when he broke into the league.
“Even last year, I wanted to duplicate the things that James Farrior did for years for this team, as far as being a leader on defense and never blinking at adversity and always trying to be your best,” Foote said. “We’re always yelling at the young guys, telling them that they might think they’ve arrived, but they aren’t veterans yet. They have to stay in their place and keep learning.”
Tomlin noted that the Steelers will “play it by ear,” as far as working the injured players back into the mix, but he expected all of them to be ready for training camp. That might not include linebacker Sean Spence (left knee) or tight end Heath Miller (right knee), although being ready for the season is more likely.
“No, nothing miraculous,” Miller said. “I feel pretty good right now. It’s kind of lonely in here when you’re here by yourself, so it was nice to have the other guys around. It’s encouraging to watch everybody else work, and you just try to be inspired by how hard they’re working and try to get back to where they’re at.”
Notes: Tomlin believed the Steelers would stand pat, as far as their roster was concerned, going into training camp. But they also would look at any available free agents along the way who could help improve the team. ... Training camp begins when players report July 26. The first practice is July 27. ... The first day in pads is July 29.