Handful of Steelers arrive at team facility
July 26, 2011
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) Sure, there weren't any high-intensity cardiovascular workouts, no comprehensive study of playbook intricacies, no formal weightlifting. And certainly nothing close to a full-pads practice.

But that didn't matter to Pittsburgh Steelers second-year receiver Emmanuel Sanders. All he cared about on Tuesday was the fact that, at last, the Steelers had removed the metaphorical locks from the doors of the team's complex on the city's South Side.

"I am just happy to be back in the facility," he said, "and be around the coaches and be around the team."

One day after the NFL and its players' union announced the end of the 4 1-2 month lockout, Sanders was one of almost a dozen Steelers veterans along with several rookies who made an appearance.

The veterans showing up was more, well, for show than anything else.

Sanders arrived not long after fellow young receiver Antonio Brown did the same just after the 10 a.m. league-mandated official opening. The two good friends left at roughly the same time, too, after no more than two hours at the complex.

"We threw out on the field and ran a couple of routes," Sanders said. "And I beat (reserve cornerback Crezdon Butler) in ping pong. That's about it."

All-Pro linebacker James Harrison was the first player seen to arrive but he spent only a few minutes unloading his red pickup truck. Embroiled in a controversy after making some off-color remarks targeting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to Men's Journal magazine earlier this month, Harrison did not speak to reporters.

Neither did another Steeler who found himself in hot water after offseason comments, running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Officially, the Steelers did not allow the media from speaking with any of their players or coaches while on team property Tuesday. But some players exchanged informal pleasantries with the media, as well as with teammates and other team employees.

"Just being back and seeing all the coaches and your teammates is pretty exciting," Brown said from his black Jeep at the entrance to the complex's parking lot.

Other veterans on the premises Tuesday included defensive end Brett Keisel his beard significantly shorter than it was during February's Super Bowl as well as Pittsburgh's two starting guards from that 31-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Ramon Foster and Chris Kemoeatu.

Coach Mike Tomlin waved to reporters as he walked through the parking lot, and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians chatted informally while sitting in his convertible on his way out of the complex.

More than a dozen rookies showed up, some of them visiting the team's facility for the first time. Pittsburgh announced the signing of 18 undrafted free agents on Tuesday, and several slowly trickled into the facility. Director of football operations Kevin Colbert introduced a group of them to team chairman emeritus Dan Rooney during lunch in the cafeteria.

While, at times, negotiations between the league and its players became contentious, Steelers players' union representative Ryan Clark said there won't be any lingering effects in the relationship between the players and the Rooney family.

During his weekly morning show appearance on KDKA-FM in Pittsburgh, Clark said that after the new collective bargaining agreement was announced, Steelers president Art Rooney II thanked Clark for representing the team's players.

"The only owners I care about are the Rooneys," Clark said on the radio show. "As far as we're concerned, we're collectively ready to win championships. I'm ready for (Rooney) to give us his speech at the beginning of camp, and we're ready to go out and work.

"They've been good to us, and the deal is a good deal. It's not like they just put it out there and didn't give us anything ... It's time to play football and just put this all behind us."

Notes: Each of the team's seven draft picks showed up at the facility Tuesday. In another peculiar feature of this unusual set of circumstances, they can work out now, but will not be permitted to report to training camp if they do not sign by Thursday. ... Among the rookie free agents signed, four were wide receivers.