The Steelers rolled onto the Saint Vincent College campus today in the usual parade of SUVs and sports cars by their 3 p.m. deadline with one exception to the norm -- veteran defensive end Brett Keisel drove a dump truck.
Keisel explained that it represented the fact Saint Vincent College would be a construction site as the Steelers work to get back into the playoffs.
It's a team in the rare position of coming off a season in which they not only did not make the playoffs, they did not have more wins than losses. Maukice Pouncey called their 8-8 season "a terrible feeling."
"It's exciting this year," said Pouncey, who made three Pro Bowls in his first three years with the Steelers. "We're going to see how things turn out, hopefully better than last year.
"I think everybody has been working hard this offseason and really putting in the effort and work to go out here and try to win championships. That's what we're all here for."
Coach Mike Tomlin was scheduled to put his players through the final leg of their physical, the run test, the only thing other than meetings scheduled for today. They will practice without pads Saturday and Sunday and then don them for the first time Monday afternoon.
Practices start at 2:55 p.m. and are open to the public.
Before he ran them, Tomlin trotted out his first message on Twitter (@CoachTomlin) early in the afternoon since joining that social medium. He called it a "shocking" surprise but explained he decided to join the crowd because it was inevitable he would have to do so eventually. A handful of NFL coaches are known to use Twitter, including Tomlin's former offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
Pouncey, facing a gaggle of news media outside the Rooney Hall players dorm, apologized in person for the first time for wearing a "Free Hernandez" hat along with twin brother Mike in support of their former University of Florida teammate, Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez, a former star tight end with the New England Patriots, has been charged with murder in Massachusetts, which prompted the Patriots to release him.
Pouncey previously apologized in a written statement.
"You know what, man, I understand it was a serious situation," Pouncey said shortly after he arrived on campus today. "I apologized if I offended anybody. I'm here to play football, let's move off from that. I know I took a lot of heat for it and I probably should have. I understand what happened and it's pretty cool now, let things blow away."
Pouncey said Tomlin has talked to him about it, but he would not say if he has talked to Hernandez, who remains in jail after his probable cause hearing was delayed today. A man who prosecutors say was with Hernandez the night of the shooting was granted $500,000 bail today.
"You know what? That's between me and him; I don't want to get into that at all," Pouncey said.
He said he chose to apologize again because "just manning up to the things you do is always important in any manner, any position in life."
"I think I came out here and did that, apologized again in front of everybody and I think it will mean a lot to everybody in Pittsburgh and all around the country."
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that a judge had set $500,000 bail for Aaron Hernandez. He has not been granted bail.
First Published July 26, 2013 7:30 PM