Maurkice Pouncey, wearing no hat this time, proclaimed a new message after his arrival at Saint Vincent College.
"Not making the playoffs is not acceptable here, and I think everybody knows that."
The Steelers arrived Friday to open training camp and what they hope is the process of getting back into playoff contention.
Veteran defensive end Brett Keisel tried to emphasize that point by driving a dump truck onto campus. He explained the symbolism as Saint Vincent College being a construction site for the Steelers as they work to rebuild the foundation of a Super Bowl team.
Since the end of an 8-8 season in 2012 that Pouncey called "a terrible feeling," the Steelers have lost seven starters, and off-field issues have nipped at their heels. They included charges of a fractured locker room in 2012 by several players after a teammate anonymously criticized linebacker LaMarr Woodley for a reputed lax workout routine. They also counted the knifing of offensive tackle Mike Adams, and Pouncey's inexplicable public support for Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez, who has been jailed and charged with murder in Massachusetts.
Pouncey submitted a written public apology for wearing a "Free Hernandez" ballcap along with his twin brother Mike at an early 24th birthday party two weeks ago in Florida. Friday, he apologized again personally in front of a gaggle of media outside the Rooney Hall dormitory.
"You know what, man, I understand it was a serious situation," Pouncey said shortly after he arrived. "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 coach Mike Tomlin has talked to him about it, but he would not say if he has talked to Hernandez.
"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."
Mike Pouncey has not issued any kind of apology, written or otherwise, for his visual support of Hernandez.
"His team handled the situation a lot different than what we did," Maurkice said. "I'm pretty sure Mike wanted to apologize, but that's how his team handled it. It's pretty cool."
Adams' story took a turn for the better when he passed the run test Friday and was cleared to practice with the team today, likely taking his position as starting right tackle. He still is regaining his core strength after being knifed in the abdomen during a botched carjacking attempt by three men June 1 on Carson Street on the South Side.
"He's got full clearance," Tomlin said.
That was the good news for the Steelers on a day in which there was no bad news. Tomlin said Ben Roethlisberger had a "little discomfort" in his right knee, on which he had surgery June 5 to clear out some cartilage, but declared it was not a setback for the quarterback, who did not run Friday.
The Steelers say they had enough setbacks last season, including 78 missed games by starters because of injuries, and they are determined to change that in 2013. They put four players on the physically unable to perform list, three with previous knee injuries -- tight end Heath Miller, linebacker Sean Spence and fullback/tight end David Johnson -- and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu, who reported to camp with a hamstring injury.
"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."
Before the players ran, Tomlin send out his first message on Twitter after 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 use Twitter, including Tomlin's former offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
"It should be exciting, me delving into the social media world. I figure we spend a lot of time talking to our guys about what to do, what not to do, I thought it would be appropriate and timely to show them. We'll see if I can do it in a professional manner."
By early Friday evening, @CoachTomlin had more than 43,000 followers.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published July 27, 2013 4:00 AM