What We Learned From Day 1 of Steelers Rookie Minicamp

Goodbye, "Baby Gronk." Hello, new Cam Sutton. The Pittsburgh Steelers rookies hit the field for the first time at rookie minicamp.
Author:
Publish date:

PITTSBURGH -- Day 1 of rookie minicamp is in the books, and the Pittsburgh Steelers' newest members now have their first NFL practice behind them.

The Steelers had 12 first-year players, 17 members of their rookie class and five tryouts on sight Friday morning for their first walkthrough. All eyes were on first-round pick Najee Harris, but there was plenty to take away from opening day.

Here's what we learned from Day 1.

Steelers Gave Kendrick Green No. 53

Maurkice Pouncey, who spent the last 11 years making 53 the most recognizable number on the offensive line, isn't retired six months, but his number is in new hands. Kendrick Green, who wore the number throughout college, said all he did was request the number and the Steelers said yes.

"They didn't hand it to me," Green said. "I wore '53' since high school … so I kind of requested it.

"Knowing that (Pouncey) had retired, I thought maybe (he'd get denied) … I was fully prepared to keep it off, but they let me have it."

Green and Pouncey spoke after the draft, but the jersey number never came up. "I've got big shoes to fill, so I am going to work toward that."

The rookie knows who's he's replacing, and understands the importance of the number. Still, it's a bit of a shock the Steelers didn't put up a fight before handing it off to the first person to ask.

Tre Norwood Has Real Shot to be Next Cam Sutton

Did you know seventh-round pick Tre Norwood and Cam Sutton have worked out in the same facility in Tampa for a few years now? Me neither, until today.

Norwood and Sutton are friends. The veteran corner reached out to Norwood after the draft to congratulate him, and hopefully, start the flow of communication from mentor and mentee.

"He extended his arms as a big brother and a guy that's been here. Definitely can't wait to sit down and pick his brain to get to know more about this defense so I can know the ins and outs and learn and get better."

Norwood is essentially replacing Sutton - or at least hoping to. Mike Tomlin announced the pick as "Swiss Army Knife defensive back" and immediately opened the door for the seventh-rounder to play all over the defense.

"As of right now, it's learning a little bit of everything," Norwood said. "Moving forward, if that's what my role will be, I'll be glad to take on that role."

You have to be a special type of athlete to understand safety, corner and pretty much everywhere else. Norwood did it all in college and is totally fine with doing it all again.

"My first two years was corner. This last season, I had a great amount at nickel and safety. I would go back and forth between the both of them. So for me, the comfort level at any one of them, I feel like I've got a lot of reps at each of those positions."

Pat Freiermuth Doesn't Like "Baby Gronk"

Time to find a new nickname for second-round pick Pat Freiermuth. The former Penn State tight end does not want to be called "Baby Gronk" moving forward.

"I hate it," Freiermuth said with a smile. "I think it's pretty annoying. I am trying to get away from that nickname. So I won't be called that."

Freiermuth grew up watching Rob Gronkowski, aka "Gronk" during his time with the New England Patriots, and understands the comparison comes from wearing No. 87 in college.

He's changed his number, plays for a team who isn't particularly fans of the Patriots or their history of tight ends and is now looking to move on from his nickname.

Surely Steelers fans will find him a new one.

Freiermuth is Perfect in the Red Zone

Freiermuth finished his Penn State career with 92 receptions and a trademark for being as reliable in the red zone as there ever was. In three years as a Nittany Lion, the tight end never dropped a red zone target, catching 16 touchdown passes, a school record.

The rookie is hopeful to see the field this season, likely taking on Vance McDonald's role from last year.

"I love my fit; I'm very happy I'm here in Pittsburgh," Freiermuth said. "The offense is awesome. It's complex but it's also simple at the same time in the way coach [Matt] Canada puts guys on the field where they can create mismatches. I can kind of see from the looks we saw today I really like the offense."

Big Ben loves his big-bodied tight ends near the goal line.

Pressley Harvin and Danny Smith Have Ties

The Steelers spent more time than you'd think working with Pressley Harvin III during the pre-draft process. The team spoke with Harvin, a Georgia Tech grad, prior to his Pro Day and told him Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith would be running the drills for him.

Smith was a position coach at Georgia Tech from 1987-1994, winning the 1990 National Championship with the Yellow Jackets. So, his ties with the school run deep, and so does his recruiting.

It's not certain how long the Steelers and Harvin have been in communication, but there seems to be a bond between Smith and the rookie.

"It meant a lot to me for him to be there every step of the way," Harvin said. "This process has been tremendous. We're here today because of it."

Hard to imagine Jordan Berry is feeling real good about job security right now.

Big Ben's Taking Rookies to Dinner

According to Freiermuth, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is taking a few rookies out to dinner Saturday night. Freiermuth named himself, Green and Najee Harris as others who are attending, but you'd have to believe Dan Moore Jr. sneaks his way in there as well.

Freiermuth also told reporters his locker is now next to Roethlisberger's. For years, that was Vance McDonald's locker and should leave great faith in what relationship could come from sitting next to a future Hall of Famer.

"It's pretty cool just seeing him," Freiermuth said. "When I was a young kid and watching the NFL, it'd be like, 'Oh look, that's Ben Roethlisberger.' Now, my locker's right next to him. It's pretty cool and definitely surreal."

For a quarterback who has a reputation for leadership concerns, Roethlisberger's been pretty good at finding praise from his teammates. Even the new ones.

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.