"It's tough, you wish they were here," guard David DeCastro said. "It's a team event, but it's not real football yet. It's one of those things, you just look at it as an older guy, just get in shape.
"It would be great if they were out here, but at the same time we'll be all right. I think they'll definitely be all right."
It's within a player's right to skip voluntary workouts. The Steelers' absences, however, are especially notable after Brown suggested last week that Bell should be at OTAs.
"The first rule of getting better is showing up," Brown told reporters at the time. "You can't make anything better without showing up."
In the grand scheme, the absences likely will mean very little. Skipping OTAs has opened opportunities for younger players to get more reps before training camp.
By skipping OTA sessions, Big Ben and Brown also mitigate their risk to injuries -- something that the Steelers weren't immune to during Wednesday's practice. Offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins went down with a knee injury, per reporters on the scene. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo then reported that tight end Jake McGee suffered what is believed to be a torn Achilles tendon, per sources informed of the injury.