The Pittsburgh Steelers organization is a special place to play for. After all, that is what every free agent says when they sign here, isn’t it? Free agents always try to find a way to make it sound as though the reason that they signed with the team that they did was beyond just money, that there was something about playing for that team that made it all worth it even if no money were involved—well, many of them, anyway.
But the Steelers are a special team to play for, and you can hear it in the way that the players who come here, or come back here, talk about their experiences compared and contrasted to what they’ve found in Pittsburgh.
As a matter of fact, it was one of the first topics that I ever wrote about after joining the writing team here, during the 2013 offseason, and I dug up and provided a series of quotes from a number of players who spent multiple tours of duty with the Steelers. Check out the link—ignore the formatting issues—and absorb what it is that those players had to say—including William Gay, who re-signed with the Steelers at that time, and just did so once again.
Because it’s the same thing that we continue to hear whenever the Steelers bring somebody in. because the Steelers actually have a tangible body of evidence to point to. They have a trophy case that is the envy of 31 other NFL teams, for starters, which is never a bad sales pitch when wooing a free agent.
You also have the word of mouth of players passing on around the league to each other what it is like to play for the organization. Head coach Mike Tomlin is routinely regarded as one of the head coaches that players would most like to play for, whether it’s his passion, his intelligence, or his relatability that draws them in.
For Ladarius Green, one of the things that drew him in was what he experienced first-hand, just last year, when the Steelers traveled to San Diego and beat his Chargers on the last second of the game with a walk-off touchdown run.
The team’s new tight end talked about the experience of witnessing the Steelers faithful taking over the stadium, both physically and audibly, to the point where the Chargers had to execute their offense out of a silent count. That experience left a lasting impression on him.
Mike Mitchell talked about growing up a Bengal fan in the Cincinnati area and understanding the fear of the organization from the rival perspective, and how it was a team that fit his personality as a player, that he wanted to play for.
Two players who have recently been brought in on one-year veteran-minimum qualifying contracts, Arthur Moats and Darrius Heyward-Bey, have re-upped with the Steelers on three-year deals over the course of the past two offseasons, and each cited the specific nature of the team as a major reason for doing business again.
It’s not a coincidence, or a myth. The truth is that it’s a different experience no matter where you play. But for many, the experience of playing in Pittsburgh is one that makes you want to stay—especially for those who already left once.