The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly had the look this offseason of a team that was in the market to upgrade their defensive lineup, but that didn’t end up happening in free agency. Instead they’re going to be depending on the internal growth of players like Ross Cockrell, who sees himself becoming one of the veterans of the unit”
“I am” one of the veterans, he said when he was posed that question from Missi Matthews for the team’s website. “I’m going into my fourth year. If I was in college I would be a senior. This is one of those things where I’m ready and able to step up and help guys out, because I’ve gone through the process a few times now, and I can give guidance on how to best navigate”.
That doesn’t mean he’s got a big mouth or is an overly vocal presence. “I’m not a huge talker”, he said. Of his relationship with his teammates, he said that “we’ve gotten a lot closer as the season went on, and just me being here, being able to go through OTAs and training camp. And for people to understand and see where my heart is. It’s with this team, it’s with the people of this city all the way”.
That improved relationship with his teammates also translated onto the field with a necessary improvement in communication. “We definitely realized that it needed to [improve]. But not necessarily just the football communication. I think part of it also was just us getting together outside of football. We took time to do that as teammates [to get to know each other]”.
“As we got closer as a unit”, he said, “I think it reflected in our play as well. We could talk, but sometimes it was non-verbal. Sometimes it was just looks that we give each other, or hand signals. It went a long way for us”.
Though he has only been here for one full NFL calendar, Cockrell sees himself as as much as part of the team as anybody and takes authorship of its future, which he sees as bright because of the talent that he sees around him.
“What excites me the most is just the amount of talent that we have on this team. Even though we went through some lulls, som lapses during the course of the season, we were able to bounce back. There’s no fear. There are guys who are ready to attack, ready to go forward all the way. When you have that kind of attitude, you can always work and be ready to go next week”.
Cockrell clearly is a thoughtful and high-character player who is probably a boon in the locker room, but despite his critics, he has also developed into a solid player on the field. Still, the Steelers will be counting on him continuing to grow as he heads into his second full season as a contributor.