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Happy to be staying put

Posted Apr 19, 2012

Among the players who are taking part in the Steelers voluntary offseason workouts, spending time in the weight room and sweating it out on a daily basis with teammates, are Charlie Batch, Jerricho Cotchery and Trai Essex.

It’s nothing out of the ordinary for veterans to participate in the workouts, as many others are also on hand. But for these three, who just a few weeks ago were unsure if they would be back this year, being back to take part in the workouts is special.

Batch, who was originally drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1998, has been wearing the black and gold since 2002 and had no desire to make a change now.

“It’s been 11 years, I am back here,” said Batch, who was re-signed on April 16. “At the end of the season I said I wanted to be back, they said they wanted me back. It was just a matter of finalizing it. At the end of the day they knew I wanted to be here.

“Kevin (Colbert) and the Rooneys have done a good job of keeping guys around here for a long time, keeping this team together. When you have a great group of guys it’s something you want to be a part of. Year after year you want to be a part of it, when they want you around here that is a good sign.” 

Cotchery, who recently signed a two-year deal, originally joined the Steelers during training camp in 2011 after being with the New York Jets and fell in love with his new football home immediately and wanted to stay put.

“It was very important to me to stay,” said Cotchery. “This is a wonderful organization. I talked about that a lot last year, it’s a great organization all around and I was happy to be here. Everyone embraced me, I embraced everything that this organization had to offer and I just wanted to be back.

“I just felt like it was a great situation to be a part of. I love the organization, my teammates in this locker room and I love the city. I had other opportunities and I just wanted to continue to be a part of this organization.”

There probably isn’t anyone happier to be back with the team than Essex. Essex, who was a free agent last year as well, wasn’t re-signed in 2011 until late August after missing most of training camp. At the end of the 2011 season Essex made it clear he wanted to be back with the Steelers.

“I am going into my eighth year all with one franchise,” said Essex. “You don’t hear that very much in the NFL. It’s underrated and doesn’t happen much. Players who have left Pittsburgh, the year after they leave they regret leaving this tight knit group we have here. It’s one of those things where you never miss something until it’s gone.

“This organization has stability and a great environment. It’s rare in the NFL and it’s great to be a part of it. It is a blessing. I love this place. I want to stay here as long as I can.”

Essex, who played guard, tackle and even some center last year, is hoping for some stability this year at a position, but is willing to do whatever is asked.

“I want to start, I want to play,” said Essex. “It might sound cliché, that’s what everybody wants, but that is what I want to do and I am going to work towards it. Wherever I am needed, wherever I am called, I will be ready. That has been my role and I cherish it, but I want to start and play as much as I can.

“I feel like I can start at any position having played all of them. I came in as a left tackle, played more games at right guard than at any position, played some center last year. My most natural position is left tackle, but we’ll see what happens. I would like to play anywhere on the line if I can.”

Another thing Essex plans on providing this year is leadership. He has seen the departure of veterans such as Hines Ward, Aaron Smith and James Farrior, and feels it’s time for him to carry his share of that load.

“They won’t be here any longer so other guys, including me, have to take on that role,” said Essex. “My being here eight years says something and with that responsibility I have to show leadership. I want to be more of a leader, more of a voice in the locker room than I have in the past.”