The crowd was a little bigger than normal for the Steelers OTA session on Thursday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, as the team invited some of their local alumni to watch practice, join the team for lunch, and get to know the current players.
It's something Coach Mike Tomlin has done in the past, and is happy to open the door back up again this year with Covid protocols behind them.
"It's just so awesome," said Tomlin. "I was telling our team today this is a small group, somebody that doesn't want anything from them, just wants what is best for them. That fraternity, that fellowship, that brotherhood is something we value.
"It's great to get on the other side of Covid and let today be a marker that we are back open for business and it's good to cultivate that relationship again. It's good to see these guys. It's good for our guys to get to know them as men.
"They are blueprints for our guys, not only in terms of what they did in their careers, but what they continue to do as members of this community, as business people, and more."
Those who were on hand spanned different decades, different generations of Steelers lore and included Will Allen, Craig Bingham, Mel Blount, Larry Brown, Bryan Hinkle, Chris Hoke, Jon Kolb, Matt Kranchick, Louis Lipps, Derek Moye, Edmund Nelson, Ryan Shazier, J.T. Thomas, Mike Tomczak, and Kraig Urbik.
"It's always great when you can come out, spend time with the other alumni, get to see the current guys, and be with them," said Shazier. "It shows the family environment and chemistry everyone has here. I come around a lot. I encourage other guys to as well.
"We want these guys to understand the culture, let them know how things have been run here. When I was playing a lot of older guys helped me and we can do that for the younger guys. It's important for them to lean on us."
Some of those visiting practice were there for the first time, others have been regulars as this isn't the first time the alumni have been invited to attend OTAs.
"I think it says a lot about Coach Tomlin's leadership and understanding the history of the organization having the young guys see the retired players are still actively involved and concerned," said Blount. "We want to see the organization continue to do well. When you have guys come in who had success in the organization on and off the field, it's a good road map for these guys to follow.
"I love it. I always enjoy seeing the young players, talking to them, encouraging them, making them feel at home and letting them know if there is anything we can do, we are there for them. If you have guys like us who can share with them what it's like and why it's important to carry yourself a certain way, be a Steeler and be part of the community, that helps them develop."