A year ago Keion Adams was one of the newcomers being talked about, the excitement surrounding the Steelers rookie who was drafted in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
But his path to the football field was delayed after he suffered a shoulder injury during training camp and was placed on injured reserve, missing the entire season.
"It was kind of discouraging," said Adams. "I never had a major injury before, so I didn't know how to handle it. Talking to (athletic trainer) John Norwig, Coach (Joey) Porter and Coach (Mike) Tomlin, and the guys in the locker room, it's something you have to prepare for because it's football. Nobody goes through this game unscathed or without a bump or bruise. Getting advice from guys, guys like Sean Davis who had shoulder surgery like I did, they told me just stay focused, stay around the team, and make sure I don't get lost in another dimension by not playing."
Not playing wasn't easy, though. It's a challenge, especially for a young player just getting his feet wet in the NFL to suddenly be sidelined.
"That was hard. We all grew up with it, with playing all of the time," said Adams. "I haven't ever taken a year off of football since I started playing in third grade. I missed it. I wanted to get back out there and help the team any way I can.
"At this level, once you get here, for something like that to happen it kind of hurts and bothers you. It bothers anybody who loves the game and wants to get out there and play. It was kind of discouraging, but the guys kept me up, kept me a part of the family. They made it easier for me. I had rehab every day, saw the guys, uplifted my spirits and made me feel better."
That was the key. Staying involved. Adams didn't shy away from being around his teammates, instead going to meetings, games, doing everything he could to keep learning while he wasn't playing.
"Making sure I kept my mind sharp, just being around, was important," said Adams. "I would try helping any way I could, whether it was in meetings, helping Coach Porter with film. Any way I could help. I made sure I stayed in tune and didn't get discouraged because I wasn't playing. Just being around the team, going to meetings, practice, the games helped me stay involved, locked in and be a part of the team."
T.J. Watt, who was part of Adam's draft class, was a key factor in keeping Adams close. The two were roommates from the time they arrived for rookie minicamp and all through training camp and were inseparable last season.
"You would have thought we were twins," said Adams. "We were joined at the hip. I love the guy like he is my brother. We came in together, worked together. He helps me so much. He pushes me. Even when I was practicing at the start of camp, we studied together, worked out together. He has taught me some things form playing last year. He will tell me this is how you think things will go, but this is how it will go. He has helped me a lot growing as a player and person."
While Adams might be heading into 2018 with little on-field experience since being drafted, he definitely has the mental aspect down pat thanks to hitting the books hard last year.
"I feel like my mind is shape," said Adams. "I got used to being here. Everything is not moving as fast. That is the best part about it. I might be a rookie on the field, but I am a sophomore in the classroom. At the end of the day I get more out of being a do it type of guy, but the X's and O's, they came together and I want to get out there and do it on the field. Learning the defense helped, I have a year under my belt. I won't be like a deer in headlights. Having like a redshirt year gave me more confidence, learning the defense and being able to go out there and know what I am doing."
After this year's draft, General Manager Kevin Colbert referred to Adams as another seventh round pick going into the season. And Adams can't wait to show that while it might be delayed, it's a worthwhile pick.
"I am ready to come back and get to work," said Adams. "I am getting back in shape, getting ready to get back on the field and back to the player I was, the reason they brought me here.
"I am itching to get out there. I am so excited to get back into it. I am taking it slow, trying not to get too anxious and take it one day at a time, focus on me. I want to make sure when my body is right I can go out there and compete I can be the best man I can.
"When I get out there for games, it's going to be really real. Somebody is going to feel me."