ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Cornerback Stephon Tuitt returns to Buffalo on Sunday when the Steelers visit the Bills.
Had things worked out as Bills head coach Rex Ryan initially intended, Cockrell would already be there.
Cockrell played seven games for the Bills in 2014 as a rookie fourth-round pick from Duke.
Ryan arrived in 2015 and, with Cockrell battling an injury in the preseason, came up with a plan.
"We had a scrimmage and he got hurt," Ryan remembered. "I think he might have played in one preseason game and I get the brilliant idea of, 'Hey, maybe we should stash him on the practice squad.'
"I thought nobody had tape on him and all that. Unfortunately for us, Pittsburgh picks him up. We were excited about him. I thought it made perfect sense that we could get him on the practice squad. Well, that never happened."
Cockrell was released by the Bills on Aug. 31, 2015.
The Steelers signed him on Sept. 5, 2015.
"I ended up here and I'm excited to be here," Cockrell said. "Buffalo was a great experience for me. They gave me my first opportunity in the NFL, I'm forever grateful for that. But now I'm a Pittsburgh Steeler and we have a standard to represent."
The Steelers prepare for the Week 14 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
Ryan remembers Cockrell and Cockrell remembers Ryan.
"I was never there with (defensive coordinator) Rob (Ryan), but Buddy Ryan was somebody who was mentioned regularly," Cokrell recalled. "And obviously he's very famous for the things he did in the NFL. They grew up around good defensive football and they continue to run that system even today.
"'Run to the ball' is probably everybody's first commandment of defense. It's been a year since I was there so I don't know what they're saying now. But while I was there they really wanted to create turnovers, and that's similar to what we do here."
Head coach Mike Tomlin characterized Cockrell this week as a young player who has benefitted from the experience he's gleaned this season.
"I would imagine that if you asked him to describe his level of football intellect or understanding at this juncture, it's much more than it was Week One," Tomlin said.
"I think I've evolved just with experience, being able to get on the field, demonstrate what I can do," he said. "I don't think much has changed but I've been able to learn the NFL game and what it takes to succeed."
And that would be?
"Persistence and some good luck and athletic ability," Cockrell said.
UNRELATED DEVELOPMENTS:** Running back Le'Veon Bell lost a fumble last Sunday against the New York Football Giants, the first fumble Bell has lost since his rookie season of 2013 but his fourth fumble this season.
"That's inexcusable," Bell said.
Bell doesn't think his fumbles are related to having 80 carries and 18 receptions over the last three games.
Bell also fumbled against New England, Dallas and Cleveland (the Steelers recovered all three).
"Obviously, I have to protect the ball a little better but it has nothing to do with how many times I touch the ball," he said. "Mentally, I have to be aware of my surroundings."
ANY MEANS NECESSARY:** The offense used to talk openly about scoring 30 points a game.
"At the end of the day we want to get out of the stadium with a win," Bell said. "We don't care how we get it. We don't care how pretty it looks or how ugly it is. As long as we're winning the game I don't care if it's 7-0, we're happy with that.
"It's December football, we understand everybody's fighting for position so we have to get the job done."