Stephon Tuitt said he felt it right away, from the time he arrived in Pittsburgh, from his first practice with the Steelers. He felt something special.
“As soon as I got here I just felt welcomed,” said Cockrell. “Playing on the field, winning games, it’s special here. It was a great experience overall.
“Playing for the Steelers means you are somebody who is striving for greatness. You want your team, your city, this organization to be more. That is what you get from everybody. You feel like you represent more than just yourself.”
Cockrell signed a one-year contract extension to remain with the team on Friday. In addition, the Steelers signed quarterback , who was on the Buffalo Bills practice squad last year, to a Reserve/Future contract.
Cockrell is looking forward to the 2015 season, and is excited that he will be back.
“This was very important,” said Cockrell. “I feel like we had a tremendous season. It didn’t end the way we wanted. But for me, everybody got to know me and I got to know everybody. Everything just happened so fast. It’s important for me to have this offseason to get to know people better, grow as a football player and person.”
Cockrell signed with the Steelers on Sept. 5, just days before the start of the 2015 season, after he was released by the Buffalo Bills. He came in with his head spinning, moving on fast forward, but quickly settled in to be a big part of the secondary, starting seven games at cornerback and finishing with 43 tackles, 11 passes defensed and two interceptions.
“It was a quick transition,” said Cockrell. “The good thing for me was having guys take me under their wing and tell me if I ever had a question, talk to them about it. Some of the concepts were different, new and tough, and just different. I had to adjust to some of them.
“I was meeting with (secondary) coach (Carnell) Lake early in the morning installing things, and then Cortez (Allen) would help me in the afternoon. It all happened really fast and I am glad they were here to help me.”
Cockrell also relied heavily on the veteran leadership of defensive backs Robert Golden, Will Gay and Mike Mitchell, who helped him on a daily basis and in particular showed him the ropes in a weekly Friday meeting the secondary held.
“That Friday meeting was really important for us,” said Cockrell. “It gave us the chance to see things with the coaches, see things as a group. Talk and work through things, so if this were to happen, or that were to happen, what would we do? You got a chance to hear from Coach (Mike) Tomlin, Will Gay, Mike Mitchell, and Will Allen. The older guys took control of the meeting.
“On a weekly basis you have an opportunity to learn so much about how things are going to unfold. Guys like Robert Golden and I have been playing football our whole lives. I was playing since I was seven or eight. You know how to play the game, but you haven’t played in the NFL for that long. Those guys helped us slow it down. That is why it was such a successful year. I am excited about what we can do next year.”
Cockrell, who is going to take some down time before getting back in the weight room, is one player who is already looking forward to training camp, especially after not having an offseason with his teammates last year.
“More than what you do in games is how you are in the offseason,” said Cockrell. “How you show up to work. How you come back ready to attack the season. I think that goes a long way as far as respect from your teammates. Going through training camp. Training camp is training camp, but I am really looking forward to it.”
Another thing he is looking forward to is enjoying more of what he found to be the ‘Steelers way.’ He felt at home with the relationships built in the locker room, with the coaching staff, and the Rooney family, who are always on hand and there for the players.
“The city, the fans, I think it’s unlike any other place in the NFL,” said Cockrell. “My experience with the Rooney family has been great. I have had the chance to get to see them, get to know them. They are there in the locker room after games. They are in the locker room after wins, they are in the locker room after losses. Coach Tomlin is available. His office is always open. Little things like that go a long way. You know what you are fighting for and they are there fighting with you. That is the way it is."