When Will Gay returned to the Steelers last offseason, he did so because of what he missed. He longed for the family atmosphere he had experienced since being drafted by the team in 2007. He missed the closeness in the locker room, the brotherhood that was there. So when he was released by the Arizona Cardinals after one season, he knew he wanted to go back home.
The 2013 season wasn't what Gay had hoped for in the win-loss column with the team going 8-8, but despite it all there was nowhere he would have rather been.
"The ups and downs that we went through this season brought us closer," said Gay. "In order to go through those trials and tribulations and come through them, you need to have family. That is what we have in that locker room. I wouldn't want to be with another group.
"When I first came back here other teams wanted me to visit them and I told them no. I felt like Pittsburgh was the place I needed to be to finish up my career. It was the best decision I ever made."
Gay pointed to the Steelers 6-2 record in the second half of the season as one of the reasons he loves the atmosphere in Pittsburgh, because it's a team that never gave up.
"You can tell we kept on believing," said Gay. "We were a good group, we knew that. Some Sundays just weren't showing it. To go 6-2 over the last eight games, to be 8-8, finish .500 definitely not a goal but it showed we were willing and able to stay together and believe in everything we are doing and know that it is right."
Gay came back to the Steelers not knowing what his role was going to be, and as the season played out it was something that changed, starting 11 of the 16 games he played in, stepping in when Cortez Allen was injured, and then bouncing back and forth.
"That is just the NFL, having your brothers back," said Gay. "Whenever someone goes down, the coaches have to have faith in the others to step in there, we can make the same calls and we won't lose a step. That's what we take pride in, making sure everyone who is not listed as a starter is a starter in waiting."
When Allen was in the lineup, it was Gay who was one of his biggest supporters, trying to help him every step of the way despite the fact that increased playing time for Allen meant less playing time for Gay. Allen listened to the advice and put it to work.
"It's just about being a professional," said Gay. "I learned it from Deshea Townsend. When I got into the league he didn't have to talk to me. I think the first article they wrote when I got drafted was I was the next Deshea. For a veteran to see that, they can think I am not going to help this guy because he is trying to replace me. It wasn't like that at all. Anything I needed, any information he knew that he thought would help me he told me.
"I am doing the same with Cortez. You never want to leave this game with all of the information in your head. You want to give it out to as many young guys as possible."