By Teresa Varley
Free agency can be the opportunity of a lifetime for a player, a chance to cash in big or get a fresh start, sometimes going from a back-up role to a starter overnight.
For Steelers fullback/tight end Sean McHugh, it's something much simpler.
"I know what the team is capable of," said McHugh." It's a great environment and a great place to play and work. That was important. It is a time commitment and it is how you define yourself. To make sure I got to do it at a place where it's fun, enjoyable and a good experience was of utmost importance."
That is why McHugh re-signed with the Steelers, knowing that coming back to play for the black and gold was exactly what he wanted to do after a magical season.
"After being there for one year, it was the best year of my career," said McHugh. "Not just because of the Super Bowl. Obviously that is a huge deal and the ultimate goal of any NFL player.
"I can truly say I enjoyed showing up to work everyday and preparing. I enjoyed the people I was around and the staff. Everything about it, the Rooney's, the city, I enjoyed everything about it. My career has really been up and down. I have been on the practice squad, off the practice squad, released and signed. This is the first time I woke up in the morning excited to get into work."
McHugh literally went from what was the worst team in the NFL in 2008 to the best. He was waived by the Detroit Lions before the first game of the 2008 season and quickly scooped up by the Steelers.
"It's so hard to describe because it was so crazy," said McHugh. "It was a 180-degree turn I made. Just to be part of an organization that has so much pride and tradition. And to play in a city that loves the team and supports them is an awesome experience. The whole time you are trying to soak it all in and enjoy every minute of it.
"Looking back at it, it's amazing how fast it went. It was the highlight of my career. I am happy I will be back in Pittsburgh and get another run at it."
And if they are going to run effectively, look for McHugh to be a big part of that. He didn't see much playing time when he first signed with the Steelers, but as the year progressed he developed into the role of a blocker, opening holes for the ground game and giving Willie Parker room to run.
"For my role to start to develop a little more toward the end was nice," said McHugh. "It was good to be out there on the field. Whatever my role is, whether it's five plays or 50 plays, you have to approach it with the same attitude and same willingness to perform. The more you are out there, the more fun it is.
"Whatever the team feels I can do to help us win, that is what I want to do. It just so happens they want me to block and I am more than willing to do that. It is very satisfying when Willie has a big game or another back has a big game and you get to be a part of it. I like to win and whatever it is I can do to help us get to that goal, I like that."