For the past few weeks Steelers' rookies have walked the same path Ike Taylor did for 12 seasons. They put on their practice jersey, grabbed their helmet, and took the walk from the locker room in the Carey Center to the lush green grounds of Chuck Noll Field at Saint Vincent College.
For Taylor, the walk meant something, because he knew every time he grabbed that helmet, every time he put on his practice or game jersey, he was representing the organization he loves so much.
"It meant everything to play for the Steelers," said Taylor. "It's close to watching my son being born. It's close to my wife smiling in the morning. I've never known what it means to be something else. I know guys come from other teams and say, I see why you all win, why you are a brotherhood. I saw that from day one. There is nothing like playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers."
Taylor spoke to the rookies during the offseason about what it meant to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and how much it meant to him. He wanted to share his message because he wanted them to understand how lucky they are.
He hopes they got the message.
"It's an honor putting on that black and gold," said Taylor. "Those guys have to understand that. You are in the NFL, you are living a dream. At the same time there is something special about wearing that black and gold.
"I am black and gold to the soul, until I am in the dirt. That is just how I rock. That it just what it is. It's a prideful city, a prideful organization. It's just a legacy. I want these guys to understand what it is to put on the black and gold. You are not just putting it on for a paycheck. You are putting it on because one, you are a man. And two, because there is nothing like the black and gold.
"There is a reason why a guy like Mel Blount stayed in Pittsburgh. There is a reason why Franco Harris is still in Pittsburgh. Troy (Polamalu), Brett (Keisel), and I have a place here. There is a reason why a lot of guys stay. The guys I named all won Super Bowls. That is what the city does to you. It loves you forever."
Taylor said it was teammates like Polamalu, Jerome Bettis, James Farrior, Deshea Townsend and Joey Porter that helped him become the player he was on and off the field. They taught him football lessons and life lessons.
"It's a brotherhood. It's a bond," said Taylor. "It's things your family won't be able to understand. The only people who can truly understand what you go through on and off the field are your teammates, the relationships that you build."