The perfect mentor: When you come into a veteran group as a rookie like fifth-round pick Isaiahh Loudermilk did this year on the Steelers defensive line, one of the most important things is finding someone who can be the player you can lean on, the one you can learn from, someone who can be your mentor.
It should come as no surprise that Loudermilk found that player in defensive tackle Cameron Heyward.
Heyward is the defensive team captain, a role he takes to heart, and is always willing to help out younger players, especially ones like Loudermilk who has such a strong willingness to learn.
"He pretty much showed me anything he could," said Loudermilk. "Anytime we were doing drills, we would work together. He would give me little pointers, hand placement and stuff like that. Being able to come in and have a mentor like that helped me a ton. I think that's one of the big reasons why I felt like I made a pretty big jump from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Just week in and week out taking little things from him. Watching how he does things and feeding off him. I couldn't ask for a better mentor than Cam."
That mentorship came in handy with the extended playing time that Loudermilk saw this season. With injuries on the defensive line, including Stephon Tuitt out all season and Tyson Alualu spending the majority of the year on the Reserve/Injured List, Loudermilk was among a group asked to step up.
"Coming in, I wasn't sure really what to expect, if I was going to get some playing time, it wouldn't be a whole lot," said Loudermilk. "Everything kind of happened, injuries and stuff like that, so I kind of got thrown out there. I was prepared for pretty much anything. I wouldn't say I was really expecting to get as much as I did, but I'm glad I did. I feel like I grew a lot as a player actually being able to go out there and play."
Loudermilk said some areas where he developed this year were in his hand placement, footwork, working on the little things. But there is plenty to do this offseason before he returns for Year 2.
"I'd say one big thing for me is pass rush," said Loudermilk. "I feel pretty solid against the run, but there were just some things with my pass rush I really want to hone in on a little bit more because I definitely feel like I was a little bit behind on that. But that's definitely one thing this offseason that I'm planning on working on."
Ready for it: Heading into the 2021 season there were question marks on the Steelers offensive line, who would the starters be, who would step up.
But one question was answered early on for one of the Steelers rookies.
Dan Moore Jr., one of the team's fourth-round draft picks, was given the heads up early on after the 2021 NFL Draft that he could be in the mix as a starting tackle.
"From the moment I was drafted, I was kind of prompted and told, 'Hey, this could be happening. Don't want to leave you out of the loop. Just be ready,'" said Moore of getting a heads up about his potential playing time early on. "I went in with the mindset that I could be starting day one. That was my notion going in.
"It was definitely a lot of football, but I wouldn't say it was too much football. It was always a pleasure coming in the building being around the guys coming to work. It's always fun. It really was."
Through that fun, Moore said he learned a lot about himself, including that he can go up against the big guys in the NFL.
"I learned that I can maintain in this league," said Moore. "I can play through a full season. I learned that I can perform in this league and block really good defensive ends. In the long run that's going to help. Being thrown in the fire this year, it was something that I kind of prepared myself for. Now that I have that first year under my belt, just talking to a lot of the guys, a lot of the vets, hopefully that difference from the game slowing down from Year 1 to Year 2. I'm definitely looking forward to that. Now knowing what I have to work on from a technical standpoint this offseason, getting in the weight room. Definitely looking forward to that as well."