The NFL is a brotherhood, and there might not be any position where that bond is stronger than on the offensive line.
And for good reason.
The offensive line is a unit that works together constantly as one. There must be cohesion. There must be respect. There must be trust. There must be friendship.
None of that comes overnight.
All of those things have to be built up over time, but for the Steelers offensive line in 2022, there wasn't a lot of time. There were a lot of new pieces, from free agents to the coaching staff, and it all had to come together quickly.
It took some work. It took time. But more than anything it took a commitment, one that the line was happy to go in on full force.
And it all started on an off day.
Tuesday is traditionally a day off for NFL players, a day many of them use to get their bodies back after a Sunday game, do work in the community, or just catch up on all the errands a weekend doesn't afford them the time to do.
But for the Steelers offensive line, Tuesday was just another day at the office last season. They would come in every Tuesday as a unit and work on the little things, the things that go a long way come December and January.
"It was coming in and doing light stuff similar to what we would do after practice," said tackle Dan Moore Jr. "Pretty much a pregame warmup, a few run techniques, a few pass techniques, but overall we'd probably be out there maybe 45 minutes to an hour."
That was only the beginning.
Anyone who was around the team last year quickly noticed a trend. On a regular basis, Wednesday through Friday, the offensive linemen would be the last unit in the locker room. They would come in as a group, sometimes dragging but always talking and laughing with each other. Day after day, week after week, the same routine. Getting extra work in whenever they could, never wasting an opportunity.
"Whether it was after practice, or guys coming in and doing extra individual on off days, it all helped," said guard James Daniels. "You spend even 20 minutes on an off day and then even just 10 minutes after practice throughout the entire season, that's hours and hours of extra work. And we did more than that. It's little stuff like that which adds up so in Week 14, 15, 16, we have hours in the bank. That's the stuff that helps you succeed."
It paid off as the season wore on, as the line became the cohesive unit they desired to be.
"That little bit of repetition every single day, just to try and get ahead of the competitor and perfect our craft was valuable," said Moore. "That is an example of the commitment that we tried to make throughout the season and not just doing it one week, but continuously every single week.
"It was huge for us. There were a lot of things communication wise where we didn't really have to say anything. For example, when you're playing Baltimore on the road late and you're looking at the person next to you and you can't hear anything he's saying, but you can see where he's looking. You can see where he's pointing. You genuinely know what he's saying to you even if you can't hear. That goes miles."
The line took it one step further, going back to a tradition the Steelers offensive line had before them, when players like Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Alejandro Villanueva and others bonded like no other by having Thursday night get togethers, mainly at Pouncey's house.
"I've talked with Ramon and that was something that he mentioned they used to do," said Moore. "I mean, it worked for them. So, hey, if it's not broke, then you don't have to fix it, right?
"We were trying to make an effort to just hang out outside of the locker room, do stuff together, get to know one another, get to know each other's backgrounds and families. Doing something as a group, going out to eat, having fun, going to Topgolf or something similar."
It's a tradition the line wants to continue moving forward, from the extra hours they put in to the getting to know you moments. Every aspect is valuable and they don't take it for granted.
"Playing offensive line in this league is challenging," said center Mason Cole. "If there's an opportunity for extra reps after practice or before practice, whatever it may be, physically it means a lot. But the camaraderie off the field, whether it be dinner or hanging out in the locker room with the guys after meetings or over just spending time with each other. Really listening, understanding and knowing who you're playing with. Not only the player, but as a person. If you gain an understanding of who you're playing with, you play better. You want to play better for the guys next to you.
"For an offensive line that's all so important. It's a good time. It's good to get away from the stress and fatigue of the season and go out to dinner and have a good time with the guys and not worry about all that, even if it's just for a meal. It's just good to be around the guys."