We think it’s an amazing testament to the prestige of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization that four of our favorite players have returned to the black and gold after their stints with other teams. Each began his NFL career with the Steelers, with the exception of Byron Leftwich. All four, a list that also includes Larry Foote, Bryant McFadden, and Antwaan Randle El, express sincere excitement and high expectation for what’s to come in the 2010-2011 season. We catch up with the crew after OTAs in June, and we quickly learn that the years apart haven’t affected their intense camaraderie whatsoever. It makes sense that everyone seems so content and comfortable — after all, there’s no place like home.
Larry Foote, Linebacker
Foote returns to the team after one season with the Detroit Lions. He was a Pittsburgh Steeler for seven seasons prior to this year.
What are you most looking forward to about playing in Pittsburgh again?
It’s a great experience overall. I’m looking forward to the football community and having the opportunity to go back to the Super Bowl and just playing in this environment. You know, I’ve only been gone a year, but I miss it so much ‘cause it’s a special place to play football. I’m just excited to have the opportunity to finish my career here.
What makes it a special place?
Kind of hard to explain. Just the fans, the whole town, the build-up of the games, and, this is a football town; there’s no place like it in the world. And the people really treasure it. You feed off that emotion, off that excitement that’s going on. It makes football fun, just being in that stadium.
Bryant McFadden, Cornerback
McFadden returns to the team after one season with the Arizona Cardinals. He was a Pittsburgh Steeler for four seasons prior to this year.
What did you miss most about playing for the Steelers?
The camaraderie, the tradition, the love that we feel from the city. You know, that love carries a lot of weight; that makes for motivation, playing for a bigger reason, not just to win, but you got a lot of people that are rooting for you. And the fellow guys that wore the Steelers uniforms and had success here and won many Super Bowls, they’re watching too, so it’s a sense of tradition. That’s something I really miss.
How will it be the same, and how will it be different from before?
Hopefully, what will be the same are the results. Last time we were here, we took care of business like we needed to take care of business. The difference is, it’s a different year. That’s how I’m going about it. But as far as results, I’m just hoping and believing we can go ‘head and do what we are accustomed to doing.
Antwaan Randle El, Wide Receiver
Randle El returns to the team after four seasons with the Washington Redskins. He was a Pittsburgh Steeler for four seasons prior to this year.
What did you miss most about being away from Pittsburgh?
A lot of the players that I played with that are still here. That’s one thing you miss. The players and that group that we had and of course, you come back to an organization with [a] good history. And then, the fans. The fans are fans that travel everywhere with you and always fill up the stadium.
What did you miss most about the city itself?
Well, the city itself is a Steeler town, and they really just love their football. [It’s] the whole hardworking, blue-collar atmosphere, and everybody loves their team.
Byron Leftwich, Quarterback
Leftwich returns to the team after one season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was a Pittsburgh Steeler for one season prior to this year.
How does it feel to be back With the Steelers?
Oh, it’s great! When you’re here, you’re playing for the best organization in sports, so to have the opportunity to be a part of it again is a great thing.
What did you miss most about being on the team?
The winning attitude, the expectations of being on this team. When you’re here, you’ve got an opportunity or a chance to win the championship every year. That’s one of the things about this organization — they’re always gonna have a good enough team to compete every year.
What did you miss most about the city of Pittsburgh?
The people, the loyalty to the game of football, the understanding that the fans have in Pittsburgh; it’s a great thing. You just respect the culture around here. They’ve got a rich culture here, and it’s something, as a player, you like being a part of.