The Pittsburgh Steelers added some notable talent to the roster via the 2022 NFL Draft. For rookies, transitioning to the NFL can be difficult. Think about it, a 21-24 year old (usually) kid’s life changes in a blink of an eye and they’re supposed to adapt to adulthood and tackle the life as a professional athlete all at the same time? I don’t think we recognize the difficulties of that as fans, especially.
The Steelers have started a program that is aimed towards helping rookies adapt to things they may encounter off the field and transition from being college athletes to take on the responsibilities that come with being professional athletes.
Steelers 2022 first round pick, QB Kenny Pickett, who is currently battling to be QB1 for the black and gold, said this about the program:
“I think it’s really valuable,” said Pickett. “Our lives are a lot different than what they were. Getting the guidance that we get is really important. They are pointing us in the right direction. We had meetings every day that covered what we are going to encounter. It really helped.”
“It’s all the off the field stuff. What we can expect from a family standpoint. How our lives change financially. How to take care of our money. What we should do as the season rolls around because it’s a lot longer than college. And how we should take care of our bodies and everything. There are a ton of good things.”
These kids’ lives change so rapidly, NFL teams can’t just expect them to tackle these things on their own with no guidance whatsoever.
After Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp practices this spring, the rookies participated in meetings and fellowship in which they learned a lot about financial management, decision making, stress management and more.
Darrel Young, the Steelers Director of Player Development, who oversees the program said:
“It’s good to get those life skills.”
“I am a firm believer those are transferable skills. There are so many things you do off the field that affect you on the field. If we can bring all of those things full circle, check your ego at the door with some things, or leave your problems in the parking lot and know that you are taken care of in here it’s a win.”
“It’s good to get back into the groove of things, talk about the little nuances you don’t pay attention to while playing.”
Steelers fourth round pick, Calvin Austin III agrees that these lessons have been “very valuable.”
“Every time we have a meeting, it’s something different. It’s things we need going into our first season. We had [actor] Tiki Davis talk to us about decision making. It’s not just things needed our rookie year, but in life.
“The financial stuff prepares us for taxes, budgeting, investment information and tips. They stress don’t be so eager to jump on things. It has given us a wide range of financial literacy. They also give us free tools, people from around the league who are at our disposal and are here to help us.”
The rookies have been involved in the community already, spending time at the Mel Blount Youth Home and Urban Impact and have met with a lot of big names during this program. One that will stick with them the most is former Steelers linebacker, Ryan Shazier, who Young recognizes “has an interesting story.”
“Everyone knows what happened to him on the field. It’s what he is doing after. You talk about a transition that happened when he actuality should probably be our starting linebacker still today. You think about those little things. The things you can’t foresee, the uncertainty. If you get in that situation, what have you done to prepare yourself. How he has transitioned, I don’t know what happened then, what he went through mentally, but I know where he is today. I want to hear that story. Guys buy into it and pay homage to the guys who paved the way for you.”