Former Steelers defensive lineman Aaron Smith was at the team’s practice facility on Thursday, the first time he has stopped by since officially retiring in early August.
“I really have enjoyed having my time and taking advantage of things I haven’t had the chance to do before,” said Smith. “I don’t have much free time. I have five kids. I drop them off at school, pick them up, I workout, we do homework and have dinner together.
“I enjoy it. I don’t know if my wife always enjoys it, but I do.”
Smith spent time catching up with his teammates and coaches, who were all thrilled to see him.
“It’s the first practice I watched,” said Smith. “It’s nice to see the guys. It’s a little weird coming in to the building knowing I am not playing and watching them go out to practice.
“This place is so special to me and has done so many good things for me and given me so much that I always feel comfortable coming here.”
What was uncomfortable for Smith recently though, was watching the Steelers first game of the regular season against Denver. Not being a part of it, not playing, really hit home when he turned the game on.
“That was the hardest day,” admitted Smith. “Up to that point I didn’t miss the practice, going to camp, the long meetings at night. But game day was always so much fun. There is nothing like that in this world. That is the one thing I realized. There is nothing that can simulate that. Once you are done playing, you’re done.”
The other thing that was strange for Smith was seeing someone else wear his former number, as linebacker Brandon Johnson now sports #91.
“It was weird to see someone in it,” said Smith. “You always live in the game even when they move on to the next guy. You never pictured yourself to be the one to move on, though. But it’s just a number and hopefully he has the same success with it as I did.”
Smith said as he watched the game he couldn’t help but look at it like a coach would, watching techniques and schemes. And on Thursday when talking to some of the players he offered the same type of encouragement he did when he was their teammate.
“I always tried to be positive and uplifting to the younger guys and encourage them and show them how small of an opportunity it is and how to make the most of it,” said Smith.
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