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It's gotta be the shoes

Posted Dec 2, 2016

Steelers' players will be stepping out in custom cleats for good causes on Sunday.

It’s become customary in the NFL to see pink cleats throughout the month of October, representing the NFL’s commitment to breast cancer awareness.

But this week, players from around the NFL will be sporting cleats with looks that represent charities that are near and dear to them as a part of the league’s player cause initiative, My Cause, My Cleats, that was launched this year.

The player cause initiative was created for NFL players to showcase a charitable cause that is meaningful to them. Players took part in helping to design their own cleats, with the NFL giving final approval.

When the Steelers take on the New York Giants at Heinz Field on Sunday, Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates, William Gay, Cameron, Heyward, Jesse James, Arthur Moats, Ben Roethlisberger, Stephon Tuitt, Greg Warren, and DeAngelo Williams will be wearing special cleats to represent a cause that is meaningful to them.

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Antonio Brown’s cleats will be in support of Big Brothers/Big Sisters and their youth mentoring program.

“It’s amazing to know I am in a position where I can be an inspiration to someone else,” said Brown. “That is what living is about, being an inspiration to other people, especially kids and inspiring them.”

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Sammie Coates’ cleats will highlight the work done by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in particular childhood cancer. Coates life has been dramatically touched by a visit to St. Jude, as well as a young fan he met while he was at Auburn, Kenzie Ray. Ray, who battles leukemia, is someone Coates refers to as his sister and the two have a bond that will never be broken, a bond that has him doing everything he can to help her in her fight.

“When I was in college I got to visit St. Jude’s,” said Coates. “It was a unique thing, a unique opportunity. I got to meet a little boy who was one of the cutest kids I had ever seen. He had tumors in his eyes so he couldn’t see. And he was so special.

“And my little sister has leukemia, and I want to bring attention to these things to help them in their fight, so I am doing it for kids with all kinds of diseases, especially cancer.

“It’s a great opportunity when the NFL gives you a chance to support something that is a big issue and needs more help behind it.”




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For Greg Warren, supporting the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation is something very personal to him.

In 2010 Warren’s wife Ashley started to have health issues, suffering from frequent headaches. An MRI revealed a rare skull-based brain tumor, completely unrelated to the headaches, and removing it would be a delicate and slow procedure. The initial thought was it was benign and shouldn’t cause immediate danger, so rather than rushing into it they did their homework, sought out second opinions and made sure they got the best care could.

Blessed with finding one of the best doctors in the country practically in their backyard in their native North Carolina, they found comfort in their decision to have the surgery done at the Duke Medical Center.

“We spent about a year trying to decide where she felt most comfortable doing this and having it removed,” explained Warren. “That was important, feeling comfortable with where we went. One of the best surgeons in the world for this procedure was right there at Duke so we decided to go with them.”

So on Feb. 27, 2013, Ashley Warren went in for the long, delicate procedure, all the while Greg anxiously waited for word on how she was doing, watching the clock, hoping and praying.

“Going into the surgery there was a lot of anxiety for Ashley and more so probably for us,” said Warren. “I think she was more worried about her parents and me than anything. She had a lot of faith and really put her faith and trust in God that he was going to take care of her. We all kept that same faith.”

That faith was rewarded when after just three and a half hours, of what was expected to be a six to eight hour surgery, good news was delivered.

“They didn’t know if they would get the full tumor in one surgery,” said Warren. “They didn’t know if she was going to need radiation. We did know about 95 percent that it was going to be benign, and it was thank goodness, but there were so many things we didn’t know.

“Then they called and said they were finished. They got the tumor completely and had very few complications. She has been very blessed to be where she is right now.”

She has fully recovered, the Warrens now have a young son, and while life is good for them, they want to do what they can to help others.

“I think it’s huge for the NFL to open up that platform to be able to give back even more to the charities near and dear to our hearts,” said Warren. “We are certainly taking advantage of that and hope that it brings awareness to pediatric brain cancer.
It’s huge to be able to wear the cleats.”

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DeAngelo Williams wearing pink is something he does not just in October when it’s breast cancer awareness month, but all year long. So he is thrilled to get another opportunity to sport pink in support of the DeAngelo Williams Foundation one more time in a game, showing love and support for his mother, Sandra Hill, who died of breast cancer, as well as several aunts lost to the disease.

“I can’t wait,” said Williams. “It’s going to be great. It’s going to be cool to see the different foundations and causes people are fighting for and desperately need the attention and funding for.

“It’s fortunate we have gotten to the point where the NFL is allowing some leniency for a week. It’s in the experimental stage. You have to get it approved to wear it this week. It’s headway in terms of athletes being able to represent their cause for a week instead of no week at all.”


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Artie Burns’ cleats will have plenty of meaning for him as they will serve a dual purpose. The cleats will feature an image of Burns’ late mother, Dana Smith, who died of a heart attack in October, 2015 at just 44 years old.

They also will bring attention to the Caring Place, a center in Pittsburgh for grieving children, adolescents and their families. It’s something that Burns can relate to with all he has been through in losing his mother.

“I was surprised at what they do,” said Burns, who had the opportunity to visit the center. “The things they do are special. They help people open up and get on with life. That is hard. Most people don’t want to open up to others and bring their problems on them and stuff like that. For them to provide the opportunity for people to do that and be so successful at it is great.

“It’s very important to bring attention to this. There are plenty of people out there who are scared to go to people for help. I didn’t know there were groups out there that existed like that. There needs to be more awareness that this type of thing is available.” 

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William Gay will be wearing cleats to support the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh and The Refuge House. Gay lost his mother, Carolyn Hall, to domestic violence and it’s something that is very near and dear to his heart.

Gay is currently teaming up with the Steelers and the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh on their capital campaign, helping to raise funds to improve the living facilities for those who have to escape their homes because of domestic violence.

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Arthur Moats cleats will represent a charity he continually gives back to, Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Moats and his wife Shonda, along with their three children, have been frequent visitors to the Ronald McDonald House, a place where families from all around the world who have a child undergoing long term care at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC stay during the duration of the child’s time in the hospital. He has baked cookies with them, done an ice cream social, had game night and has just spent quality time visiting.

Now he gets bring that relationship to the field.

“The fact that the NFL is allowing us to do this and we can show our personal charitable association is special,” said Moats. “For me and my relationship with Ronald McDonald House Charities, it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness for them. It shows everyone the importance of philanthropic efforts.”



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Ben Roethlisberger is supporting the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation, which provides fire and police departments across the country with K-9 units & service dogs. The foundation is in its 10th year and has distributed in excess of $1.5 million since 2007. Roethlisberger gives grants to fire and police departments in the Pittsburgh area, as well as in the cities where the Steelers play each season.

The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation was established when a K-9 was shot and killed in Roethlisberger’s hometown of Findlay, Ohio.

“I am excited about it,” said Roethlisberger. “It supports the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation with police and fire rescue. It will have a special tribute to K-9 Rocco on there too.

“I think it’s a great thing. It’s an awesome opportunity for guys in the NFL to showcase a foundation, a cause, whatever it is. There are so many great causes out there that people don’t know about. The league puts its stamp on one or two things. There are so many things out there that guys want to be known and make aware of a cause. This is an awesome opportunity for players to do it. I hope the league will continue to do it.”



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Ryan Shazier’s cleats will bring awareness to a condition the Steelers’ linebacker has dealt with since his youth. Shazier has dealt with alopecia, a type of hair loss that occurs when your immune system attacks hair follicles.

Shazier’s cleats will support the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, and he hopes it brings attention and especially helps young guys who have the same condition.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to help people become aware of the issue some people are dealing with and something I had to deal with growing up,” said Shazier. “It’s tougher when you are a kid because everybody else has hair. You feel like you are different, that something is wrong with you. But nothing is wrong with you. You just don’t have hair.

“It’s cool to make people aware and understand. I want people to gain knowledge of it and find out more about it themselves. It’s cool to be a helping hand to people going through it.”

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Jesse James is supporting the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, which raises money for pediatric cancer.

“I did some stuff with the football team. We did as much as we could,” said James. “It was a good experience to be involved, especially with the Make-A-Wish kids. That is what was important to me, to shed more light on Penn State and what they do there for the community and the kids. That is what it’s all about, the kids in that area who are at Hershey Medical and have survived their cancer treatment or are going through it right now.”

Supporting @pennstatethon for #mycausemycleats @steelers

A photo posted by Jesse James (@jdjames18) on



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Cameron Heyward might not see action on the field on Sunday, but he is still representing the Cameron Heyward Foundation, and The Heyward House, with a custom pair of cleats. Heyward's Foundation brings attention and raises funds for the fight against brain cancer, a disease that took his father, Craig 'Ironhead' Heyward's life. Heyward's shoes have his father's nickname on them, a man who played for the University of Pittsburgh and in the NFL. Heyward's cleats will also pay tribute to Aliquippa football standout DiMantae Bronaugh who lost his battle with leukemia this week at age 19.

Earlier this year Heyward wrote for the Players Tribune about his dad:

"You see, I miss my dad every day, and it’s a fact that after he passed away I was in a funk for a long time. But it’s also a fact that when your dad is Ironhead Heyward, you kind of owe it to the big fella to not stay miserable forever and to let the entire world know what a funny, engaging guy he was.

"Sometimes people, especially those who are a bit younger, ask me why I would have IRONHEAD written on my cleats, or my gloves, or my eyeblack when I took the field for the Steelers or Ohio State. So I have to tell them the story of my dad. But I don’t mind. Because it’s not a sad story. It’s a joyful one. And it’s a story I’ll never get tired of telling. Plus, it’s another opportunity to remember the man, not the legend. The funny, goofy, honest, gold-satin-suit-wearing man I loved with all my heart."