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A night to celebrate Steelers history

Since its inception, the Steelers Hall of Honor has recognized the best of the best who have contributed to the organization, whether it be on the field, or off the field.

That tradition continued Saturday night when the Steelers Hall of Honor Class of 2022 was officially enshrined.

The Hall of Honor Class of 2022 spans the decades and appeals to generations of Steelers fans, and includes legends Myron Cope, Sam Davis, Ray Mathews and Heath Miller. In addition, Louis Lipps, a member of the Class of 2021, was also enshrined with the group.

"It's a special night, a special class, a special weekend," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "This is the reason we created the Hall of Honor, to recognize the group we have tonight. They all made great contributions to Steelers football."

Fans can learn about their contributions in the newly opened Hall of Honor Museum at Acrisure Stadium, and Rooney was thrilled to have the players on hand and families of others see it.

"It's great to have the museum open now and let this year's inductees see it," said Rooney. "It's a great weekend."

The Pittsburgh Steelers celebrated the 2022 Hall of Honor class at Acrisure Stadium during the Hall of Honor Dinner Ceremony presented by U.S. Steel

Cope spent his career talking about Steelers players in a manner like no other as the team's radio color commentator, while Davis, Mathews, Miller and Lipps left an indelible impact on the field, forever remembered as part of the Steelers lore.

"We started this with the idea there would be players and others that aren't going to be recognized in Canton but deserve this kind of recognition," said Rooney of the Hall of Honor. "I think this group really fits that description in terms of people that made great contributions. Wanted to make sure that people like this are recognized."

The team introduced the Hall of Honor in 2017, an idea that came from Art Rooney II, along with late Chairman Dan Rooney. The Hall of Honor was established to recognize former players, coaches, and front office personnel who played an integral role in the success of the franchise, from the beginning in 1933 until now. To be considered, a player must be retired at least three years and played a minimum of three seasons for the Steelers. Former coaches and contributors had to make significant contributions to the team and community.

Miller was aware of the Hall of Honor, but never imagined he would one day be a part of it.

"I was shocked when I first got the call," said Miller of hearing the news during training camp. "I was shocked and taken aback. It wasn't expected. It wasn't even on my mind. My phone rang and I saw the Pittsburgh Steelers on the caller ID and I was like, 'Oh, that's weird.' It was Mr. (Art) Rooney and he told me. To be honest I was just kind of really taken aback and I told him at a loss for words.

"It's a huge honor. I couldn't be more grateful and honored to be a part of this Hall of Honor class."

Miller, who is the only living member of the Class of 2022, knows what it means to be a part of such a legendary group.

"The Steelers organization starts with the Rooney family, but it was built through so many great, iconic players throughout the history of the NFL," said Miller. "As I was playing, Coach (Mike) Tomlin talked about the standard all the time. I just wanted to make people who wore the black and gold before us proud and live up to their expectations. To even be mentioned with them is special.

"The culture here from the top down is based off hard work. For me it was the perfect match. I couldn't pick a better team to play for. I'm very proud to have been a part of it.

"It's really hard to put it into words. As a player I took a great deal of pride in representing the Steelers and what the guys who came before me did. They built the legacy. They made it special to wear the black and yellow. To be joining them in some small aspect tonight is really cool."

Miller was the Steelers No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Miller, who played 11 seasons, started 167 of 168 games played during the regular season, and he started all 15 postseason contests that he played in. Miller's 168 regular-season games played are the most by a tight end in Steelers' history.

Miller retired as the all-time leader in receptions (592), receiving yards (6,569) and receiving touchdowns (45) by a tight end. He was a member of the Steelers' Super Bowl XL and XLIII Championship teams, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and team MVP in 2012.

Miller was joined at the dinner by his wife, Katie, and their children, as well as his parents and a group of former teammates that included Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Keisel.

"It's a special evening," said Miller. "I am really excited that my family and I could be here. I am honored to be able to be in this position. It's been cool. They have been having a blast. They are excited to be a part of it. We are having a great time."

Also on hand was his former tight ends coach, James Daniel, who was thrilled to support him.

"The type of player Heath was made every coach's job easier," said Daniel. "When you teach, sometimes you have to keep repeating it and repeating it. He digested everything you told him, and he just kept getting better. You could work on other things because you didn't have to repeat the same things over and over again.

"He was smart, he was hard-working, he was special."

Lipps, a member of the Class of 2021, was also enshrined with the group and it was special for him.

"It was a big wow factor for me," said Lipps. "First of all, it was totally unexpected. I got the call from Mr. Rooney. For him to tell me congratulations was special. He called me and I missed it. I was nervous for about 15-20 minutes before calling him back. When I did and he told me I made it, it was unbelievable."

Lipps was the team's No. 1 pick in the 1984 draft out of Sothern Mississippi. He finished his rookie season with 45 catches for 860 yards (19.1 average), led the NFL with 656 punt return yards, and scored 11 touchdowns. He was voted to the AFC All-Pro team and Pro Bowl as the kick returner his rookie year and was the NFL Rookie of the Year. A two-time Pro Bowl selection he was also voted the Steelers MVP twice.

But making the Hall of Honor has taken it to the next level.

"This is my Super Bowl," said Lipps. "I didn't go to any, didn't win any, didn't play in any. This for me is my Super Bowl.

"I am just honored. To be in the same category as these guys who did so much more than what I did. To me it's just an honor."

Lipps, who has remained in Pittsburgh since his playing days, got emotional talking about playing for the Steelers and what it meant to him.

"It meant everything because when I got drafted all I wanted to do was go somewhere, somebody give me a chance," said Lipps. "For it to be the Steelers, was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life."

Cope became a household name when he was hired as the radio color commentator for Steelers games in 1970, and was he ever colorful. He brought a unique approach to the booth up until his final season in 2004, an approach that endeared him to listeners and made him a Pittsburgh legend.

Cope, who passed away in 2008 at age 79, was the first pro football broadcaster to be elected to the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2005 and was presented the Pete Rozelle Radio and Television Award at the 2005 Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies in Canton, Ohio. In 1983 he became the first member of the broadcast media to be appointed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame to its Board of Selectors.

"I do remember in the early days a lot of people thought 'why do you have that guy with the weird voice on the radio?'" said Rooney. "He was one-of-a kind. He had that radio show every night, and I think that the Friday night shows would get the fans fired up for the game on Sunday. He just brought so much energy and spirit to Steelers Nation. He was very special."

He also was the creator of the famous Terrible Towel, something that has stood the test of time with Steelers Nation and can be seen in stadiums near and far every time the black and gold take the field. It all began in 1975 when Cope encouraged Steelers fans to bring a yellow dish towel to the team's playoff game against the Baltimore Colts and wave them to help rally the team. The fans responded, the Steelers won, and the legend of the Terrible Towel began.

Davis was a longshot, someone known as a 'sleeper' when he came into the NFL as an undrafted rookie back in 1967, one of the many gems Hall of Fame personnel guru Bill Nunn discovered.

But one thing you quickly found out about Sam Davis was when it came to his playing skills, he was no sleeper.

Davis came to the Steelers from Allen University, a small school in Columbia, South Carolina whose enrollment at the time was under 1,000 students. Davis spent his summers in South Carolina, one of the few players there training at the school before the start of each new season to be at his best, because he had a dream to take his game to the next level.

That dream came true when the Steelers signed him, but it became even more of a reality when he earned the starting left guard spot his third season and went on to start on four Super Bowl championship teams in the 1970s.

"Sam was an undrafted player," said Rooney. "He came along a little bit slow and worked his way into being, as I said before, the foundation of that line. I always say that line didn't really get the credit it deserved because they played as a unit for most of the time. There wasn't much turnover in that line over the years. Sam was a key part of it, a captain, a very important role on the team overall."

Ray Mathews played from 1951-59, before the glory days, but he brought his share of glory to the Steelers with his play during nine seasons in the black and gold.

Mathews was drafted in the seventh round of the 1951 NFL Draft, the 81st overall selection out of Clemson.

He finished his Steelers career with 230 receptions for 3,919 yards, which ranks 11th in team history.

Mathews played halfback and right end, which in today's game is the flanker position. He led the Steelers in receiving for three straight seasons, 1954-56. In 1954 he had 44 receptions for 762 yards and six touchdowns, while in 1955 he had 42 receptions for 762 yards and six touchdowns. Mathews had 31 receptions for 540 yards and five touchdowns in 1956.

Fans are now able to learn more about the members of the Hall of Honor, as well as the team's rich history, at the new Steelers Hall of Honor Museum at Acrisure Stadium located near Gate B.

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