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A virtual visit brings real smiles

For years Steelers rookies have made it an annual tradition to spend an afternoon at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, interacting with the kids, playing games and doing art projects.

But this year, things were a little bit different.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the players were unable to make an in-person visit to the hospital, instead spending time with the patients virtually.

With all the rookies logged on to Microsoft teams, the hospital staff went room to room with an iPad, taking questions from the kids.

"It's super cool to be able to make someone's day in such a short period of time," said second-round pick Chase Claypool, who took the reins for the group on the call. "All we did was have a conversation with them and it changed their day."

The questions ranged from what college the players went to, if they play video games, what it's like to play football and more.

"They weren't hiding anything," said Claypool. "They asked us some questions that were on their mind and they answered some questions we had for them. I thought it was cool to have a normal conversation with someone who is going through so much."

One young girl, Mary, wanted to know flat out if there would be a Steelers season this year as she can't wait for it.

When the players told her yes, her eyes lit up.

That wasn't her only question, though. While she was lying in a hospital bed, the main thing on her mind was how Ryan Shazier is doing. And her concern touched everyone.

"That was super cool," said Claypool, who let her know about Shazier's progress. "It shows the connection between one of us and one of them. Ryan Shazier fought through something bigger than football. Him fighting through something like that might help a child like Mary fight through what she is going through because she saw one of us do this."


It wasn't just the kids asking questions. The players were asking the kids plenty of questions, bringing lots of smiles and joy to them.

"I always look forward to doing these things," said Claypool. "As soon as we can do it in person, I will be excited for that day."

The players even asked one of the patients for a prediction.

"Do you think we are going to win the Super Bowl this year?" they asked.

The answer from young Ryan was quick and an affirmative.

"Yes," said Ryan.

And this time, it was the players who were all smiles.

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