Coming home to Heinz Field

Alumni players celebrate the last 15 seasons at Heinz Field during the Alumni Weekend Dinner, benefitting the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

Some of them have seen each other over the past year, some haven't seen each other since their playing days ended. But when they got together on Saturday night, it was like they had just seen each other yesterday, picking right up where they left off when they last walked out of the Steelers' locker room.

Saturday night was a time for recalling memories, giving family updates and sharing a ton of laughs at the Alumni Weekend Dinner at Heinz Field, benefitting the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

The event brought together those who have played at Heinz Field since it opened in 2001, and it was a family reunion for them.

"You pick up right where you left off," said Plaxico Burress, who played for the Steelers from 2000-2004 and returned in 2012-13. "We had such a great bond here. Everything was authentic. There was nothing fake about it. You knew the person you were playing with, not just from a football standpoint. We spent so much time with each other outside of the football field. You knew their wives, their kids. It was that kind of vibe. You knew the person outside of the football field, not just in the locker room. And now it's just about catching up with the guys you haven't seen in a while."

Photos from the red carpet of the 2016 Rock Steelers Style Fashion Show.

About 20 players, including Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis and Hall of Fame nominee Alan Faneca, were on hand and recalled what made their time in Pittsburgh so special. They shared stories, and not just with each other but with guests in attendance, and had a good time being together again.

"We were all a bunch of brothers," said Faneca, who played with the Steelers from 1998-2007. "Everybody was the same. We all come from different parts of the country, different walks of life, but we were all the same guy. The attitude and belief in each other in the locker room carried a lot."

The players will be introduced to the Heinz Field crowd at halftime of the Steelers-Patriots game, which is something they look forward to. But having a reunion and spending time together, nothing beats that for them.

"It's great to do this because that's the one part about playing that you miss," said Jerome Bettis. "You miss being in the locker room with your guys, hanging out with them, cracking jokes. That is the one thing when you retire you can never get back. When you get together like this it puts you back in that frame of mind you had when you were in the locker room.

"It's special the Steelers do this. It shows the organization appreciates what the past players have done. That means so much. It also keeps the former players connected to the organization. That is just as important. It's you played here, you are always welcome here, you are always a part of this organization. That is a great feeling for a former player."

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