Coming together as one

From a distance it looked like your average assembly line. Person after person doing their part to put together the finished product.

Up close, though, it was more. Much, much more as a matter of fact.

The tables, the long lines of people wearing hair nets, putting their time in to do the same thing over and over again, and the boxes being packed were a far cry from an assembly line inside the practice field at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Thursday afternoon.

It was a mission of love and compassion, a mission to help people in the Pittsburgh area.

Steelers' players, coaches and staff all worked together to pack meals for Feeding Children Everywhere, with the meals staying right at home to help those served by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

"It was great to see so many people from the organization come out," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "To be honest with you I wasn't expecting so many. It exceeded my expectations. It shouldn't have. I know we have so many great people in the organization, players, coaches and staff. It's great to see everybody here.

"We wanted to make sure the project was going to benefit local families. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank does great work here. We have been supporters of theirs for a long time. It's great to be able to do that."

As part of the NFL 100, Steelers' players, coaches, and staff packed 15,000 meals for Feeding Children Everywhere

The goal was to pack 15,000 meals, in just about an hour mind you. This group wasn't going to let anyone down, packing a total of 16,185 meals for local families.

"This means everything," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "We are members of the community. We have special roles within it. Ones we embrace. To have the opportunity to engage and contribute is something we are all excited about.

"It's good to see them in a different setting, seeing them do something good and positive for the community we care about."

The event was part of the NFL's goal to have 100 Million Minutes of volunteerism and community activism this year as the league celebrates its 100th season. And for it to benefit those in the Pittsburgh area made it special for everyone taking part.

"It's awesome to see not just the players and coaches, but the staff too, all together helping the community," said T.J. Watt. "I am thankful to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and really proud. To be able to keep all of the food in the area is important. We are all one in this community, we help each other, and we are just here to lend a hand."

The group worked side-by-side preparing the meals, an Italian veggie pasta, and you could feel the joy and happiness from everyone as each meal was packaged knowing it was going to help someone who truly is in need.

"It makes your heart smile to help other people," said receiver James Washington. "There are people less fortunate than we are. It makes you forget about yourself."

And it should come as no surprise that the players made sure everyone got competitive, with each table wanting to pack the most meals.

"We want to help. This is a great way to do it," said General Manager Kevin Colbert, making sure he didn't slow down his line as he stopped to talk. "We take for granted too often that we have a full meal at our disposal every day, three times a day. When you can provide any meal for someone who doesn't have it, it means a lot."

All of the ingredients were delivered to the team via a truck the day before the packing, and then participants were all trained and then the work began.

"This project is going to feed so many families in the Pittsburgh area," said Christina Redman, National VP of Partner Relations for Feeding Children Everywhere. "I think this is amazing. To have the guys give back. They are compassionate, they are caring. Amazing."

The goal of the organization is to end hunger in five years in the United States. They have shipped meals to all 50 states, and will continue to do so as long as there is a need.

"This is amazing," said Ryan Shazier. "It's great we have everyone out here, for one goal to help people in our area. Hunger is a huge issue right now everywhere. It's big we are doing this right here in our area, that there are people right in our own back yard battling hunger. You never know how close to home the issue can hit."