It was like a family reunion on Friday night when former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was honored and roasted at the Mel Blount Youth Home All-Star Celebrity Roast.
Many of Polamalu's former teammates and coaches, and those who played before and after him, were on hand to celebrate the Pro Football Hall of Famer, and of course share some fun stories about the humble legend.
"I never thought I would be in this position," said Polamalu. "And I never want to be at a roast being roasted. It's even going to be more humbling.
"I love being around the guys. I really do. I never like to be the center of attention. I like to be around them and watch all of their personalities come out."
Oh, and the personalities came out. There was plenty of laughter, hugs and joy throughout the fun-filled night.
"He's one of the greatest all-time Steelers," said Blount. "He brings out the true spirit of Steelers Nation and the love the fans and the community have for a player. Troy's reserved, he's quiet, unassuming. We think he's a special person. His humility. He's a humble guy. Great family guy. Just a good person.
"And, I think he embodies what a Steelers legend is all about."
It's a mutual admiration society. Polamalu got to know Blount during his playing days, when Blount would frequently stop by the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. That brotherhood grew even stronger when Polamalu joined Blount in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"Mel has always been a staple for anyone who has played for the Steelers," said Polamalu. "His involvement with our organization has continued and his presence is awesome. It's humbling because to play a position at his size, and to have the Super Bowl rings and the rules that catered to him, or rather everybody else, is awesome. I think most importantly it really is the soul of what it is to be a Steeler. For somebody to continue to be here, continue to always give back. I think that is one of the most important things. Everybody who has become a Pittsburgh Steeler continues to give back. It's a cultural thing that you learn when you come to Pittsburgh. It's really important to give back, to have a continual presence while giving back."
Troy Polamalu was honored and roasted at the Mel Blount Youth Home All-Star Celebrity Roast
The event benefits the Mel Blount Youth Leadership Initiative, a program that helps kids grow, learn, develop and become productive citizens.
"With the Youth Leadership Initiative, we're able to work with more kids and have a broader reach," said Blount. "One of the things that we've done is connected with other youth organizations around Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Washington County, Greene County, Westmoreland County. So, we have a broader reach now. We're able to work and be more effective reaching more kids. It gives kids, even kids who are not in the system, an opportunity to experience what our program has to offer and help them grow and develop.
"It's so amazing what some of the things we have to offer, from team building, counseling, and therapeutic riding at the Youth Home. We had a group of kids from East Palestine, Ohio, where they had the train derailment. These kids are in an environment where other kids, other schools, don't want to come in there and play because of the air quality of the of the city. You have kids who don't understand all the outside noise and they don't understand why other schools don't want to come in there and play. We had all these kids, from third grade to seventh grade, at the facility. We sat and talked with them. Then we went on a walk that turned into climbing a huge hill at the facility. It was so amazing to see these kids make this climb. Some made it faster than others, but they all were excited when they got to where they were going. We talked about that and where you start, where you are right now and staying focused on where you want to go and what the view looks like when you get to where you are versus where you started. That's true in life. You have the ups and downs, you have challenges, but if you stay focused on the things that you're trying to accomplish, when you get there, it's all worth it."
This year's event was the first dinner the Youth Home hosted since the pandemic hit in 2020 and it was a blessing for Blount to have it return.
"God was the reason we were able to survive," said Blount. "This event is a huge part of our budget, and we've missed it. It was tough, it has been tough to be able to try to run a program and find funds to give kids scholarships. We are so thankful to be back and to have the support, especially from sponsors and Steelers players."
And that is something Blount doesn't take for granted. Having current and former Steelers players attend the event is what keeps it running and he appreciates every one of them for giving their time and energy to the evening.
"I'm so many generations removed from the Steelers and to have guys to respect what we're doing is special," said Blount. "We've been having a Steelers rookie day at the Youth Home since Ben Roethlisberger's rookie year. I've built up a relationship and a certain amount of respect from these players. I'm a guy who is from the generation of the 70s, so when you can touch different generations and still have the respect that they understand basically what a Steelers player means to the community and to come support it, I tell you what, I am grateful.
"I think what we're doing in the community sets an example for players to come and what it really what it means to play for the Steelers."