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Community Corner: Flag football fun

2024 Offseason

Tuesday, May 21

Flag football fun: Steelers Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu and his wife, Theodora, hosted the inaugural Resilience Bowl at Acrisure Stadium on Tuesday.

The evening was highlighted by a seven-on-seven flag football game, featuring an array of former Steelers players like Jerome Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward, as well as celebrities such as rapper Fedd the God, actor and comedian Billy Gardell, and actor/musician Chip Esten.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Hall of Famer and former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau served as the coaches for the game.

The competition was intense, with Polamalu's team coming out on top.

"It's the city that is hosting us tonight in a lot of ways. In that mindset, I am very grateful to be back, to see all of the faces here, to see the team," said Polamalu. "It's nice to be back in the fold in a very meaningful way. We do a lot of charitable work for the community, but to come back here, bring back the alumni, give back to the team."

The event benefits the Neighborhood Resilience Project, an organization the Steelers have a strong bond with.

"Considering the Neighborhood Resilience Project, and the Neighborhood Resilience Institute, and the amazing things they have done, this is great to be a part of," said Polamalu. "The Resilience Project, first and foremost it's a framework that allows the community to heal within. Oftentimes, when people look at trauma, especially the case of trauma in communities, you have a separate figure that is trying to impose certain programs on a community. Some of them are helpful, some not so helpful. The beautiful thing about the Neighborhood Resilience Project is that it's healing from within. It's a framework that allows people that live in the community to talk to people in positions of power, and then they become people of power, and enlighten us to bring healing to the community."

The organization brought hundreds of kids from the Greater Pittsburgh region to enjoy a night where they can see Steelers legends up close.

"This night means so much to them," said Rev. Paul T. Abernathy, CEO of Neighborhood Resilience Project. "For them to have a chance to see some of the Steelers legends, Super Bowl champions, Hall of Famers. It's bringing so much excitement to our youth.

"This event is so fun. Just to have an event this fun and offer it as a night of enjoyment for our region to come together and celebrate all that people in our community have accomplished establishing resiliency, it's just incredible."

The vision of the Neighborhood Resilience Project is to inspire a movement in which suffering people are raised up from the ashes of trauma in unconditional love to become empowered healers, community builders, and positive change makers. The project is rooted in the Gospel and teachings of the Orthodox Church, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.

"This has been a tremendous blessing to us," said Rev. Abernathy. "Troy and Theodora Polamalu are truly gems, not only for our organization, but the entire community. The Steelers organization is showing us tonight that as a region we can come together, we can remember those who are suffering the most among us. We can as a region, with this kind of leadership from the Steelers and the Polamalus heal the pain in our communities. This is inspiring so many people in our community. The excitement in our underserved community is beyond words, it's bringing new life to us all."

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Saturday, May 11

Pizza, pizza: Cameron Heyward won the 2023 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, and so far in 2024 he has shown he has no plans of slowing down. Heyward has been involved in multiple community events this year already, the latest partnering with Little Caesars Love Kitchen to provide free pizza to people in the Homewood community.

Thursday, May 9

Celebrating a special day: Last year, Miles Killebrew wanted to do something special for his 30th birthday, and for someone who isn't a fan of big parties and a lot of attention, he found the perfect way to celebrate.

He enjoyed it so much, he opted for the same celebration this year.

Instead of making his birthday celebration all about himself, he celebrated his birthday, which is May by hanging out with patients at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, hanging out and delivering gifts to unsuspecting kids.

It was a great day for the kids, who were smiling from ear to ear as their spirits picked up with the fun surprise, which included Killebrew dressing up as Batman.

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Wednesday, May 8

Birthday time: Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward celebrated his birthday on Monday, but on Wednesday, he threw a party for others.

Heyward hosted his annual birthday bash at Dave & Busters for a group of local kids, including many who are served through The Caring Place.

The kids were able to play video games with Heyward and some of his teammates, as well as enjoy dinner and just have fun interacting with each other.

The Caring Place an organization he has been involved with, including as part of Cam's Kindness Week last year.

The Caring Place offers programs to support children and families who are grieving after a devastating loss. And the statistics are sad, as one in 20 kids will have a parent die before they graduate from high school. Heyward is one of those statistics and that is why he wanted to give back. His father, Craig 'Ironhead' Heyward died when he was just 16-years old, the summer before his senior year of high school.

Tuesday, April 23

Smiles all around: Quarterback Russell Wilson brought smiles, and Terrible Towels, to patients at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

Wilson stopped by the hospital to visit with the kids, something that lifted the spirits of everyone he spent time with. And Wilson himself had a fantastic time.

"What I have learned is that much is given, much is required," said Wilson. "I believe that."

During the visit, Wilson took time to learn more about each one of the kids, learn about their ability to fight through adversity as some have gone beyond what doctors could have ever expected in their health battles.

"It's about their fight," said Wilson. "It's inspiring to see that. To see the mentality. It's important not only for me, but so many of us other athletes to be able express how much these young kids mean to us.

"The thing I always realized, doing a lot of things with cancer, and things like that for kids, you realize that number one you never know if it's somebody you know, number two you never know if it's somebody that could be yours one day. To be able to give back and be able to impact is important."

Wilson is no stranger to giving back in this manner, something he did previously in other cities where he has played and something he truly does from the heart.

"My dad was always in hospitals, my mom was an ER nurse," said Wilson. "I've seen a lot. I've seen a lot of miracles happen too. I've seen a lot of good things happen.

"When you go into a room with a lot of love, a lot of hope, anything is possible. When you have great doctors and nurses and people that are spending so much time for these young, amazing kids, you want to cherish those moments."

Friday, April 12

Set for success: Cameron Heyward and The Heyward House hosted the annual Suiting Up for Success Soiree at the Grand Concourse, celebrating the accomplishments of local high school seniors.

Heyward celebrated male high school seniors in the Pittsburgh area, all chosen by their schools for their leadership, character and ability to overcome challenges faced by today's youth. The Heyward House provided each of them with a custom suit and all the accessories through his 'Craig's Closet' program, as well as a photo shoot and a private dinner with Heyward.

The program is one of the many that earned Heyward the 2023 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

Craig's Closet has been a staple for The Heyward House since 2018, launched in honor of his late father, Craig 'Ironhead' Heyward, who died from a brain tumor in 2006, at just 39 years old.

His father played football at the University of Pittsburgh, and when he arrived as a freshman running back, he had only one suit, something he was grateful to have since he came from a single-parent home with six siblings.

With so many young men in Pittsburgh facing the same challenge of not having a suit that they could wear to a job interview, internship, events and more, Heyward produced a plan. Craig's Closet provides free dress clothes to help young men as they move forward in life, and the Suiting Up for Success program is an extension of that.

"The idea came from my dad," said Heyward. "When he grew up, he only had one suit. A lot of his friends didn't have suits at all. This is a creative way we thought of to give back to the community and help prepare young men for jobs, or homecoming, moving forward in life. You never know how much a suit can help you present yourself."

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Wednesday, April 10

Cam Heyward Day: Wednesday was declared 'Cam Heyward Day' in the City of Pittsburgh, honoring the 2023 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Pittsburgh City Council presented him with a proclamation for his work that has benefited so many in the city.

"I just want to thank you for all of the work that you have done," said Gainey. "You have done a lot of work in the city. I am appreciative, because it speaks volumes of how you use your platform. I always think you should use your platform to uplift other people, and you have done that. I just want to personally say thank you.

"And I like the way you tackle quarterbacks. I appreciate that."

Gainey went on to read the proclamation honoring Heyward for winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, recognizing him for his on and off the field efforts.

"He is among the most respected names in the National Football League," the proclamation read. "Throughout his 13-year career he has been deeply involved in helping the community and always using his platform for good. Throughout his distinguished career, Cam has exemplified the highest standards of professionalism, compassion and consistency, going above and beyond the call of duty, and providing life-changing care for support of youth throughout the region.

"Today is your day. We appreciate you. Today is Cam Heyward Day."

Heyward, who has been a staple in the community since he was drafted by the Steelers in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, was humbled to be honored by the city when he was born and played his entire career.

"Thank you to Mayor Gainey, (City) Council, and everybody out here today," said Heyward. "When I talk about using my platform to draw awareness or help others out, that's not accomplished without a village behind me. It's not done without people taking an effort to give back. I would like to think I am a representative of that.

"I am very appreciative of this proclamation. When I tell my kids today is Cam Heyward Day, they might freak out a little bit and hopefully I can get a cupcake on top of that. My kids, I am just trying to show them the way and I am trying to lead my family and provide for them a model of how to represent your city. Not everybody gets to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, but when you are a Pittsburgh Steeler, there is a level of consistency, a standard to be held and a responsibility to the city. That is something I will always do. We've got a lot more work to do, and I am looking forward to doing it."

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Cam Heyward City Council

Saturday, April 6

Alex Highsmith Day: Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith had his day in the sun when Wilmington, North Carolina celebrated 'Alex Highsmith Day' on April 6.

Highsmith, who grew up in Wilmington, was recognized by Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo for his work on and off the field.

Highsmith was honored in particular for his work with the Highsmith Family Foundation, which is dedicated to the advancement and enrichment of underserved youth, professional development of our nation's educators, and providing opportunities for growth and connection to flourish. The foundation does work in Wilmington, Pittsburgh, and Charlotte, where he attended college. He also works closely with the Barbara Highsmith Reading Academy.

"God has blessed me with this platform, to just be a light for him and do it all for his glory," said Highsmith. "So, knowing that the main reason I have this platform is not just to play football but to make a difference and be a blessing to others. Knowing that I have this platform, I know it comes with great responsibility and that is to give back to others and make a difference."

Highsmith is committed to the Pittsburgh community as well, hosting events for various organizations, while attending team and community events in an effort to give back and make a difference.

"Ultimately, I know that I can make a lasting difference in the community," said Highsmith. "Just by going out and doing different things with the kids and being a role model for them, that's what matters to me most."

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Friday, April 5

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