Encouraging kids to stay active

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They were there to encourage kids to be active, to stay physically fit, so it's no wonder when most of the players finished at the Steelers/United Way Hometown Huddle that they were sweating.

"It's fun to enjoy this time together with the kids," said Maurkice Pouncey. "We are getting after it. I am sweating. But it's a great opportunity. As a kid we always would be outside playing pick-up football. Kids need to get out of the house and enjoy themselves."

This is the 12th year that the Steelers have taken part in the United Way Hometown Huddle, a day of volunteerism in every NFL city. The Steelers rookie class, along with the team's United Way spokesman Charlie Batch, participated in bringing the NFL's Play60 message to Steel Valley Middle School.

"It's always great to come out here, especially being my middle school," said Batch, who was happy to deliver the true hometown huddle message. "We are trying to encourage kids to get off the couch and get out there and be active, it doesn't matter what it might be. It is definitely harder now. There are more options for the kids to do. We were out playing football, basketball, hide and seek. We are trying to get that back and make sure the kids stay active and give them options. We are promoting the nutritional aspect as well, making sure the kids are eating properly along with the physical activity."

Players offered encouragement to the kids as they went through an obstacle course, tossed footballs at a target and sprinted on the gym floor.

"I did the obstacle course. I feel like I played against the Browns I am so tired from it," rookie wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders joked. "You have to keep kids active, keep them playing. That is what we are here to do, show them how important it is.

"Video games weren't an option for me until I was old enough to buy them. My mom always told me to go outside and play. That is the message we are delivering – go outside, have fun and play. You are out, active, playing with friends. You are developing social skills, communicating with your friends. It taught me a lot."

Things got competitive, especially in the timed sprints with everyone wanting to be a winner and the players pulling for each one.

"It's a time for them to enjoy themselves," said Antonio Brown. "They can clear their minds and have a good time. You can do anything to have fun. We have drills going on, it's all about having fun."

While teachers and parents also encourage physical activity, having the message delivered from NFL players has special meaning.

"It's great to have the guys come out on behalf of the Steelers and the United Way to help these kids understand the importance of their activities, of being busy and active for 60 minutes," said Lisa Kelly, United Way of Allegheny County Development Officer. "It's good for them to be a kid and be out playing, not in front of a television or playing video games.

"It makes a huge difference for them to know that the players are behind it. It makes the message go a long, long way."

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