The Steelers strong bond with the Pittsburgh community continued to grow over the past year through the Steelers' Social Justice Grant program.
The program, which is led by the players with support from the team, is an effort to engage with various factions, including law enforcement, charitable organizations, military and more to strengthen the community at large.
Steelers' players and the organization as a whole did their part to make a difference, aiding organizations financially and by giving their time to local organizations.
"For the second consecutive year, we are pleased to join our players on the Social Justice Initiative to support significant programs in the community," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "Our players and the organization have a long-standing relationship helping out in our communities, and we are always appreciative of the time given back to help those in need. Ramon Foster, Cameron Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey again took leadership in helping identify important programs to support and I want to thank them for their efforts."
The players and organization combined to donate over $300,000 to 28 different organizations in Pittsburgh and several in players hometowns.
"It's huge. We couldn't do what we do without donors, and obviously the Steelers in general have been phenomenal partnering with us and we're very grateful for that," said Doug Smith, Director of Development for Light of Life Rescue Mission, one of the beneficiaries. "To shine a light on what we do to serve the homeless men, women and children of Pittsburgh, is amazing. Every dollar that is donated will go to help the most vulnerable in our city. We are very, very grateful."
Some of the organizations who were aided include organizations that provide youth development, food access, equity and inclusion, housing, domestic violence support, criminal justice, housing and veterans.
"I am so appreciative of the Steelers support. They are awesome," said Nicole Molinaro, President and CEO of the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. "This donation has multiple meanings for us. The most obvious is the tangible support the Steelers provides really allows us to better serve our clients. We are able to reach more people with more funding and serve them in a meaningful way, providing for whatever needs they have, whether it's providing safety, emotional support, legal advocacy or any number of services or needs. It's extraordinarily helpful and priceless for us in that manner.
"It's knowing the Steelers are behind our cause. It means a lot to the women we serve to know that athletes who are famous and work within the community really believe that domestic violence is wrong, bad and something we as a society should help with. It helps the victims come out and not have the shame that is normally associated with domestic violence. The more people of influence who come out and say domestic violence is not okay, it really helps in a meaningful way for those experiencing intimate partner violence and don't want to reach out for help."
Many of the organizations who were aided are United Way agencies, further strengthening the bond between the Steelers and the United Way.
"The NFL and the United Way has enjoyed a partnership for decades," said Bobbi Watt Geer, President and CEO of the United Way of Southwestern Pa. "As a Pittsburgher born and bred, I understand and appreciate the depth of the relationship between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the United Way of Southwestern Pa. It is unique and goes beyond what we see in some other NFL cities. Part of that has always been the deep involvement of the Rooney family and the leadership role they have played on our Board of Directors.
"It goes beyond that as well because we have had deep engagement from a variety of players and the organization overall. It's been not just through the Social Justice Program, which is a relatively new aspect of our partnership, but the Steelers have for many, many years helped us with campaigns, done special kickoffs and raffles with us, and players have done volunteer events for us. It's broad and deep."
One of the best things about the program is that it isn't just about the financial donations. It's about giving time to organizations and providing support through different channels.
"Money helps out in this world," said Maurkice Pouncey. "I know it's a cliché thing to say the NFL is giving money. But these organization, with what they are trying to do for people, they need the money. It's about changing lives.
"I like getting involved. It's not just about writing a check. It's about giving your time, showing up, being involved and letting people know you care just like everybody else."
This is the second year the Steelers have had the Social Justice Grant program and the results are showing.
"The main thing is to get the youth, or anyone in the community, to look beyond the uniform, and the badge and patch, and see the individual," said Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert. "The same thing on our side. We don't want to see everybody as a victim, or a witness, or someone who is going to be arrested. We want to see the person. That has paid off huge dividends. You see people in the community develop a relationship with them (police) and that's priceless."