Hometown rookies are living the dream

It's not unusual to hear people who have grown up in Pittsburgh talk about how they dreamt about playing for the Steelers when they were kids. They love to reminisce about wearing their Steelers jerseys in the backyard, catching passes as if they were Lynn Swann or Hines Ward, tackling their friends the same way Jack Lambert or James Harrison would.

They have dreamt about putting on a Steelers uniform, running out of the tunnel at either Three Rivers Stadium or Heinz Field with the Terrible Towels twirling and the crowd screaming.

For most it's just that - a dream. It hasn't gone any further than the backyard fun, the neighborhood bragging rights.

But for three Steelers rookies, the dream is becoming a reality.

Wide receivers Toney Clemons and Connor Dixon and linebacker Brandon Lindsey are living their dream, the same dream so many of their friends had, playing for the hometown Steelers.

"I did dream about this," said Dixon, who played at Duquesne University and attended South Park High School in the Pittsburgh suburbs. "I think a lot of people did, but it's just not a reality. I didn't think it would be happening to me.

"It's great. It's hard to describe. There is nothing better. I was the biggest fan growing up. I really liked everybody. I liked Kordell Stewart because I played quarterback. I liked Neil O'Donnell. I was also a big Jerome Bettis fan, I liked the Bus."

He wasn't alone in having watched the Steelers play while growing up, knowing all about current and past players.

"I was a fan of all of these guys playing now and even before," said Clemons, a seventh round draft pick who played at Valley High School in New Kensington, Pa.

Clemons understands the tradition that a Steelers' receiver has to uphold, and while he was too young to watch them play he knows all about Swann and John Stallworth. But it's a receiver who played in the 1990s, Yancey Thigpen, that was one of his favorites.

"It's all the guys, all of the great receivers that played here," said Clemons. "I grew up here. I had a Yancey Thigpen jersey when I was little. I got to see him play. I liked how suave he was. He played so smooth. He was crafty and a competitor. He competed for the ball, every play, every snap. That's what I like to do, go out and compete."

While Clemons knew he was joining the Steelers after the draft ended, the dream took a bit longer coming for Dixon and Lindsey. Both of them were signed with the Steelers as free agents following the draft, something that was a no-brainer.

"After the draft we were looking at the teams, at their depth charts, where I would have my best possible scenario, where I would get on the field the fastest," said Lindsey, who played at the University of Pittsburgh and Aliquippa High School. "You can't go wrong staying in your hometown, playing for the Steelers. It's the franchise that has the most Super Bowl wins in history. The legacy speaks for itself without me having to say anything.

"It means a lot. My family grew up Steelers fans and would love nothing more than to see me play for the Steelers. It's a dream come true for them and me."

When all three first arrived for the team's rookie mini-camp, they were admittedly excited about seeing their names on a locker, seeing the Super Bowl trophies, the entire history of the team in front of them. But they also made sure that excitement didn't hinder their approach on the field.

"I took pictures of my helmet when I first saw it," said Clemons. "When they fit me for the helmet and the chinstrap went on, it was like wow. I dreamt about wearing one of these helmets.

"But now, it's time to get to work."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.