Players, fans ready to get season started

The NFL regular season doesn't begin for another week, but Steelers fans got things started on Wednesday at the annual Steelers Kickoff Luncheon, held at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown.

"We know the regular season is right around the corner," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "It's always great to come down and have lunch with the fans. They are always supportive of us and it's a nice way to tell them thank you."

Steelers' alumni Louis Lipps, Josh Miller and Edmund Nelson signed autographs before the luncheon and then the 2013 team arrived to the cheers of the crowd.

Steelers President Art Rooney II welcomed the crowd and thanked them for their continued support.

"It's great to be with Steelers fans getting ready for football season," said Rooney, who thanked the Allegheny Conference on Community Development for hosting the luncheon and continuing to promote the city and region. "It's always great to get started with this luncheon and see so many people ready to go."

Coach Mike Tomlin shared his enthusiasm for the start of the 2013 season and told the crowd how much he and the team appreciates their loyalty.

"It's always a pleasure to be here," said Tomlin. "There is no place like Pittsburgh. I am excited to be here on this stage with this group of men. You would be pleased with the work they put in to this point. I am excited and ready to go to meet the challenges that await us here in 2013.

"I appreciate Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Steelers Nation. Not only do you inspire us, but you are the heartbeat of us. Hopefully we are the same for you."

It was then on to the player introductions, with the crowd giving the players and enthusiastic welcome.

"It symbolizes the kickoff of the season," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "Being in Pittsburgh as long as I have you don't need something like this for fans to get fired up. All you have to do is say football season is around the corner and they are excited and ready to go.

"It's a kickoff to the season, we see the people wave the Terrible Towels. It's good for the rookies to start seeing that and get a feel for what fans are like here in Pittsburgh."

Last year's team award winners were also acknowledged, including MVP Heath Miller and Joe Greene Great Performance Award Winner Mike Adams, a fun moment when the team "punked" rookie offensive lineman Joe Madsen into introducing Adams. Walter Peyton Man of the Year winner Ryan Clark was also acknowledged.

"It always picks you up to come here after a tough year," said Clark. "It's easy for people to come out when the team was 12-4 and winning the AFC North. But when you see them support you after a year where you weren't happy with your performance, just to know the fans are still there, they still care and they are still waving Terrible Towels, is a good feeling."

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