The Steelers have always been intertwined in the Pittsburgh community, a vision the Rooney family has always had to give back to the place you live and work and help make it a better and more vibrant community.
The bond with the community is stronger than ever, and on Tuesday it went to another level when the team announced the Steelers Social Justice Grant program.
The program, which is led by the players themselves, is an effort to engage with various factions, including law enforcement, charitable organizations, and more to strengthen the community at large.
Guided by Ramon Foster, Cameron Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers players are doing their part to make a difference, helping out financially and by giving their time to local organizations.
The first step took place when Steelers players presented a check to the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania for $15,000 to help them continue and expand the work they do. The donation included contributions from various players, including Brian Allen, Anthony Chickillo, Mike Hilton, Tyler Matakevich, Mason Rudolph, Jaylen Samuels, and T.J. Watt, and a matching commitment from the team.
"We are pleased to join with our players on the Social Justice Initiative to help support important programs in our community," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "Our players have always been active in the community, and we received a strong response from our players in supporting these programs. I want to thank Ramon Foster, Cameron Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey for their leadership in helping identify important programs to support."
The donation will help the Boys & Girls Club with their Great Start program, helping kids who need a second chance.
"The Steelers have been a fabric of the Boys & Girls Club for so many years," said Mike Hepler, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania. "They are doing it for all of the right reasons. It comes from the heart. It's part of the culture of the Steelers. The people that benefit are the people we serve. They are making an investment in the lives of people in the community."
This is the first of the donations the players are making, with further announcements coming that will involve other initiatives and the players who those initiatives are near and dear to their hearts.
"This collaborate effort among players in the National Football League to support causes, to give back to the communities where they are from, or the communities that they play and live in," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "I have been really impressed with our guys approach to this, their level of participation. There will be many of these opportunities in the upcoming weeks. Today is our first day. The guys will be out and cutting a check to the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania. Being a former Boys Club kid, and understanding the quality services and opportunities they provide young people, I am honored to say that and really impressed by their participation.
"Different guys who have different passions about whatever element of the community we are supporting will show up. I think that is one of the things that is awesome about participating in this. The guys get an opportunity to help in ways that are important to them, things they are passionate about. There are a lot of awesome things going on in this community, a lot of things we support continually anyway."
"We're members of the community. We have to ante up and kick in like any member of the community. We don't consider ourselves special members of the community, we're simply members of the community. We embrace all that holds."
The idea isn't just to give financially, it's to further foster relationships with organizations and the community in general.
"Number one is to make better relationships with all people. That is first and foremost," said Foster. "To be able to do that, what better way than get out in the community and do things. And to start off, give back to the community in a monetary way. With that you can start some things. You can have more programs, more people involved, including the right people. That is what we are trying to get going is the relationship of everybody together. Just see relationships be built. Not just with your neighborhood, but all the way around. When you see somebody, you know that person is being a good person. If that person is not being a good person, you say I have the mental fortitude to give this person a chance if I interact with you.
"The reaction from the players has been great. Everybody knows it's for a greater good. Everybody likes to complain about things and not do anything about it. This is one of those things where we have the opportunity to do something and we are doing it."
Pittsburgh holds a special place in the hearts of every player who wears the black and gold. It might not be where they are from, but it's their second home, it's their community, it's where they want to make a difference.
"Being here so long, the people out there are so amazing," said Pouncey. "The city sticks together really strong. This is only going to make us stronger by giving back to the community, to young kids, to others, the things social justice brings. It's an awesome cause and I am glad to be a part of it.
"It brings a lot of excitement beyond football. I know the games are really fun, but to go back into the community and change lives, it brings a lot more excitement."
The National Football League previously announced that each team would match player contributions up to $250,000 annually, for the purposes of establishing a fund to support community improvement, social justice and law enforcement relationships.