Steelers alumni weekend a 'family reunion'


By Teresa Varley

For the guests who attended a Taste of the Steelers it was an opportunity to sample the different food offerings at Heinz Field, bid on one of kind auction items and hear some great stories from former players who were a part of the Super Bowl championship teams.

For the players, though, it was more of a family reunion. There were stories about the good old days, updates on the family and of course plenty of laughter.

Twenty-three former players, along with two former assistant coaches, were the guests of honor at Taste of the Steelers, which benefitted the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at UPMC and the Cancer Caring Center. One player from each of the Steelers Super Bowl championship teams spoke about their memories of the game, with current players sharing their Super Bowl XLIII memories via video.

"It's great to be here, and not only for a great cause but when they bring in all the former guys as well, guys we haven't seen from over the country, it's just really nice to see them, their wives and their families and everybody here," said Dwayne Woodruff, who was a part of the Super Bowl XIV team. "When you first come in with the Steelers, one of the first things they want to tell you is that 'This is family.' And that's definitely true, we continue to be a family even after a number of years have passed."

Former tight end Randy Grossman, who was a member of the Super Bowl IX, X, XIII and XIV teams, shared stories about defeating the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII.

"I wanted to talk about the difference in the third Super Bowl team from the previous two, with regards to the personnel that we had," said Grossman. "There were 21 different players, almost half the team was different from the previous Super Bowl. I got to talk a little bit about the Dallas Cowboys and how miserable they are and that kind of stuff."
Mike Wagner was tapped to talk about Super Bowl X, when the Steelers defeated the Cowboys for the first time, and what it meant to the team and the city of Pittsburgh.

"I think the first one (Super Bowl IX) was really for the Rooney family, for the long suffering fans who had never seen a championship," said Wagner. "The second Super Bowl, more selfishly, was for the team, and also for the city. You come up against these slick Dallas people, and they kind of seemed to me in the media that there was a little smugness to them. And they didn't seem to appreciate what the city of Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh people, and the Pittsburgh fans were all about. So to go down there and to repeat as champions and to beat the Dallas Cowboys, I think you could see it."
The group also served as honorary co-captains for the game against the Browns, gathering for a team picture of their own before heading to the sidelines where they talked to current players and shared even more stories before being introduced to the crowd.

"It's just fantastic to be here with my old ballplayers, my old teammates," said Bennie Cunningham, who played on the Super Bowl XIII and XIV teams. "Every time I come back, I just rejoice in being able to see them again."
One player who is relatively new to the whole alumni thing is Jerome Bettis, who was one of the representatives of the Super Bowl XL team. Even though he hasn't been to as many alumni gatherings as some of the players from the 70s, he still has an appreciation for them and for those who laid the ground work for today's team.
"When I was playing, I watched the guys before me, and I always respected those guys and now it's just kind of neat to be on the other side," said Bettis. "It's a family-type atmosphere. It reaffirms that it's a family for life. Just because you retired does not mean you aren't part of the organization. Them bringing you back is a special feeling."

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