There will be a lot of players making their debut at Heinz Field on Thursday night when the Steelers take on the Philadelphia Eagles in a preseason game, but you can be sure a select group will be just a little bit more excited than others.
As a part of USA Football Month the Steelers will host the Dick's Sporting Goods Youth Football Exhibition at halftime between the Jeannette Hawks and Morningside Vikings 12 and 13 year old teams.
"The kids are excited about being on the same field the Steelers play on," said Jeannette coach Dave Spino. "Not many of the kids have been to a Steelers game or even at Heinz Field. It's a rare opportunity for them. They are really excited."
The teams were selected through the Steelers partnership with Dick's Sporting Goods and providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is a highlight.
"For a lot of these kids it's the first time they have ever been in Heinz Field to see a game," said Mike Marchinsky, the Steelers marketing manager for youth football. "Now you add on the fact that they can play at halftime, the level of excitement is through the roof for these kids. That is what makes it that much more special."
The celebration of youth football won't stop there. Kids who attended the Steelers Youth Football Camps will serve as honorary co-captains for the game and over 300 youth football players and coaches will attend the game.
"Most of the time these kids have never been to a game or wouldn't have a chance to come without this," said Marchinsky. "It creates a lot of opportunities for kids whose coaches have come to our programs.
"These kids could be our players of the future and they are current fans and fans of tomorrow as well. The Rooney family is from here, Kevin Colbert is from Western Pennsylvania and they know how important youth football is to the fabric of the community."
The Steelers and USA Football have also teamed-up to award equipment grants to youth and high school football programs. The team also holds youth football programs, from camps for kids to clinics for coaches.
"Our organization is located in the city and we try to produce good quality football for youth and teach them the basic fundamentals so they can move on to high school football and become good citizens," said Morningside coach Chris Cerminara. "These guys who play for the Steelers are role models for a lot of these kids. The kids are diehard Steelers fans and love every player on the team, so for the team to be involved in youth football means a lot."
The Steelers will also have a youth Color Guard for the game, the Civil Air Patrol Squadron 602, and 11-year CJ Coyne from the Children's Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh with sing the National Anthem.
About USA Football
USA Football, the sport's national governing body on youth and amateur levels, leads the game's development, inspires participation, and ensures a positive experience for all youth, high school, and other amateur players.* *The independent non-profit hosts more than 80 football training events annually for coaches, players and youth football league commissioners. USA Football is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, its 32 teams and the NFL Players Association and manages U.S. national teams for international competition. Endowed by the NFL and NFLPA in 2002 through the NFL Youth Football Fund, USA Football (usafootball.com) distributes $1 million annually in equipment grants and offers youth league volunteer background check subsidies. Former NFL team executive Carl Peterson is USA Football's chairman.