The Steelers and the United Way, a relationship that was formed more than 40 years ago is still going strong today, handed down from generations of the Rooney family, as well as generations of players.
That bond continued on Monday night when Steelers President Art Rooney II and safety Will Allen combined to help the agency at Hoodies for the Holidays at Heinz Field, an event that combined encouraging young professionals to be active in the community as well as helping the agency's mentoring program.
All guests were asked to donate a college hoodie to the United Way, hoodies that will be donated to middle school students who are part of the United Way's Be A Middle School Mentor initiative.
"It's important to encourage our young people to go to college and be proactive about it," said Allen, who was hoping to see some of his alma mater Ohio State hoodies donated. "We need to let them know we care about their future. We care about our adults being inspiring and encouraging the future of the kids. It's fun to be a part of it. It's fun to share in the enrichment and driving the culture of our community.
"For me, going to college was everything. That is all my parents told me to do growing up, go to college because they didn't go. I am sure it is like that for a lot of African Americans, even minorities. For me that is all they talked about, going to college. I knew if I didn't get good grades, do well in football, there was a strong possibility I wouldn't go to college. I am just thankful they hit home with that and were there to mentor me through that."
Rooney and Allen first met privately with the United Way Bridges Society, a group of young professionals in Pittsburgh who are the future business and community leaders in the region, encouraging them to be a part of what the United Way is doing.
"It's important we get the younger leaders in our community involved," said Rooney. "We need to bring them into the mix and it's great to see so many of them here. It's very encouraging for our community and the future."
Following that it was all about trivia, as Allen hosted Team Trivia Showdown, an opportunity to have fun while giving back.
"It's great to have Will involved," said Rooney. "We have had a long-term commitment with the United Way, and to have Will involved in a program like this is going to inspire a lot of people to be involved. You can get more mentors involved with the kids and that is the goal."
Allen's commitment to mentoring is echoed in his work with the Will Allen Foundation, and it's been a natural crossover for him to help the United Way with their mentoring program.
"Will is a committed human being who just happens to be a star Steelers defensive back," said United Way President Bob Nelkin. "He is committed to our youth in our community. He is very focused on mentoring. His own foundation is creating adult mentors for young people. Will has been a great champion of the United Way mentoring program that helps middle school kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods look to the future. Will has been fantastic."