The Steelers commitment to their community continued when the second donation through the Steelers Social Justice Grant program was announced on Wednesday.
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, aiding organizations financially and by giving their time to local organizations.
The second beneficiary is the Mel Blount Youth Home, run by the former Steelers Hall of Famer. Blount was at the team’s practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex where he was presented a check for $29,550, with donations coming from players and the team. Those who donated to the Mel Blount Youth Home include Morgan Burnett, James Conner, Javon Hargrave, Jesse James, Patrick Morris, Chukwuma Okorafor, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt and James Washington.
“The Steelers organization has been supporting the Mel Blount Youth Home for many years, so it is now great to have our current players join in supporting the Mel Blount Youth Home,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II. “Our players see the value and role as members of our community, and they have made visits to the Mel Blount Youth Home over the years. We are pleased to present Mel with this check to continue his efforts in helping provide children with programs to learn the responsibilities of respect and leadership in the community.”
The donations will help Blount with a variety of programs he does through the Youth Home, including helping out during the holiday season.
“The funds are going to allow us to reach and help more kids,” said Blount. “Every year we buy Christmas gifts for the kids who come out to our programs. This year we had about 600 come out for the summer programs, youth summit, things like that. There are a lot of kids you try to do things for. Most are underprivileged, inner city kids. These funds will make kids smile during the holidays. We have all kinds of obligations, programs and scholarships. To have these funds come in it will allow us to do some great things with the kids."
Blount said he was touched and was getting emotional that the Steelers players wanted to give back, especially since many of them visited the Youth Home and worked with the kids through the team’s rookie club throughout the years and at other events.
“It’s so heartwarming,” said Blount. “To see that these players thought about my work, or remembered, or something touched their hearts being here, it doesn’t get any better than that. It means so much that it comes from colleagues, players that came after me. Saying thank you doesn’t seem like it’s enough.
“I remember back in the 1970s we would sign a sheet of paper with how much money we wanted to give to Children’s Hospital. Now to see what the NFL is doing around the league with the social justice program, and players being able to give to their causes, it’s a tremendous opportunity to do a lot of good in the NFL cities and a great opportunity for these guys to share their resources to help the programs out there. For them to remember or experience something out here at the Youth Home and what we are doing with young people speaks volumes.”
The idea isn’t just to give financially, it’s to further foster relationships with organizations and the community in general.
“We’re looked up to by so many people in the community that it’s our right, it’s our honor, it’s what we are supposed to do,” said Roethlisberger. “We are supposed to give back, but we also want to give back. We want to give back to the community that has given so much to us. It’s the right thing to do and we enjoy doing it.
“When initiatives and things come up, there are always loud voices you hear. There are one or two people. But when you get a bunch of people to do it like has happened with this program overall, it shows how much it means to everybody.
"What Mel does is truly unbelievable for so many people, the kids, the community. For a guy of his football stature, to have an even bigger stature in the community with these kids. Any way we can help give back, the same way he is giving back, it’s an honor to do."
For James Conner, giving to the Mel Blount Youth Leadership Initiative was meaningful because of his relationship with Blount.
“I just have history there,” said Conner. “When you are a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh they take you there. I was affiliated with that, knew about that, and have known Mel personally for a couple of years now. It’s a good cause, good what he is doing over there. I like going there. I like the kids there.
“When there is an opportunity you have to take advantage of it. This was a great opportunity that came up. Everyone knows we care about our community and we are more than just athletes. I am a familiar guy. I feel like I am a Pittsburgher now. I want to help here.”
Further announcements will be coming that involve other initiatives and the players who those initiatives are near and dear to their hearts.
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.