Honoring those at the top of their game is something that happens across all sports, but this year the Steelers took it a step further, honoring those who make a difference for their teammates.
For the first time, the Steelers partnered with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Mentoring Partnership, for their inaugural Steelers All-Peer Team. The team consists of 11 area high school football players who have gone above and beyond to provide mentor-like support for their teammates throughout the season and school year.
The players were honored at the Steelers final regular season game and each of them received a $1,000 donation for their school's athletic program.
The group also took part in a Zoom call, where running back Najee Harris, one of the Steelers offensive captains, made a surprise visit.
Harris talked to the players about leadership and the many different forms it comes in, including sharing that he didn't know if the was ready to be a captain himself in his second season until he spoke with Coach Mike Tomlin.
"Some people are born with it and some people, along the way you get made into one," said Harris. "I always felt that I was one. I always did my own stuff and I guess I attracted people towards me. When I got to the Steelers, I wasn't trying to be a captain, but Mike T said you are made for this, you are going to be it. It was a lot coming from a rookie, going to a different organization, and they picked me to do that. Mike T sees something that maybe I didn't."
Harris said one of the key things from a leader is helping others through the tough times, when adversity hits, such as when the Steelers started the season 2-6, but were able to turn it around for a 9-8 finish.
"It's all about the reaction you have," said Harris. "Are you going to stumble, fall or keep persevering. This is the ultimate team sport, so stick together as a team and know there is good ahead. It's just a little bit of adversity that you face. Adversity is a good thing. In bad times you know how to stick together when things happen, and you can be stronger as a group."
For those who made the All-Peer team, being a leader is something they take great pride in and their wish is that it helped others.
"My leadership started my junior year after the first game," said Raymar Coleman, a senior at Obama Academy. "It didn't end how we wanted to and it seemed like the team was fine with it, but I wasn't fine with having another bad season. I stepped up in the huddle. I let my team know we had to get further than the position we were in. I stayed with my team. We stuck together. I try to make sure we stay as focused as we can."
A similar approach is what landed Pine Richland's Ryan Palmieri on the list.
"At the start of the year, and all through camp, I was trying to be a leader, hold myself accountable, make sure everybody felt like they were part of the team," said Palmieri. "After the rough start of the season I was kind of made into a leader. Somebody had to step up and get the team going."