By BOB LABRIOLA
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The characteristics the Steelers showed during the 2008 NFL season to earn this trip to the White House were the same attributes they used during this visit to the White House.
Teamwork and a willingness to sacrifice the me for the we were just a couple of the critical components in a Steelers team that finished 12-4 and went on to win Super Bowl XLIII, and they rolled up their sleeves and did it again on the South Lawn of the White House during a Thursday afternoon ceremony honoring their achievement.
The champion sports team getting face time with the President of the United States has been going on for years – the Steelers themselves took part in just such a visit with George W. Bush after their win in Super Bowl XL – but this was different. Special, really.
The Steelers trip to the White House in June 2006 went like this:
A tour that included a bit more than the normal walk-through afforded the general public but no visits into the Oval Office or anything, followed by a brief meet-and-greet for the players and coaches with President Bush, and then a ceremony in the East Room that entailed remarks from Mr. Bush and a photo opportunity. After 7-10 minutes in the East Room, it was over.
Thursday's visit included no tour, and after Mr. Obama held the meet-and-greet with the Steelers behind closed doors, the team and the President filed onto the South Lawn for a ceremony that fit into the administration's push for giving back to the community, something the Steelers long have believed in as well.
"That explains why we're doing something a little bit different here today than when sports champions usually come to visit the White House," said Mr. Obama. "These guys have agreed to stick around for a while, and we're going to team them up – not to run some plays, but to serve others."
And so it was that the Steelers players and coaches joined the President and others, including Pennsylvania Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey, in assembling 3,000 USO CARE packages that will be sent to the troops overseas.
"I often say that the beauty of serving others is that anyone can do it," said Mr. Obama. "You don't have to be President, and you don't have to be a pro football player. All you need to do is to have a desire to make a difference, to give back to your community and to contribute to your nation. And that's what we're going to do right here. We're going to work with the USO to put together 3,000 care packages for our troops serving in harm's way.
"We're going to give back to those who've given so much for us. And I find that fitting and proper, a good way to kick off a Memorial Day weekend that serves to honor all the men and women who have worn the proud uniform of this country that we love."
Before the volunteer work began, Mr. Obama was joined by Dan Rooney, Art Rooney II, Coach Mike Tomlin and the team captains on the platform from where the President delivered his remarks.
Wounded veterans from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda joined them. The President removed his suit coat and pitched in himself, and he spent a nice amount of time moving around and chatting with players for about an hour on the South Portico lawn as they stuffed the packets for the USO to distribute.
"It's an honor," said Troy Polamalu, who traveled from California to meet the team here. "It's an honor to be around real warriors, the President and the White House. It's a beautiful setting."
Said James Farrior, the team's defensive captain, "This never gets old for me. I love coming to the White House."