Offseason Program

Welcoming those who 'paved the way'

Mike Wagner stood on the sidelines during the Steelers OTA practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, shook his head and joked.

"Man, the size of the offensive linemen out there right now, if one of them came down field and tried to block me I would probably be crying," quipped Wagner.

Wagner, a safety for the Steelers from 1971-80 and member of four Super Bowl teams, was among a group of alumni attending the OTA practice, guests of the team as part of the continued outreach to those who have worn the black and gold.

"It's great the team invites us back for something like this," said Wagner. "It's nice to get a chance to see and know some of the young players who are potentially going to make a difference for the Steelers. I still like to watch practice. Although I don't think I can ever give up the fact that I would rather be out there practicing than watching, even though it's been decades since I played."

This is the first time the team had a group of alumni come to an OTA practice, something that Assistant Head Coach John Mitchell got going in his new role.

"When you play this game, you can't ever forget who built this house," said Mitchell. "A lot of these guys helped build this house. We want them to know our door is always open. I had guys come up to me and say this is one of the best things we have done. They said you don't know what this means to us. This is one of the things I want to do in my role here. I want everybody who has put on the black and gold to feel like they still have it on.

"It doesn't take much to ask these guys to come back. It's little things that they appreciate. These are good guys. Our guys need to see these guys, and understand some day they will be in those shoes. It's a win-win for our players, it's a win-win for the alumni. They are the ones who paved the way."

Will Allen, who was one of the newer alumni having played for the team from 2010-12 and 2013-15, loved the gesture made by the team.

"I am excited I am welcomed back and I can look at the young talent, watch practice," said Allen. "I was once one of those players. This is a great experience for me. It's good to see some of the alumni too and pick their brain, hear their stories. It's exciting.

"It's always good to be welcomed back. I played for a few franchises and this is the only one that has asked me to come back. I feel very grateful."