Working together to make a difference

Sometimes all people need is someone to listen. Someone to understand them. Someone to accept them, no matter what their background is.

Those on the Steelers Social Justice Committee are providing that compassionate ear, that mind that is open to understanding what others are going through, and that heart that accepts everyone they come in contact with.

This is the third year the Social Justice Committee is in existence, and it continues to grow its outreach to the Southwestern Pennsylvania community, providing the tools, knowledge and resources to succeed in building 'A more equitable society for everyone regardless of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, or socio-economic status.'

"There are multiple levels of engagement that I think the players wanted to get involved with," said Blayre Holmes-Davis, the Steelers Director of Community Relations. "Our guys want to be hands on. They're in schools and with community organizations that are doing the work, having conversations and also talking about what's the best way for them to be involved and create change. It's a deeper involvement, building upon the work that they have done."

The Social Justice Committee, which is comprised of guard Kevin Dotson, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, guard Kendrick Green, punter Pressley Harvin III, defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, linebacker Alex Highsmith, cornerback Cameron Sutton and quarterback Mitch Trubisky, have already kicked off their programs for the 2022 season, but still have plenty in store for the year.

The first event of the year was a part of the Social Justice Film Series, which was launched in 2021. As a part of the monthly series, members of the Social Justice Committee join area youth groups to watch and then discuss a social justice themed film.

Sutton selected the first screening of the season, joined by kids from the Center for Life Group and Youth Places to watch Judas and the Black Messiah.

"It's amazing," said Sutton. "It's an opportunity to spread knowledge that they are not necessarily familiar with, knowledge that might be hidden to them. Things they aren't aware of that can be close to their communities and their outer communities as well. It's the chance to continue to spread the knowledge, the love and bring people together through life situations and societal circumstances. Things we go through in life on a day-to-day basis that we can come together on and agree or disagree, but still move in the right direction to make the world a better place."

Another one of the programs is 'Meeting at the 50-Yard Line,' done in conjunction with the Neighborhood Resilience Project and local high schools to share and discuss conflict de-escalation, resilience, leadership and how to be a positive influence in and out of the classroom.

The first meeting took place at Penn Hills High School, where one of the groups that participated included members of the school's football team.

"Before we even started the conversation, I talked with them a little bit about football and stuff," said Highsmith. "That was the introduction to the conversation. I just wanted to preach to them about hard work. I believe that is what has gotten me to where I am today. I know they all have dreams and aspirations to go to the NFL, but I told them they have to have a backup plan and that is why an education is so important. Everyone in the league is talented. They wouldn't be there if they weren't. The ones who are great are the guys that do the extra work, watch extra film and really love what they do. You see guys who don't make it because they aren't focused. I wanted to inspire them to fall in love with what they do and work hard.

"One of the questions was what is a sign of a good friend? I told them it's who you surround yourself with. I truly believe that. I told them surround yourself with good people who will push you to be your best and encourage you no matter what. They will be by your side. I have seen so many guys that were talented and good people but got involved with the wrong crowd. I told them I see potential in all of them, and if they surround themselves with the right crowd the sky is the limit."

This week the team hosted the first Social Justice Roundtable at the Community Kitchen in Hazelwood. Social Justice Committee members joined community members and experts on the topic to talk about criminal justice and juvenile justice reform. The roundtables will take place monthly throughout the season, with a different topic each time.

The Steelers are working with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police for a Police Officer and Community Tailgate. Fitzpatrick provides the funding for the program, which was started by former center Maurkice Pouncey, and it allows the police to invite youth groups from different areas of the city to come to the games and connect on a personal level. The group enjoys a tailgate at Stage AE prior to the game and then attend the game together, allowing them to understand each other better.