Some would say professional athletes have a “moral obligation” to serve as role models outside the game; others would say that it’s ridiculous to hold “ball players” in such high esteem as leading figures in everyday life. Regardless of either belief, professional athletes are in the spotlight at all times, and their actions tend to be magnified — for better or for worse.
All too often, the negativity and hardships of athletes makes it to the forefront of news coverage. The news of good deeds and acts of nobility can be few and far between. Thankfully, the Pittsburgh Steelers have made it a little easier to share the positive impact athletes can have on their communities.
During the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic, the Pittsburgh Steelers have emerged as a leading figure in helping, supporting and delivering for those in the Pittsburgh community and afar.
As the ever steady backbone of its players, the Steelers organization often leads the way in assisting and supporting the community. The coronavirus plight was no different.
The Steelers organization donated $100,000 to the United Way Emergency Basic Needs Fund on March 23 to assist families in southwestern Pennsylvania, which includes Allegheny, Butler, Westmoreland, Fayette, and southern Armstrong counties, during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania has always played a major role in helping our community,” Steelers President Art Rooney II said in the update. “During these unprecedented times in our country, we want to make sure those in need have the financial support to rally in our community. We are grateful for the efforts of all the heroes, volunteers and first responders during this crisis, and we hope this donation will assist the United Way in their efforts.”
The United Way partnered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to, “build an expanded network of food providers that can fill service gaps in high-need communities this summer,” according to the Steelers’ website.
That leadership and generosity extended through some of the Steelers’ leaders on the field as well, with Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Haden making their own differences around the community.
Roethlisberger bought an undisclosed but significant amount of gift cards from Juliano’s Italian Restaurant in Robinson Township in order to help the local restaurant keep its doors open during the pandemic, owner Nick Scalise told 93.7 The Fan.
He didn’t stop at Juliano’s either. According to Josh Yohe of The Athletic, he spent thousands of dollars on $50 gift cards at Any Given Sundae in Franklin Park on March 14.
Yohe detailed just how the call went down:
According to Smith, this is a phone call that transpired on March 14.
Hey, it’s Ben.
Hey Ben, how are you?
I’m doing OK. But I want to help you guys out.
Sean Gentille from The Athletic detailed how Joe Haden bought 600 pizzas from Sculli’s Pizza in Oakland for 600 hospital workers at UPMC Presbyterian on April 10.
Gentille explained how Haden didn’t even want people to know he was the mastermind behind the request:
“If Joe Haden bought 600 pizzas — from you — for hospital workers, would you want everyone to know? Eutimio “Tim” Sciulli does. So on Friday, in between making seven car loads of personal, 10-inch pies for the staff at UPMC Presbyterian, including their COVID-19 response team, Sciulli made a point to thank the Steelers cornerback.”
T.J. Watt contributed to 412 Food Rescue, making an unannounced financial donation to help support local families that were struggling to feed themselves during the pandemic.
Pittsburgh, it is important that during these tough times we step up as a community and support each other!! https://t.co/swFUssR1dt— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) March 24, 2020
For those who may not be familiar with the organization, 412 Food Rescue “partner(s) with food retailers, volunteer drivers, and nonprofit organizations to connect surplus food with individuals and families who are experiencing food insecurity. With the help of 2 trucks, 1 van, and thousands of volunteers who we call Food Rescue Heroes, we are able to rescue perfectly good but unsellable food that would otherwise be wasted and redirect it to people who need it,” according to its website.
Jeff Hartman, formerly of Behind the Steel Curtain, highlighted how Terrell Edmunds and his brothers, NFL players Tremaine and Trey, distributed roughly 1,000 meals to families in Danville, Virginia.
“For some, these professional athletes turning 500 meals into nearly 1,000 isn’t very noteworthy, but for me this speaks volumes about their overall character,” Hartman said in his article. “As stated earlier, some are electing to stay inside and shelter in place for the foreseeable future. People like the Edmunds are helping as best they can, all while putting themselves in risk of potentially contracting the virus which has become a global pandemic.”
Of course, Cam Heyward made his impact on the community, too; it just wasn’t quite the Pittsburgh community. Since the Steelers compete at training camp in Latrobe every season (well, almost every season), Heyward gave back to the Latrobe area.
Dan Scifo of the Latrobe Bulletin detailed how Heyward took care of the Latrobe Police Department on March 27:
Heyward ordered meals from Bubba’s in Greensburg and had them delivered to the City of Latrobe Police Department on Friday. Chief John Sleasman said that Heyward had 12 lunches of fish, pierogies and side dishes dropped off at noon on Friday and then 12 more delivered around 7 p.m.
The history and tradition of the Steelers organization and its players is well-known. Seeing those players jump into action, and this is just a handful of them, only reinforces that proud tradition.