Friday night was an evening in which the late Chuck Noll would have been proud.
Always telling his players to "get on with their lives work", two of Noll's former players exemplified their coach's words in Mel Blount and Dwyane Woodruff.
During the annual 17th Annual Mel Blount Youth Home Celebrity Roast, Blount honored Woodruff for his and wife Joy's charitable work as chairpersons of the "Do the Write Thing Challenge" program in Pittsburgh.
The Do the Write Thing Challenge-an Initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence-gives local middle school students an opportunity to examine the impact of youth violence on their lives in classroom discussions and in written form by communicating what they think should be done to change our culture of violence. The program seeks to empower student to break the cycles of violence in their homes, schools and neighborhoods by encouraging them to make personal commitments to do something about the problem.
Woodruff, who played for the Steelers from 1979-90, is currently a common pleas judge in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.Woodruff announced in November 2014 that he would seek a seat on the Supreme Count of Pennsylvania in the upcoming election.
But nearly 36 years ago, Woodruff was a 22-year-old rookie out of Louisville trying to find his place on the greatest defense of all-time that was fresh off the Steelers third Super Bowl victory in five years. Woodruff would learn the ropes from Blount, then a 10-year veteran who had already established himself as the best corner back in the NFL.
Aided by Blount's guidance, Woodruff found his niche with the Steelers, helping the team win Super Bowl XIV in his rookie season. By 1982, Woodruff was one of the Steelers best players, starting alongside Blount and recording 34 interceptions in his final eight seasons with the Steelers.
"When Mel told me that he was going to be honoring me tonight, I thought about our relationship and how it started. He was one of those tough-love kind of guys that wasn't nice and all sweet when he was talking to me," Woodruff while laughing in an interview with steelers.com."It's a great thing, just being apart of (the Youth Home Celebrity Roast) every single year. You need to have that structure, that guidance in your life. You need to have someone like Mel Blount."
"When Dwyane came in, I kind of took him under my arms," Blount said. "The thing about leadership and the thing about mentoring is you have to share with people your mistakes. We were playing the same position, and (I) just talked to him about not only football but about life and about what pro football was like and what was expected here in this organization. I have a tremendous respect for him and his family."
Along with honoring an individual that works with children and in the community, the annual roast also sheds light on the mission of the Mel Blount Youth Home, started by Blount and his wife, Tianda. Posted on the Youth Home's website: "The mission of the Mel Blount Youth Home is to help youth develop mentally, physically and morally while teaching them to become productive citizens in society. To provide youth with programs where they will have a healthy environment to learn, work, play and develop a sense of responsibility, love and respect for one another. The values we will strive to instill are those that are basic in life: responsibility, knowledge and respect for oneself."
Many Steelers were on hand for the event that included former Hall-of-Fame linebacker Franco Harris, linebacker Greg Lloyd, safeties Mike Wagner and Donnie Shell, defensive linemen John Banaszak and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
"You can't eloquently put into words the impact (Blount) has on his youth home," Tomlin said. "I've had the opportunity to meet and see the young men and see the positive impact that he and his staff have on the lives of those young people. It's really a special, special place. He's a special man."
Blount took a moment to reflect on his Youth Home and how it has impacted his life as well as the children that have stayed at the home over the years.
"When you see these kids and you remember them when they were kids and then you see their families and what they're doing, it's really rewarding, and I'm grateful for that."