The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known as an organization that has been deeply involved in their community and has put their charitable work at the top of their list of priorities. Through their community outreach program, the Steelers participate in over thirty different programs, with the goal of helping to improve the lives of as many different people they can possibly reach. This desire for community involvement goes back to the team’s founder, Arthur J. Rooney, who grew up on the North Side and had a heart as big as the city itself. One entity that the Steelers’ organization has always had deep respect for is the United States Military and those who served in defense of our country. There is no better example of this respect than the way in which they stood by one of their own, Rocky Bleier. When the Vietnam War ended for their running back, it also appeared that his NFL career was over as well, due to the traumatic foot injury he suffered that put into doubt whether he would even be able to walk again.
Rocky Bleier was not only able to overcome his injuries to walk again, he found himself back on the field again playing the game he loved. Art Rooney saw Bleier’s desire to return and he stood by him, giving him every opportunity to fight his way back. It was Mr. Rooney’s way of honoring Rocky Bleier’s service and sacrifice for his country. The Steelers’ organization has continued to honor and respect our US servicemen and women before and at halftime of games, and through a direct involvement in a variety of programs. Many of their players have become involved on their own accord as well, including Troy Polamalu and Brett Keisel. Last season, the Steelers signed former Army Ranger Alejandro Villenueva. Mike Tomlin was so impressed by his work ethic on the practice squad that he took Villenueva with the team on a road trip, to honor him for Veterans Day. A recent story regarding the NFL and its relationship with vets raised some eyebrows when they reported that the Department of Defense paid fourteen teams a total of $5.4 million to honor the military and veterans.
The DoD claims they pay the money out because it’s good for recruiting. The Atlanta Falcons lead all teams, taking in $1,049,500. The Baltimore Ravens received $884,500, while the Buffalo Bills received $679,000. The Steelers, however, only received $36,000 over a two year period and apparently donated the money back to military charities. They are currently involved with four military charities through their community outreach programs: Heroes at Heinz Field, Operation Once In A Lifetime, Toys for Tots Marine Corps, and VAPHS – Veterans /Military.
Heroes at Heinz Field
The Steelers have partnered with VA Health Care VISN 4 to hold a special day at Heinz Field for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans. These veterans, many of whom were injured in the war, get to test out their football skills with the help of Steelers players. These players truly enjoy the chance to hang out with America’s real heroes and thank them for their service to ensure our continued freedom.
Operation Once In A Lifetime
Since the 2010 season, the Steelers and Troy Polamalu have hosted a group of Special Forces service members at a home game each season. This is managed with Operation Once In A Lifetime, which helps to make the dreams of soldiers and their families come true, by providing financial and moral support.
Toys for Tots Marine Corps
Every season, the Steelers select a home game for the fans to help brighten the lives of under privileged children. The fans generously donate toys for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive.
VAPHS – Veterans and Military
Steelers players visit the local VA hospitals to spend time with patients who have served our country. At several home games each year, active military and veterans are honored for their service to the United States. For Veterans Day, the Steelers honor a veteran from each of the wars going back to World War II and Pearl Harbor. Color Guards from all branches of the military are present at each home game.
Not only do the Steelers have a long and proud tradition of on the field performance, they have one with their support of our veterans as well. I know many of the other corporate owned franchises honor our veterans as well, but the Steelers are a family owned franchise, and their support definitely comes from the heart. The Rooneys’ have always been generous and socially responsible with their time and resources, and they continue to run the franchise with class. From Rocky Bleier to Alejandro Villenueva, the Steelers have have always shown the utmost respect to veterans, both for who they are and the sacrifices they have made.