Following such a toxic conclusion to the 2018 season and the cloud of drama that hung over the early portions of the 2019 offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I have tried when possible to throw in a positive, feel-good story about Steelers players doing good or the organization as a whole being recognized for its contributions in a positive way in one form or another. I think it provides a necessary balance of perspective, and I hope you agree. I recognize such articles don’t typically get the same volume of readership, but that’s not the only incentive in writing here.
And so, while it’s a bit old news at this point, I want to bring you a story that is going to make you like two players that you probably already like a lot even more than you already do. A pair of Steelers Pro Bowlers—left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and outside linebacker T.J. Watt—recently paid a visit to the UPMC Children’s Hospital to spend the day with some kids.
— UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (@ChildrensPgh) May 1, 2019
Especially during this portion of the offseason, charity work often can take up quite a bit of players’ time. it’s not necessarily an obligation, but many players take it upon themselves to give back to their communities, even setting up foundations, usually after they have already established themselves in the league. Villanueva and Watt would both qualify.
Villanueva already has a long history of giving back, whether it’s simply giving up his seat on an overbooked flight or the times that he flies out veterans with whom he has served to treat them to a gameday experience.
He has donated the proceeds of his jersey sales to military non-profits and donated to the charities of his AFC North rivals as well. He brought the families of slain services members out to Orlando for the Pro Bowl after the 2017 season, and arrived at the Veterans Place in Pittsburgh with his arms full of donated items such as televisions and refrigerators.
And let’s be clear here. Villanueva is not the only player who does these sorts of things, although perhaps he is among the more charitable in the league. He would certainly qualify as a Walter Payton Man of the Year. Admittedly there may be some bias in covering his charitable work.
But we have already talked about Ryan Switzer and his multiple trips and donation to the Children’s Hospital as well. We have talked about JuJu Smith-Schuster utilizing his relatively new foundation to pay a visit to a senior facility to help brighten their day and to paint their exercise room, as well as to serve food. We talked about the Steelers being honored by the Coast Guard Enlisted Association.
The Steelers more than most organizations have incredibly strong roots within their community, and that’s one of the reasons that they have among the very most passionate and loyal—albeit outspoken—fanbases in all of the NFL. A lot of these guys become yinzers by the time their careers are over and set down roots, even if they be California boys or from wherever else.