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City Council Proclaims Dec. 21 is Tunch Ilkin Day in Pittsburgh

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The Pittsburgh City Council and council president Theresa Kail-Smith have declared that Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 is Tunch Ilkin Day in the City of Pittsburgh.

Kail-Smith sponsored the proclamation, which honored the career and off-the-field accomplishments of the former Pittsburgh Steelers tackle and current broadcaster, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, this year.

“I was honored to present a proclamation to District 2 resident, Tunch Ilkin this week in the Mount,” Kail-Smith said, according to Ilkin’s Instagram page. “He does amazing work with Light of Life and decades of helping people without housing. He is also very active in his church and played football for the Steelers.”

The proclamation highlighted Ilkin’s NFL career, when he was named to the Pro Bowl twice and is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time team after spending 13 seasons at tackle for the team, his broadcasting career, where he’s served as a color broadcaster for the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network since 1998, and his charitable contributions with The Bible Chapel in the South Hills and the Light of Life Rescue Mission on the North Side.

Ilkin, 63, announced his diagnosis of ALS in October. ALS is a progressive disease of the nervous system that causes lack of muscle control. There is no cure for ALS, and it is not clear what causes the disease. Treatments can help mitigate the symptoms. The average lifespan following diagnosis is two to four years, according to a 2013 study by the National Institute of Health.

Ilkin has remained part of the Steelers broadcast team this season, alongside play-by-play broadcaster Bill Hillgrove and former teammate and sideline reporter Craig Wolfley.

“I want to fight this thing,” Ilkin said in October when announcing his diagnosis. “I’m not going to lay down and take this lightly.”

Kail-Smith said those that wish to honor Ilkin’s recognition should consider donating to the Light of Life Rescue Mission, which helps the city’s homeless.

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Steelers’ Vance McDonald Reflects on Stiff Arm Moment, Relationship with Ben Roethlisberger

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Steelers tight end Vance McDonald spoke to the media after officially announcing his retirement from the NFL. McDonald responded to a question about the play he’s most synonymous with by saying he embraces the famous stiff arm moment. He also detailed his interaction with Ben Roethlisberger when he told his quarterback he was planning to retire.

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Steelers TE Kevin Rader Aced Week 17 Audition, More Coming in 2021?

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The Steelers have an opening in their tight ends room, as four-year starter Vance McDonald retired on Friday.

That leaves Eric Ebron as the team’s projected starter for 2021, and that won’t be a big change, as Ebron out-snapped McDonald and started nine games to McDonald’s 12. Without another veteran option, it’s likely the Steelers will use fewer two-tight end sets, but the issue of backups will need to be addressed.

Michigan product and former fifth-round pick Zach Gentry has yet to be a factor through two seasons and missed most of 2020 with an injury, but as he’s under contract and the team is facing a salary cup crunch, he seems likely to hold onto that job.

The Steelers have options for a third tight end, securing the services of Dax Raymond and Charles Jones on reserve/future contracts for the 2021 season on Thursday. But the man that seems most likely to step up into that role is third-year pro Kevin Rader.

Rader, a Pine-Richland and Youngstown State alum spent his second season with the Steelers in 2020, but got his first taste of action in Week 17 at Cleveland with the Steelers choosing to rest starters.

He made the most of the opportunity, particularly on special teams, where he played in nearly half of the team’s snaps, made three tackles and drew praise from head coach Mike Tomlin.

“Guys like Kevin Rader had an opportunity to step up and play,” Tomlin said. “I think he had three tackles on kickoff. For an offensive player to have that type of contribution in net, in a coverage unit I think was impressive. That’s good for him. That’s good for us as we move forward.”

Rader is also on a reserve/future contract, with no guaranteed money for 2021, but if he can continue to show the ability to contribute on special teams and help as a blocker, where McDonald excelled and Ebron does not, it seems that he can certainly carve himself out a role in Pittsburgh in 2021.

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Steelers to Host ex-Vikings OT Aviante Collins for Visit

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The Steelers will host free agent tackle Aviante Collins for a visit, according to the NFL transactions page for Thursday.

Collins, 27, spent the last four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings after joining the team as an undrafted free agent out of TCU in 2017.

Collins played in three games in 2017 and two in 2019 for the Vikings, and spent all of the 2020 season on the practice squad, except for a one-week elevation in Week 11, in which he did not play.

The 6-foot-4, 292-pound tackle its a free agent after the Vikings decided to allow his practice squad contract to expire at the end of the season.

The Steelers have several free agents at the tackle position, including longtime starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, 2019 starting right tackle Matt Feiler and 2020 starting right tackle Zach Banner, who are unrestricted free agents, and backup Jerald Hawkins, who is a restricted free agent.

The Steelers have Chukwuma Okorafor under contract and Anthony Coyle, Jarron Jones, John Leglue and Brandon Walton signed to futures contract.

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