The Pittsburgh Steelers have surprised four local healthcare workers with trips to Super Bowl LV in Tampa.
Four vaccinated UPMC hospital workers will be heading to the big game, part of a larger initiative by the league’s 32 clubs to reward individuals in their communities with an all-expense paid trip.
Registered Nurse Justin Gossett, Director of Maintenance and Engineering Pat Hogan, Respiratory Team Member Marcus Paxton and Director of Respiratory Care Services Breen Smith learned of their nominations back in January. They were surprised with the news on a video message from Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Steelers center Dermontti Dawson.
“We are so thankful for what you have done to care for those with COVID-19 in the Pittsburgh community over the past year,” Dawson said. “As a very special thank you, on behalf of the Steelers and the National Football League, we are so happy send you on an all-expense paid trip to Super Bowl LV in Tampa.”
Their ensuing reactions were as heartwarming as expected.
“I really appreciate this honor,” Hogan told Steelers.com. “For me, I am just part of a team. That is the way my staff thinks. Everything we did, we did for the hospital because that is what we do, that is what our job is. They did the same thing at all of the other hospitals. It’s not that I am unique. It’s just that I did what you asked me to do.”
“I am excited to travel down to Tampa for the Super Bowl. Having the vaccine, both doses of it, gives me a little more comfort, but that doesn’t mean you are invincible. The CDC and everyone that knows way more than I do still make the recommendations to wear a mask, socially distance and wash your hands. We are still in the infancy of this thing. To get to this point and it’s not impacted me, I am going to listen to what the experts say and not be foolish.”
Smith expressed her surprise and gratitude as well.
“I am still overwhelmed, taken aback,” Smith told Steelers.com. “I felt humbled. I have always been a Steelers fan. My father is a season ticket holder. It’s been in my family. My oldest brother, he was disabled, and to spend time with him we watched a lot of sporting events. We would reenact Franco’s (Harris) big play. I can’t remember a Sunday without watching Steelers football. It’s been a very important part of my life.”
The Kansas City Chiefs will battle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 7. Super Bowl LV kicks off at 6:30 p.m.
Art Rooney II Provides Further Details on Ben Roethlisberger Negotiations
It is no secret the future of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has dominated the early weeks of the NFL offseason.
While Steelers president Art Rooney II shared updates on the ongoing negotiations between Roethlisberger and the club in a statement Wednesday, he provided further details to Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola on Friday.
“We have been in communication with Ben throughout the offseason, and we have been clear that we would like him back but we needed to do something with the contract,” Rooney told Steelers.com. “We’re getting to that point now where the time is right. We have a better idea of where the salary cap is going to be, which is an important component of the decision. It just felt like it was time to sit down with Ben and have a good discussion, make sure the lines of communication are open. We had a good, productive discussion, and I assured him we would like to have him back, and he assured me that he wants to come back and play. And so we both left it that we know we have to try to get something worked out on the contract.”
The new league year officially begins on Wednesday, March 17. Not only is that the start of free agency and the deadline for salary cap compliance, but it is also the cutoff for Roethlisberger contract negotiations.
“Hopefully we’ll work something out before that,” said Rooney, “But certainly if you want to say there’s a hard deadline, March 17 would be it.”
Rooney also reaffirmed the discussions regarding Roethlisberger’s future have nothing to with the quarterback’s performance, but more his hefty $41 million cap hit.
“We think Ben played at a high level last year,” Rooney said. “We won our division and set a franchise record for most consecutive wins to open a season, so there was a lot of good stuff. Ben was as disappointed as anybody the way it ended. That last game is just hard to swallow, and I think in part Ben wants to come back and leave on a high note. We’re still confident he has the ability to do that. His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever, so I think he’s certainly capable of getting the job done. Part of the concern is putting a (competitive) team around him, and we had a good discussion about that. We know there are still a lot of pieces to the puzzle that still have to fall into place this season, and we’re hard at work trying to make that happen.”
Roethlisberger’s $41 million cap hit is the largest in the league entering the 2021 season, which poses a significant challenge for Pittsburgh. He could forgo up to nearly $19 million of his salary for this upcoming season to provide the team some much-needed flexibility.
Roethlisberger finished with a successful season statistically in 2020, but was tormented by inconsistency, as the Steelers dropped five of six following an 11-0 start.
Roethlisberger is set to turn 39 years old on March 2. The two-time Super Bowl champion passed for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions, but saw his play drop over the latter half of the year.
Devin Bush Shares Update on ACL Recovery
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush joined the Steelers Nation Unite Huddle with fans on Thursday and provided an update on his recovery from the knee injury that prematurely ended his 2020 season.
“Rehab is going good. I am on schedule,” said Bush. “I am feeling stronger week by week. I am trying to get ready physically for next year, especially for camp. I am just staying positive about things and doing everything I can possible to make myself one of the best players next year.”
While spending the better half of last season injured proved a challenge for Bush, those emotions have only added to his motivation throughout the recovery process.
“Missing the time with your teammates, coaches and everybody in the building,” said Bush. “It’s hard to be alone and watch football every Sunday, not able to participate. A lot of that motivation comes from that. As a competitor, motivation of coming back and being better is another motivator. Just sitting there and being able to take everything in and put that energy somewhere else. You have to put that inside your rehab and things you want to get accomplished next year.”
The time away also provided Bush a new perspective of the game.
“Wherever I was at the time, it allowed me to watch the game as a fan,” said Bush. “It allowed me to see the whole picture rather than be on the defensive side of the ball.”
Bush suffered the knee injury in the Steelers’ Week 6 win over the Cleveland Browns. Prior to the injury, Bush had 26 total tackles, a sack and three passes defended.
Selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Michigan, Bush was named to the league’s All-Rookie team. He has tallied 135 combined tackles, nine tackles-for-loss, two interceptions, two sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Should the Steelers Keep Mike Hilton or Cam Sutton?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a number of important players that are set to become free agents this offseason. The cap-strapped team will not be able to bring every player they like back, and that means making some tough decisions of who to prioritize.
Both Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton have become key contributors to the Pittsburgh secondary as slot cornerbacks. They both are arguably underrated in their own way.
If the Steelers can only keep one, and that’s likely the case, which cornerback should the Steelers retain between Hilton or Sutton?