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Steelers’ Heyward, Villanueva Brawled over Game of Thrones?



UNITY TWP., Pa. — What does it take to get two veteran players, that have camped with each other and battled against each other on the practice fields for five years to come to blows during a practice session?

That’s what happened on Wednesday between fifth-year offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva and ninth-year defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, with Villanueva, a former U.S. Army Ranger, landing a big swing on a still-helmeted Heyward.

The cause? Villanueva swears it was all about the hit HBO television series Game of Thrones.

“I thought the ending could have been better,” Villanueva said before practice on Thursday. “Cam thinks it was the greatest show of all time. … John Snow should not have been sent north of the wall after everything that he did for the Seven Kingdoms. To get that treatment, I thought it wasn’t fair.”

Villanueva did show remorse for his actions, though he remains insistent that his opinion of the show’s controversial ending is the correct one.

“There’s no place for fighting in training camp,” he said. “It’s childish. It’s unprofessional for both us. Again, it’s just a very different opinion that he has of the show.”

Heyward had a slightly different take on the cause of the conflict.

“Football,” he admitted. “I was just playing football.”

The cagey veteran gave a “no comment” when asked about his views about Game of Thrones. He seemed to suggest that — deep-seated television preferences aside — the players have been able to put things behind them.

“It’s water off our back,” Heyward said. “It’s just another day at the office. I don’t worry about it. If there’s a fight, there’s a fight. … Coach [Tomlin] always tells us we’re not trying to raise a UFC team.”

Perhaps most importantly, Heyward thought that Wednesday’s fight came within a practice session full of game-level intensity, and that’s what the team is looking for as they move forward through the rigors of training camp.

“We’ve got to continue setting that and keep it going,” he said.


Watch: Steelers LB Ola Adeniyi Surprises Mother with SUV for Birthday



Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi had a big surprise for his mother for her birthday last week.

Adeniyi, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Texas, posted a video on Friday of him surprising his mother with a Range Rover for her birthday.

Adeniyi, 23, just finished his third season with the Steelers in 2020 after joining the team as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo in 2018.

He got his most extensive playing time this season, appearing in 14% of the team’s defensive snaps after playing just 1% and 6% in his first two seasons. The injury to Bud Dupree opened up more playing time for Adeniyi and rookie Alex Highsmith at outside linebacker. Adeniyi has been a consistent performer on special teams the last two seasons.

Adeniyi is a restricted free agent this offseason and should be expected to earn a raise on his $575,000 salary from this past season.

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Jerome Bettis Helps Start Memorial Fund for Family of Tim Lester



Steelers running back Jerome Bettis is trying to help out the family of his former teammate.

Tim Lester, who was Bettis’ teammate and lead blocker with the Steelers and Los Angeles Rams, died this week at the age of 52 due to complications from COVID-19.

After Lester’s death, Bettis started the Tim Lester Family Memorial Fund, and a GoFundMe page that has accumulated over $35,000 worth of donations in just two days.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and want to support Tim’s wife Natalie and children Tim Jr., Tristan and Tony in any way we can,” Bettis wrote. “I , Jerome Bettis, with the help of my family, friends and former teammates of mine and Tim’s have set up this memorial fund to help the Lester family with funeral costs. We thank you for your thoughts, prayers, well wishes and generous donations in lieu of flowers.”

James Farrior, Joey Porter, Kordell Stewart and Will Wolford are among the former teammates that have contributed.

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Report: Ben Roethlisberger Wants JuJu Smith-Schuster to Return to Steelers for 2021



Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return to the team, according to a report by NFL Network, and he apparently also wants wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to return to the team with him.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafalo reported that Roethlisberger has communicated to the team that he wants Smith-Schuster back for the 2021 season.

Roethlisberger has one season left on his contract, which carries a $41 million cap hit, including $19 million of salary. Smith-Schuster is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career after making $1.04 million in 2020.

Roethlisberger’s contract is a big part of a money crunch that has the Steelers as much as $40 million over the 2021 salary cap entering the offseason.

Smith-Schuster is expected to make as much as $15 million per year on a market-value contract.

It’s not clear how the Steelers would be able to fit both Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster under the 2021 salary cap. Roethlisberger would almost certainly have to take a significant pay cut.

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