Excitement was in the air on Thursday afternoon at the annual Steelers Kickoff Luncheon, held at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown.
Fans decked out in their black and gold packed the ballroom for the luncheon, which is hosted by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, to help kickoff the team’s 80th season.
The event started with Steelers’ alumni Larry Brown, Justin Hartwig and Dwayne Woodruff signing autographs for those in attendance, and then the 2012 team arrived to the cheers of the crowd.
After the showing of the 2011 highlight film, Steelers President Art Rooney II welcomed the crowd and thanked them for the continued support they provide.
“It’s always a great way to get the season started and see so many people here ready to go,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II. “Last weekend we played in Buffalo and I think we set a new record for Steelers fans on the road for a preseason game. It was pretty amazing. We are looking forward to continuing that kind of support. We appreciate all of the enthusiasm and support you do provide us.
“It’s great to see the fans wearing the jerseys, wearing the colors. It inspires everybody to do what we do. We are looking forward to seeing more of that this year.”
Coach Mike Tomlin fired everyone up with his words, sharing the goal of the team which is the same hope every fan has.
“It’s an honor and privilege for us to be here,” said Tomlin. “You guys know we are not in the business of making bold predictions, but we are excited to chase our goals in 2012 and they are very clear…to pursue and obtain the Vince Lombardi Trophy for Steelers Nation.
“This group of men before you has been working diligently. We like their development. We will put the finishing touches on the preseason here at home tonight in front of you. We thank you for your support. You continue to inspire us and it is our goal to make memorable moments for you here in 2012.”
It was then on to the player introductions, with the crowd getting more excited as each player was introduced.
“I like this a lot,” said cornerback Ike Taylor. “It’s good to see the highlights. I like to see if I made the highlights on a good note.
“It’s good to see the fans. It’s when you know the regular season is approaching. It’s a good thing. I look forward to it ever year.”
The team had fun with the rookies, surprising several of them by handing them the microphone to introduce teammates that won awards in 2011. Wide receiver Toney Clemons introduced 2011 MVP Antonio Brown, tackle Mike Adams introduced last year’s Rookie of the Year tackle Marcus Gilbert, and Alameda Ta’amu introduced defensive end Brett Keisel, the Steelers Walter Payton Man of the Year last year.
“It’s always exciting because you know the regular season is right around the corner,” said Keisel. “That is what is exciting for me. We hang out with the fans, watch the highlights from last year and see a rookie think they have to get up there and give a speech and stumble through it. It’s exciting for me because I know the season is coming.”
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