Willie Parker remembers when he played for the Steelers and he would look around and see some of the former players come back for alumni weekend. He might not have always known who each player was, but there was one thing he always did know, these were the men who paved the way for the players of today.
“You had a sense of respect for them,” said Parker, one of the alumni attending the Steelers-Ravens game as a part of this year’s alumni weekend. “The older guys started it and we always looked up to them. We tried to follow their footsteps of doing things the right way.
“Now that I am back I see the younger guys. There is so much love and camaraderie. We are a band of brothers. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Running back Jerome Bettis also remembers seeing the alumni come back and laughed thinking he was now one of those guys the current players were coming over to say hi to.
“It’s weird in a way,” said Bettis. “That was a dream for me to spend time with the older guys and learn from them. Now I am one of the older guys and I welcome the younger guys picking my brain and talking to me. I am happy to give all of the information I can. It’s about the past generations giving back to the younger players.”
Wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, who played on all four Super Bowl teams in the 1970s, are no strangers to Heinz Field, and loved being a part of the weekend excitement.
“I live in Pittsburgh so I am here all of the time,” said Swann. “I am a season ticket holder. I get to the games all of the time with my wife and kids so this is home. This feels like it’s supposed to be.”
Stallworth, a member of the Steelers’ investor group, loves coming back to Heinz Field, especially for a huge game like tonight’s.
“It’s a big rivalry and a game the Steelers need to win,” said Stallworth. “In the past when people were hurt we always had someone to step up and I expect that to happen again.”
The players, who attended Taste of the Steelers at Heinz Field on Saturday night, will all be honored during a halftime ceremony and are excited about the electric atmosphere that will be at Heinz Field.
“It’s going to be rocking. It’s great,” said Bettis. “To see us go out and play against a tough Ravens team is going to be fun. This is what it is all about. When you have an opportunity to play for a great organization you appreciate these special moments and this is definitely one of them, not only because we get to come back but because the Steelers-Ravens rivalry is so strong. I am proud to have helped develop it.”
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It’s the first time in Batman franchise history that all of them were together as Pittsburgh was the first stop on a tour of sporting events in advance of the December home entertainment release of “The Dark Knight Rises” Blu-ray Combo Pack.
Fans made their way in droves to Art Rooney Avenue before the game to see them, but on Saturday Steelers’ LaMarr Woodley and Casey Hampton, as well as some of the team’s alumni, had the chance to not just see them but also sit in them.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” said Woodley, a huge Batman fan. “I grew up watching Batman with my dad, so to go back and see that one and all of them from the old to new from the latest movie was awesome.”
Woodley sat in all but the Camo Tumbler from “The Dark Knight Rises,” as it was just too small for the linebacker.
“To be able to sit in the car is like being a kid again,” said Woodley. “I never in a million years thought I would be sitting in a Batmobile or touching one of them. This might not happen again. I have to take advantage of it.
“The only thing I am missing is the cape. If I had the costume I would put it on and be riding around the city.”
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“I got to recreate the first moment from the AFC Championship game that got it all started,” said Swann, who led the Steelers team onto the field for that game in 1975 waving the towel for the first time. “I hope at the end of the day we are celebrating a win. That is the most important thing.”
Stallworth, who has been back to Heinz Field often enough to witness the new Terrible Towel Twirl tradition, just wanted to make sure he did it the right way.
“I was excited about doing it,” said Stallworth. “I just hoped my arm didn’t fall off and held up.”
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Safety Troy Polamalu continued his commitment to the military by joining with the Steelers and Operation Once in a Lifetime to host a group Navy Seals from East Coast based SEAL Teams at the game.
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Quinn Hoerner is the winner of this week’s “My Pittsburgh Steelers” fan contest and featured on tonight’s game ticket. Hoerner also participated in the Terrible Towel Twirl with Steelers alumni Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.
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The Steelers are wearing their 1934 Throwback Uniforms for tonight’s game against the Ravens. It’s the second time this season that they are wearing the jerseys, chosen as a part of the team’s 80th Season Celebration. The Steelers previously wore them in their win over the Washington Redskins.
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