As Steelers Jonathan Dwyer, James Harrison, Doug Legursky and Brett Keisel entered one of the hangers at the Air National Guard’s 171st Air Refueling Wing in Pittsburgh, you could see the excitement on the faces of those who serve this country, seeing players they cheer for on Sunday afternoons right in front of them.
But for the players, on this day they weren’t the heroes, the ones people look up to. Not even close. It was the men and women in uniform who were the heroes.
“You get to see what they do to protect and serve us and give us the freedoms we have,” said Harrison. “It’s obvious they are the true heroes. We go out here and play a game and we consider it battle. They go out there and put their lives on the line and they don’t come home. I’m going to come home after a game.”
The visit, done in conjunction with USAA, was a part of the Steelers “Salute to Service” in honor of Veteran’s Day. The players were there to say thank you to those who serve the country and learn a little bit more about what they do on a daily basis.
Part of the tour of the base included learning the different aspects of their job, from refueling planes in battle to helping close to home as some members were recently deployed to the New York/New Jersey area to help in Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
“It’s a great opportunity and we are so happy they came here,” said Colonel Tony Carrelli, Wing Commander at the guard base. “One of the great things about a guard unit is we are a community Air Force, we are the Pittsburgh Air Force. We are strong to our ties to the community. There is such great support. Any time we can host someone on the base it’s a great opportunity because they are so supportive of us.
“As you walk around the base you see Pennsylvania. The patches have been adapted to show that. We go all over the world supporting missions and people look at us and say you are Pittsburgh.”
The most obvious symbol of Pittsburgh is the Steelers logo and Terrible Towel painted on the nose of one of the KC-135 Stratotanker jets that are used for refueling missions.
“To see the picture on the jet explains it all and how much pride they have in Pittsburgh,” said Dwyer, who has family that served in the military. “It’s a great feeling and it motivates you more to go out and do our jobs each and every day because they fight for us to be able to do what we do every day, wake up and not worry about anything.”
The players got a tour of the jet, with Harrison sitting in the pilot’s seat trying to convince them to let him turn on the jets, to Legursky, Dwyer and Keisel, with his son Jacob, touring the entire plane, including climbing down into a small area and seeing how the fuel is transferred from one plane to another.
“It was awesome,” said Keisel, who has family currently serving and many military veterans in his family as well. “All of these people here are our heroes. They protect us, protect all of our rights. To have the opportunity to and bring my son and show him about these guys and what they do is awesome.”
The team was presented with a photo of the plane, and in return the unit was given a helmet signed by Dan Rooney, Sr., Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin and the four players on hand.
The most exciting part for the players, though, was when they had the opportunity to sign where the logo is painted on the nose of the plane and the realization that every time that plane takes flight for a mission, their names will be on there.
“That plane going overseas and on so many missions, with that art on the nose of the plane and to have my signature on it and it continue to serve our country, it’s a pretty big honor,” said Legursky, whose father Wayne served in the 82nd Airborne. “Coming from a military family it’s close to my heart. To come out here and hang out with people who serve is the least I can do for everything they do for our country.”
Tags: 171st Air Refueling Wing, Brett Keisel, Doug Legursky, James Harrison, Jonathan Dwyer
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A little bit of what players had to say in the locker room on Wednesday.
S Troy Polamalu
How do you guys turn the defense around?
We just have to execute better than their offense and their defense.
Did you hope to play this week?
I am always optimistic.
How is your injury different this time compared to a few weeks ago?
Those injury questions are for Coach Tomlin.
Do you feel injuries are an epidemic in the locker room?
I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if it is just us here. It seems we deal with it pretty seriously every year. I was made aware of Baltimore’s situation. It seems we face those types of situations year-in and year-out.
Re: Other team’s facing similar circumstances due to injury:
It’s never good. First we are human then we are football players.
T Max Starks
Re: Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson:
A lot of people say he’s not small, he’s short. He is a big dude that has a short body. He can create pressure by pushing guys back. He is quick enough to take the edge. He can force guys into bad positions. Michael Johnson is a very long guy. They are a good duo and a great combination.
Re: Advice for Mike Adams:
We are going to talk and work this week. We had a bonus day on Monday. When we are in meetings, we point out key things for him. Him and I will do some extra work on the side to make sure we are both prepared. Helping him actually helps me at the same time. I think he is mentally there. It’s just about making sure he is mentally sharp. There are some things he might not see as a backup, compared to a starting role. I think one of the biggest things is that he is going to have a great test on Sunday night.
C/G Doug Legursky
Re: Geno Atkins:
He is just a hard worker. He works really well with his hands. He has good leverage. He gets into people. He never stops. Their defensive linemen work well together to get their sacks. It’s going to be a challenge for us but every week is.
Re: Possible starting role:
You don’t come into this league and go into games wanting to be a backup. You always want to be a starter. It’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes, knowing you are only going to get in the game if someone gets hurt or we have a huge lead. I will always aspire to be a starter. I think everybody should.
Tags: Doug Legursky, Max Starks, Troy Polamalu
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Doug Legursky is used to being ready on a moment’s notice and that came in handy once again when he had to step in after center Maurkice Pouncey suffered an MCL injury against the Titans.
“As a backup you have to be ready to go in there at any time,” said Legursky. “The next guy up is going to step in for the guys and we can’t have any drop in performance. Throughout the year I have had the opportunity to do that. Last week was no different. I have to go in and we can’t drop in play at all. I believe I had a good game, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Legursky said its second nature to the offensive linemen to have to step in during a game, and by preparing with the same mindset each week it allows them to be able to do so seamlessly. And this week he is doing things the way he does every week, not sure yet if he will start on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals or not.
“I prepare the same way I always do, I have to prepare like I am going to play,” said Legursky. “I have to be mentally sharp. I have to get as many mental reps during the week as I can when he is not going. Right now I will get a few more physical reps which is nice to go into a game with more preparation. Either way it doesn’t change my method of preparedness.”
In addition Mike Adams had to step in for right tackle Marcus Gilbert against the Titans after Gilbert suffered an ankle injury. Adams, the Steelers’ second round draft pick this year, said he will be starting against the Bengals on Sunday.
“It’s my job to keep and I plan on taking advantage of the situation,” said Adams. “I just have to come out every day, keep getting better and play as well as I can help this team get a ‘W.’”
While Adams said learning is a constant in football, he is feeling comfortable with the offense and knows he can lean on the veterans on the offensive line.
“It’s been going good,” said Adams. “I have had some time to get in there and see what I can do. It hasn’t been too rough. I am excited to get out there and play a whole game and help this team get the ‘W’ we need.”
Tags: Doug Legursky, Mike Adams
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Sunday, January 8
There are plenty of Terrible Towels in the crowd as the Steelers get ready for kickoff.
Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey is among those inactive for today’s game against the Broncos. Doug Legursky will start at center.
Also inactive are cornerback Cortez Allen, safety Ryan Clark, linebacker Mortty Ivy, tackle Jamon Meredith, running back Mewelde Moore and defensive end Al Woods.
Ryan Mundy will start at free safety for Clark.
As the Steelers prepare to take on the Broncos, running backs coach Kirby Wilson is in the thoughts of all of Steelers Nation.
“Kirby is a fighter, he is fighting,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family as we prepare to play this football game.”
Tags: Al Woods, Casey Hampton, Cortez Allen, Doug Legursky, Jamon Meredith, Kirby Wilson, Maurkice Pouncey, Mewelde Moore, Mike Tomlin, Mortty Ivy, Ryan Clark, Ryan Mundy, Steelers Inactives
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Coach Mike Tomlin is not ready to rule out many players this week as the Steelers prepare to take on the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at 4:15 p.m., but two players not likely to play are running back Mewelde Moore and center/guard Doug Legursky.
“Some guys probably on the outside looking in from a health standpoint…Mewelde Moore continues to work his way back from his MCL sprain,” said Tomlin. “Doug Legursky is probably going to be a week away with his left shoulder. We’ll make the necessary adjustments there.
“All the other guys that have existing injuries or missed the last performance due to injury are in play as we sit here today.”
Among the players Tomlin said have a “shot” this week are center Maurkice Pouncey, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
“Hopefully we get all of those guys back,” said Tomlin. “It’s our intention right now if the guys are healthy enough to practice and prepare, of course we will play them.”
Tags: Ben Roethlisberger, Doug Legursky, Emmanuel Sanders, LaMarr Woodley, Maurkice Pouncey, Mewelde Moore
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Does the fact that Doug Legursky is starting on Sunday have anything to do with Chris Kemoeatu’s health?
A little bit. They both have kind of swapped that out for a month. Doug is healthy. Doug played extremely well when he was in there. Chris has not played poorly. We just have some good depth now for the first time in a long time. It’s not a benching as much as it is putting Doug back in. Chris has played extremely well.
What does Legursky do so well?
He’s like having two centers out there, as far as the calls and everything, especially with the noise. He’s a very athletic guy. He has a heck of a year going as far as not giving up pressure. He’s extremely solid.
Legursky always finds a way to impress the coaches:
He’s a good football player. That’s the only way I can describe him. He’s just a football player.
How has Emmanuel Sanders looked this week?
I’ve been real pleased with him. His knee is not swelling. He’s not exactly where he was when he left off but I think he will be by Sunday night. I look forward to getting him back on the field.
So is he going to play Sunday night?
Oh yeah, definitely.
What does he bring to the receiving core?
Everything: speed, great hands and a good understanding of the game as an inside player and outside player. I think we are the most explosive with him in the group.
How has Hines Ward handled his role?
He still has a prominent role. I think this is the healthiest he’s ever been on Thanksgiving. He’s a pro. We are going to do everything we can to make sure all of our guys stay in the game plan. It’s my job to manage that, everybody has a way of contributing in a major way. He’s still a great player in the red zone and on third downs. We have something for everybody, we think. There are not enough footballs for all of them. But whoever gets open is going to get it. One thing, Hines can still get open.
Re: Heath Miller:
I think he’s the best player at his position in this league. There are some good young ones coming up behind him but he brings everything to the table: effort, smartness, toughness, 100% every play, with great hands and running after the catch. He’s the whole package.
Re: Heath being so consistent:
He is consistent in everything. He’s got it all. He’s a great guy to have on your football team. He’s the kind of guy that you die to have.
Re: Heath having more catches in the past few weeks:
It’s just happened. We don’t have to force it to anyone anymore. Whoever gets open gets the ball. Everybody is throwing their hand in the pile, and making sure they get open. Teams that want to double-cover us outside will open the inside people.
Tags: Doug Legursky, Emmanuel Sanders
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Tags: Ben Roethlisberger, Doug Legursky, Steelers Style
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