The families all received turkeys and all the preparations for their Thanksgiving dinner, getting the extra boost they need during a tough time.
“It’s something that I love to do, without a doubt,” said Tomlin. “I feel responsible in terms of an obligation to give back to the community, something that I want to do to help others. I also want to teach my children and therefore that my daughter is involved in helping and the things of this nature are also important. “
It wasn’t just his family who learned to give back, as Steelers rookies helped distribute meals.
“It’s a part of our culture here at the Pittsburgh Steelers that we embrace, that we recognize,” said Tomlin. “It has to be cultivated, so getting these young guys out, teaching them and doing it with them is a big part of it.”
Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward hosted his annual food distribution, this year a drive-thru event held in the parking lots of Heinz Field.
Heyward was joined by several of his teammates, dealing with the heavy lifting of turkeys and boxes full of food, while keeping everyone smiling.
“It’s very humbling to know that you are doing something that you badly need,” Heyward said. “Plus, spending time with people, even interacting for a few minutes, brightens their day while providing them with the food they need. It means a lot to know how many people you can impact.
“I have been very lucky and very blessed throughout my life. To see people who have struggled, I am very grateful that I can help so many people.”
Heyward is no stranger to giving back to the community, but what he does with the food drive is something that has an instant impact.
“Cam is such an amazing and exemplary role model in terms of community service,” said Scales. “When I think about community service and what it means for athletes to give back to the community, Cam is at the top. Cam is the gold standard, maybe I should say the black and gold standard.
“He gives back at every opportunity, whether it’s our turkey distribution, whether it’s providing toys or other support for children in the community. He has such a big heart and he is a wonderful spokesperson for our mission. He’s in the community, there with us, standing by our side to provide the food and take his role as spokesperson very seriously. “
The Steelers also teamed up with the Pirates and Penguins for a #BurghProud Thanksgiving meal distribution, with players and coaches from all three teams joining forces to distribute turkeys and all fixings to hundreds of people in conjunction with the food bank and Giant Eagle.
“It’s unity,” said cornerback Cameron Sutton. “We are one. We are one heartbeat. We are one.”
And uniting is the only way to fight food insecurity in the city.
“It’s really special to bring the three professional teams together to provide meals for families over Thanksgiving,” said Scales. “We will forever be the city of champions. We have a long and proud history of winning on the pitch, but it exemplifies the winning attitude of our pro teams off the pitch and in the community.
“This is Pittsburgh at its best, lending a hand to our food insecure neighbors. “We are counting on us to help them with these valuable items. And these are the items the Steelers handed out. “
While some have returned to normal lives during the ongoing pandemic, for those served by the food bank, normalcy is still far away. Financial burdens exist, food insecurity exists and fear exists. The food bank, in partnership with entities such as the Steelers, is helping to combat these factors.
“Thousands of people continue to be deeply affected by the pandemic,” Scales said. “Despite the availability of jobs, many neighbors still face real challenges in finding gainful employment for a variety of reasons, including child care, transportation, other obligations, health issues. Most of the people we serve are seniors on fixed incomes.
“When you think of the fall and winter season, and we get closer to winter, that means increased utility costs on top of vacation costs. People serve larger meals, trying to buy gifts during the holiday period. Our neighbors have to make tough choices to make ends meet and get food on the table every day.
“We are focused not only on meeting people’s immediate needs, but also on ensuring that people have constant access to nutritious food and that they eat enough food each day to lead healthy and productive lives. At the same time, we also connect people to other resources to help them stabilize their lives so that they don’t need food aid so that we can truly end hunger. “
In addition, several other players gave Thanksgiving food distributions.
Through his B3 Foundation, Zach Banner worked with Giant Eagle to provide meals to 40 families through the YMCA in the Hill District. Banner provided turkeys and sides for a full take-out meal.
“During the holiday season, there are always families in need,” Banner said. “I always want to make someone smile while on vacation.”
Najee Harris, through her Da ‘Bigger Picture Foundation, worked with others in the Pittsburgh area to provide 700 turkeys for two giveaways to the area.
Her foundation focuses on helping underserved families, while providing tools and assistance to families facing difficult times. Hunger is one of the foundation’s priorities.
Catcher JuJu Smith-Schuster is also distributing 500 meals to families who have been affected by the pandemic. Meals will be delivered to individuals’ homes on Thanksgiving Day, doubling the number it made last year through the JuJu Foundation.
“As the last year has been such a difficult time for many, we wanted to be sure that COVID-19 was not preventing anyone from enjoying a Thanksgiving meal,” Smith-Shuster said. “We are delighted to be able to double the number of meals we are handing out for Thanksgiving.”
If you would like to help fight food insecurity, please visit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.