On Thursday Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey indicated that he would make his “own decision” in terms of who he would choose to honor on his helmet in future games. Never mind last Monday’s announcement that all of the team’s players would be wearing Antwon Rose Jr. decals on their helmets this season, thereby honoring the memory of the teenaged police shooting victim.
True to his word, on Sunday Pouncey had the name of fallen police officer Eric Kelly on the back of his helmet. Kelly was one of three Pittsburgh police officers who were killed in an April 2009 standoff in Stanton Heights, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s east city area.
Pouncey wasn’t the only Steelers player who decided to update his helmet tribute in the wake of the organization’s controversial decision to honor Antwon Rose Jr., a Black teenager who was killed after being shot in the back three times by an East Pittsburgh police officer in June 2018.
“End Racism,” “Black Lives Matter” and More
According to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had the team-oriented phrase “it takes us all” on the back of his helmet, while defensive captain Cameron Heyward, running back James Conner, cornerback Joe Haden and wide receiver Diontae Johnson had “End Racism” on their helmets, a message also emblazoned at the back of the end zone on Sunday.
For his part, running back Benny Snell—who went to college at the University of Kentucky—had the name of Breonna Taylor on his helmet. Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American EMT, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers in March 2020.
Then there was safety Terrell Edmunds, who had a decal with the phrase: “Black Lives Matter.”
Other players, like defensive end Stephon Tuitt and wide receiver James Washington, had helmets devoid of any tribute. Finally, some Steelers didn’t change course and honored Rose for the second week in a row.
Alejandro Villanueva Pays Tribute to Alwyn Cashe
Last but not least, Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva continued to pay tribute to Alwyn Cashe, an Army sergeant and Iraq War hero who suffered ultimately fatal injuries while attempting to save the lives of fellow soldiers in October 2005. Cashe was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his heroism and may soon be awarded the Medal of Honor as well.
Steelers owner and president Art Rooney II addressed the Antwon Rose Jr. decal controversy in a statement issued last Thursday, noting that the Steelers organization respects “the decisions of each player, coach and staff member relating to how to express themselves on social justice topics…. We understand that individually we may say or do things that are not universally accepted. There will be uncomfortable conversations. But we will strive to be a force for unity in our efforts to support a more just society.”
The next opportunity the Steelers will have to express themselves via helmet decals will come on Sunday September 27, when Pittsburgh takes on the Houston Texans at Heinz Field.
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