Pittsburgh Steelers center honors fallen police officer

Last week, I discussed how the Pittsburgh Steelers were planning to honor Antwon Rose, a drive-by shooter, by wearing his name on their helmets. Initially, only Afghan war vet Alejandro Villanueva declined to go along with this plan. He announced that he would wear the name of Alwyn Cashe, an African-American who was killed in Iraq.

But then, Maurkice Pouncey, the team’s star center, also balked. He admitted he should have done more research before agreeing to honor Rose.

Yesterday, having done some research and given the matter more thought, Pouncey wore the name of Eric Kelly, a fallen police officer. Here is Kelly’s story:

Kelly, a Black police officer with Pittsburgh’s police department, was killed in the line of duty in 2009. According to his memorial page, the 41-year-old just finished his shift and was driving home from work when he overheard a call on the radio for officers needing assistance at a shooting.

He responded immediately, driving to the scene with the hope of helping his fellow officers. Tragically, he was shot after exiting the vehicle and later passed away. The shooter was arrested a short time later and was sentenced to death in 2011.

Kelly previously served in the United States Marines Corps before becoming a police officer. He served on Pittsburgh’s police department for 14 years, before his end of watch on April 4, 2009.

Pouncey was the Steelers’ nominee for the 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. He has worked with law enforcement in Pittsburgh and Florida. In each of the past three seasons, he donated tickets to Steelers’ home games for Pittsburgh police officers to take youth groups to NFL games.

He’s my nominee for 2020 NFL man of the year.

Pouncey and Villanueva weren’t the only Steelers who declined to wear Rose’s name. Reportedly, Ben Roethlisberger, the star quarterback, went with “It Takes All of Us.” Several others opted for different slogans, either “End Racism” or “Black Lives Matter.” One player honored shooting victim Breonna Taylor.

Two players did not put any name or slogan on their helmets. That’s never a bad option.