A spokesman for the Pittsburgh Steelers indicated to Outkick Friday that it was the decision of the players — and not that of team officials — to honor Antwon Rose Jr. with helmet decals during Monday’s win over the New York Giants.
Rose was shot and killed by a police officer in June of 2018 after he and two others were pulled over following a drive-by shooting. The Steelers announced Monday that they planned to wear the helmet decals honoring Rose for the entire season.
In an email to Outkick, Steelers Director of Communications Burt Lauten said: “As our Team President Art Rooney II said on Thursday, the organization supports and respects decisions our players may make relating to social justice activities. And we acknowledge there could be changes this Sunday for players relating to helmet decals. That will be an individual decision.”
The team’s statement was in response to questions from Outkick about who, specifically, made the decision to honor Rose and if anyone had studied the details of Rose’s criminal case before moving forward with plans for the helmet decals.
The statement contradicts comments from safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who said the sticker decision “came from upstairs.” He told the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette that the players “briefly” discussed the name that would appear on their helmets.
“We talked briefly about it, but it was mostly made by people upstairs,” Fitzpatrick told the paper. “Don’t know exactly who. Don’t know exactly how. We knew we were going to have someone on the back of our helmets. It wasn’t exactly clear on who it was going to be.”
Also on Thursday, Steelers offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey issued a statement saying he’d “inadvertently supported a cause of which I did not fully comprehend the entire background of the case.”
In June of 2018, Rose was a passenger in a car that was pulled over after being identified as being involved in a drive-by shooting. The car had bullet holes. East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld was in the process of handcuffing the driver when Rose and another passenger started running. Rosfeld later testified he thought one of the two pointed a gun at him, and he shot Rose, who was found to have gunshot residue on his hands and an empty 9-millimeter magazine his pocket. Rosfeld’s homicide trial lasted four days. He was found not guilty.
The only Steelers player who didn’t wear a helmet decal honoring Rose was offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, who choose instead to commemorate Silver Star awardee Alwyn Cashe. Villanueva drew criticism for the decision, prompting the statement from Rooney II that the team referenced in Friday’s email to Outkick.
“As an organization, we respect the decisions of each player, coach and staff member relating to express themselves on social justice topics,” Rooney’s statement read. “We will continue to support our social initiatives to fight against social injustice and systematic racism not only in our area, but around the country.”
Rooney II has yet to specifically address the team’s decision to honor Rose.