By Rachel Jones / Photograph from Rocky Bleier
For much of his life, Rocky Bleier studied plays. He learned his roles on the field, worked with his teammates, and executed them with ease on game day.
Now, the former Pittsburgh Steeler and Super Bowl champion is taking on a different kind of play. The role, this time, is himself. His team is made up of theater experts, including director Scott Wise and producer Dan Fallon, and it will all be executed on September 15 at Heinz Hall.
“It’s more complicated than I ever thought to bring a show together,” Bleier says. “This is a whole different venue to present with lighting and sound and 50 pages of words to memorize. Even though it’s my story, it’s the words that really make the difference. I think we’re very fortunate to get the cream of the crop to work with.”
The Play with Rocky Bleier stars only the title character himself, offering an intimate portrait of his life. The inspiration came after Bleier read Gary Pomerantz’ book, “Their Life’s Work,” which gives an in-depth look at the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers. “I thought, well, I wonder what it’d be like to tell it from the players’ perspective,” Bleier says. “Then, I got Gene Collier [who wrote The Chief] involved because of his experiences and because I’ve always liked his writing. Gene said, ‘I think there’s more to your story that needs to be told.’”
From there, the concept evolved to share more of that story, touching on Bleier’s experiences as a Steeler, as a soldier in Vietnam, and as a young boy growing up in a Wisconsin bar. But it’s not just an evening of “Rocky telling stories about Rocky or a speech,” the motivational speaker says. “It’s a reflection on a period of time from one man’s perspective. It’s not about my ego, it’s about the times. It’s about not forgetting or reconstructing our lives, and the randomness of life. We say things happen for a reason, but, really, things happen randomly. It’s how you react to that situation that gives it a reason.”
When it came time to title the production, Bleier wanted to keep it simple. “So, if somebody would refer to this performance, they would say, ‘Are you going to the play?’ And their friend would say, ‘What play?’ And, they’d say, ‘The play with Rocky Bleier.’ That’s how it came to be.”
Before the play, fans can partake in another simply named event: The Luncheon, A Prelude to The Play. Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Mel Blount, and Lynn Swann will gather together with Bleier at Heinz Field from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for a round circle discussion, reflecting on the ‘70s and roasting their former teammate.
Then, at 7:30 p.m., it’s show time.
“This may be a crazy idea on my part,” Bleier reflects on the one-night show. “But maybe we can pull something together and make it meaningful and have some fun.”