By, Teresa Varley
It’s a love so strong that it has survived more breakups than any relationship in history. The bond, while it has been fractured, has never fully been broken.
It’s a relationship that has had its up and downs, but for Steelers safety Ross Ventrone, it’s a love that will never die.
“I love football,” said Ventrone. “To have the ability to stay in it and still have a chance to play on Sundays is special. I grew up watching my brother play football and I didn’t play until later. I come from a football family and to have a chance to play in the NFL, it just drives me.
“I absolutely love the game. I’ve come to love all the guys I play with, and to be in a place like Pittsburgh, it just makes you want to keep going. I love all my teammates, I love my coaches, the organization. It’s my hometown so it really pushes you to keep at it.”
Ventrone has definitely had reasons to walk away. He has been released a total of 15 times either from an active roster or practice squad. Twelve of those times have come at the hands of the New England Patriots, three times by the Steelers. One might think enough is enough, but not when you want it as bad as Ventrone does.
“It’s always hard,” said Ventrone. “Through all the years that I’ve been in the NFL, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs and I’ve seen the business side of things. I’ve seen how things work, and on the roster there’s only room for a certain amount of guys. It’s tough because there’s a lot of great players out there who it just comes down to the numbers at certain positions.
“I’ve had to face that myself a few times and it’s hard because you never know where you’re going to end up, you never know if it’s your last time. The times I have gotten released I didn’t know if I was going to come back. You think about that and it is hard. Because you do love the game, I love this team so much and I know so many other guys do. To get to this level you have to love it because the hard work and stuff we put in. You wouldn’t be able to do it without the extra passion for the game. Every time that would happen to me I would go through a time where I would be scared and nervous because I love the game and I want to be a part of it. It would always drive me a little more so if I would have another opportunity, it wouldn’t happen again.”
Ventrone thought the opportunity to solidify a spot on the roster was going to come in 2015 after he made the final roster. But a nagging hamstring injury forced the Steelers to release him in October. He was then added to the Patriots practice squad where his brother, Ray Ventrone, was a special teams assistant. And where once again, he was released.
“Going up there the situation seemed right at the time and it didn’t work out,” said Ventrone. “It being my brother, when you’re in the facility he’s my coach and I look at him as a coach. Then when you’re back outside of work and you’re talking and stuff, he is my brother. For it not to work out it was hard, but it was just another bump in the road. It put me in the position to come back here. It was just another stepping stone in the path that I’m on and it was a crucial one to get where I want to be.”
And where that is, is with the Steelers, in his hometown. The Steelers brought Ventrone back in late December, and there is no place that he would rather be. He is taking part in the team’s offseason program with his eye on finally making the relationship stick.
“The fact that I’m back in Pittsburgh I realize how much I do love this organization,” said Ventrone. “It’s my hometown, I am around my family, and my football family is the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s incredible to be back.
“As soon as I walked back in the building I felt like I was home again. To see all the guys that I hadn’t seen for a few months, and the coaches and to be back in the locker room and around the guys on the practice field and in the meeting rooms, it just felt like I was home again. I think that speaks volumes about how this organization is with their players and how they make you feel like a family. It’s an incredible place to play and I’m so happy to be back and have another opportunity. I love football, and I love it here.”