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Where are they now? Pete Rostosky

Long-shot lineman is still working hard

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

By Rich Emert, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Better than most, Pete Rostosky knows that dreams can come true in the heat and humidity of Steelers training camp at St. Vincent College.

Pete Rostosky: The thought of going from Elizabeth Forward to the Steelers' roster still makes him pinch himself.

An Elizabeth Forward High School graduate, Rostosky was a free-agent defensive lineman from Connecticut in the Steelers' camp in 1983. He was a long shot to make the team, and the odds against him increased when he was shifted to the offensive line.

But Rostosky endured and played five years with the Steelers.

"I still have to pinch myself when I think about it," said Rostosky, who turns 42 Tuesday. "The Steelers drafted Gabe Rivera No. 1 that year and had a lot of linemen on defense. So, I was asked to move to offense. It was tough at first because on defense you're taught to go on movement. I was offside a lot."

With the help of Mike Webster, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley, Rostosky made the switch and became a solid reserve tackle for the Steelers.

At 6 feet 4 and 260 pounds, he fit the Steelers' mold of tough, strong, athletic blockers. Former Steelers lineman Jon Kolb was the team's strength coach when Rostosky was a rookie and helped him get ready for life in the NFL.

"I'd go down to Three Rivers Stadium and lift and I'd come home and my hands would be bleeding because we worked so hard," Rostosky said. "I can remember running the steps at the stadium with Kolb. We'd run the ramps, and I thought we were done and he'd say, 'That was just the warm-up.' Then we'd go run the steps in the upper level."

Rostosky credits the work ethic he learned from his parents for keeping him going. He grew up on a farm near Monongahela, and his father had a surface-mining business. These days, Rostosky is co-owner of the mining business along with his father, Joe. He lives in Peters Township with his wife, Connie, and children Lydia, 8, and Luke, 6.

He hasn't backed off on the hard work or on squeezing every minute out of every day.

Besides running the mining operation, which he said is more into helping reclaim land that has been surface-mined, Rostosky coaches football. He will be on the Elizabeth Forward staff this season after spending the past five at Charleroi. He also helps out on the farm.

A typical day for Rostosky this summer has been to get up between 4-4:30 a.m., go to work at the mining operation, leave there in the afternoon and help with conditioning for the Elizabeth Forward football team, then go to the farm and bale hay. He usually returns home at 9 p.m. and falls asleep about 11:30 p.m.

He also does motivational speaking and has a strong story to tell. As a senior in high school, he was shot in the head and told by some doctors he wouldn't be able to play football again.

"I still have 22 BBs in me. They took 44 out. This guy who had just gotten out of jail shot me when I was out hunting, and I ended up missing the final regular-season game," he said. "I was in the hospital for five days. My mother [Helen] took me to a bunch of doctors to get one to say it was OK for me to play.

"She finally took me to this guy way out in the country. He signed the slip for me to play. I didn't know until later that the guy was a veterinarian. Anyway, I played in the playoff game against Butler and did well enough that I got the scholarship to Connecticut."

As a rookie with the Steelers, Rostosky got into a training camp fight with future Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert. As an overachiever, Rostosky was the type of player then-coach Chuck Noll loved.

"There isn't any one game that I had that stands out," Rostosky said. "I did get a couple of game balls. I went against Lyle Alzado when we beat the Raiders. He hit me so hard at the start of the game that I went flying right out of the TV picture. Chuck was yelling at me from the sideline and, after that, I settled down and played pretty well."

After five years with the Steelers, Rostosky decided to get out of football and work in the mining business.

At first, he didn't want to coach because he figured he would be too tough on the high school players. Rostosky grew up working out on his own on the farm. He used to pull a car with a harness to make his legs stronger and lift bales of hay to add muscle to his upper body. He couldn't see forcing players to do that, but he has mellowed.

"But I really enjoy working with the kids and I think I have a message to give to them," he said.

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