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Gridiron & Steel
An award-winning documentary that captures the connection between football and the region's industrial heritage.

Through the decades of the 20th century, western Pennsylvania turned out a seemingly endless supply of national football heroes -- Mike Ditka, Dan Marino, Joe Namath, John Unitas, Joe Montana, Tony Dorsett -- and the list goes on. Like Andrew Carnegie and "Big Steel" before it, this strong gridiron tradition gave the region an unmistakable identity and helped to keep Pittsburgh on the map.

For the first time, the special relationship that exists between the people of western Pennsylvania and football has been captured in an hour-long documentary and will air on public television stations nationwide beginning on December 15, 2002 (check local listings).


Poster for the film.

Click to view/download photos (300 dpi JPGs; print size appr. 3 x 4).
Photo credit: WQED Pittsburgh.

Bob Lubomski (audio engineer), Mike Zmijanac (head football coach, Aliquippa high School) and Jeff Sewald (producer/director).

Dan Rooney (president, Pittsburgh Steelers), Bob Lubomski and Jeff Sewald.

Dan Marino and jeff Sewald.

Jeff Sewald and Andy Russell (former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker).

The program, Gridiron & Steel, tells the story of the rise of football in the region, the emergence of the City of Pittsburgh on the national scene, and how each supported the other through good times and bad.

Produced and directed by Jeff Sewald (CLICK HERE FOR BIO), a Pittsburgh native and University of Pittsburgh graduate, Gridiron & Steel features a cross section of regional personalities, including former Steelers greats Andy Russell, Mel Blount, Franco Harris and Jack Ham, Steelers owner Dan Rooney and broadcaster Myron Cope.
Sewald, however, is quick to point out that the program also captures the passion the region exudes for its pee-wee, high school and college football programs.

"In creating the program, we wanted to capture the cultural significance of a sport, the character of the region, and the soul of Pittsburghers," Sewald says.
Archival photographs and footage serve to create the historical context for the program. From action on the field, to emotions in the locker room to reflection afterward, the spirit of western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh is evident throughout the documentary.

"I think the end result is a definitive and positive statement about what can happen when a great sport and several generations of strong backs and stout hearts converge," Sewald says.

In Gridiron & Steel, several regional football legends, including Mike Ditka, Dan Marino and Bill Fralic, recall the influences of their youth and how their upbringing helped prepare them for the challenges of life. Concurrently, cameras chronicle the enthusiasm and insights of young players who compete far away from the glamour of the National Football League.

Their focus is not about achieving greatness, but being a part of something that connects them to their forefathers and communities, and prepares them for life in a competitive world. The documentary even finds a connection with Pittsburgh rocker Joe Grushecky. Adding insight and commentary, Grushecky and his music enliven the story telling.

The program was made possible by grants from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, the McCune Foundation and the Thomas W. and Carol K. Henderson Family Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

Written, produced and directed by Jeff Sewald for WQED Pittsburgh, Gridiron & Steel is distributed to public television stations nationwide by APT Exchange.

For 40 years, American Public Television (APT), located in Boston has been a major source of programming for the nation's public television stations. APT has more than 10,000 hours of available programming including Discovering the Real World of Harry Potter, Globe Trekker, Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World, Nightly Business Report, Rick Steves' Europe, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Ballykissangel, Brian Jacques' Redwall and The Three Tenors Christmas.

APT is known for identifying innovative programs and developing creative distribution techniques for producers. In four decades, it has established a tradition of providing public television stations nationwide with program choices that enable them to strengthen and customize their schedules.

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