Two of the Steelers captains say they were unaware that Alejandro Villanueva covered up the name of police shooting victim Antown Rose Jr. with Alwyn Cashe, a decorated war hero, who gave is sacrificed his life to save six others in Iraq in 2005.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, defensive Captain Cam Heyward said, "I was surprised by what Al did and you know, you'll have to talk to him in the future."
Heyward added that Villanueva is free to express himself.
"In this country, we're given the freedoms to do and support those (things) that mean a lot to us."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger also said he wasn't aware of the decision.
"I did not know about Al's choice for the back of his helmet and obviously that's his choice, that's the amazing thing about the country we live in so that's unfortunately, it is what it is," said Roethlisberger.
Heyward said the team held the banner that read "Steelers Against Racism" because they wanted to display something that was apolitical.
"It didn't have to be politicized. We wanted to be straight forward and let you know we're against racism and we want to end racism and we have a lot of tings going on in our world that's important to that and we have to grow not only as a team but as a community to eradicate that and grow," added Heyward.
Coach Mike Tomlin said during his weekly news conference that he was aware of Villanueva's decision.
"As an organization and my self as a head coach of the organization, we're going to support our players in however the choose to participate and express themselves or to not participate and or not express themselves as long as they do so thoughtfully and with class," said Tomlin.
Tomlin said the matter needed no further explanation and that they support Villanueva or any other player that chooses to use their platform.
Rose's mother posted an message directed toward Villanueva.
The team announced on Monday that each helmet would have the name of Antwon Rose Jr. on the back all season.
Rose was a 17-year-old Black teen fatally shot by an East Pittsburgh Police Officer in June, 2018 while fleeing the scene of an incident.
That officer, Michael Rosfeld, was acquitted of murder charges.
Cashe, a Black man and Sergeant first class in the U.S. Army, gave his life to rescue fellow soldiers after an improvised explosive device caused damage to the Bradley tank he was in while on a route clearance mission in Iraq in October 2005.
Cashe, covered in fuel, helped rescue six fellow soldiers, pulling them from the burning vehicle, all while his uniform continued to burn.
Cashe refused to be rescued by medical staff until this fellow soldiers were tended to.
With burns to over 70 percent of his body, Cashe died under a month after the incident.
Cashe posthumously was awarded the Silver Star for heroism and there are calls that he be awarded the Medal of Honor, a call that is backed by the Pentagon.
Villanueva served as an Army Ranger and received a Bronze Star for valor and served three tours of duty in Afghanistan.