‘They were so great’: Pittsburgh grandma recounts playing pickleball with Steelers

All Lawrenceville’s Meg Burkardt wanted to do Saturday evening was play a pick-up game of pickleball at North Park. Little did she know who her teammates were going to end up being, and the story that would follow.

“I realized it was just two guys playing and one guy sitting on the bench,” said Burkardt. “I thought ‘Oh! Maybe he needs a paddle! I have an extra paddle and that’ll be a great way to kind of get myself in there.’ So I grabbed my extra paddle and just walked down and plopped down on the bench next to him, turned out it was Alex.”

Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith, to be specific. The other two guys who were playing? Reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, and All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. But the best part? Burkardt had no idea.

“As I was right with them I was like, ‘Wow! These guys are really fit!’” said Burkardt. “I thought ‘I wonder how they all know each other,’ and I thought maybe they’re in the military or something.”

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People began to gather around the court, asking to take pictures. Meg began to feel like everyone else was in on a joke she wasn’t. So, she pulled a friend aside.

“I said, ‘Frank, who even are they?’” said Burkardt. “He just busts out laughing and he was like, ‘That’s pretty much the starting Steelers lineup!’ They were so great, I can’t even say that enough. They’re the best ambassadors the city of Pittsburgh could have.”

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Don’t be fooled. Watt tweeted after the picture Meg’s daughter Natalie posted went viral, “Meg was serving the heat!” But that wasn’t all she was serving.

“Let’s see, who had the best smack talk?” said Burkardt. “I think it was me! Right off the bat I hit one, I won’t say whose legs it went between, but it went between their legs so I looked at T.J. and said, ‘Don’t say 5 hole, do not say 5 hole!’.

The trio of defensive players earned quite the praise for their pickleball skills. But the top performer?

“Minkah’s definitely the best,” said Burkardt. “He was fantastic, the best partner ever. He was so wickedly fast across the court.”

Seemingly fitting, as Meg and Minkah came away victorious in the championship game.

“I’m pretty excited to say for the rest of my life I can say I beat them at pickleball,” said Burkardt.