Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Steelers players walked with 'rockstar' chaplain Kent Chevalier as he grieved loss of brother

Kent Chevalier is usually the one who is there to comfort and counsel the Pittsburgh Steelers players during difficult times in their life. This past November, it was the players who played that role for him.

The Steelers team chaplain lost his brother, JH Elliott, due to complications with COVID-19 and pneumonia. A guy who is constantly looking to serve others no matter what, Chevalier recalled being “too messed up to even lead chapel in that moment.”

So players like recently-retired tight end Vance McDonald stepped up to lead chapel, and this time it was them offering their shoulder to lean on.

“It hit us all so deep because the guy — he’s only been here two years but at the same time he’s just done amazing things for each of us individually in our lives bringing in this strong brotherhood of Christians on this team,” McDonald said, speaking with Chevalier during last weekend’s Super Bowl Breakfast. “He’s just been a real rockstar.

“With that news, we just wrapped our arms around him — virtually — as big as we could. We reached out to the guy, loved on the guy. Again, it’s just the same concept of God meeting us exactly where we are no matter what the circumstance is, so we just tried to do the same for Kent.”

Chevalier was open about his brother’s health situation and kept supporters updated via social media. Shortly following his brother’s death, he posted a video on Twitter, saying “I grieve with hope.”

Chevalier echoed that sentiment during the Super Bowl Breakfast, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. He’s gone to God in prayer with plenty of questions.

“How I’m dealing with it is with my faith in Christ,” he said. “I’ve been asking God a lot of questions. Why my brother? Why another good man gone? I think that God’s OK with those questions. He’s not afraid of those questions. He’s been very patient with me. He’s been very close, so that’s kind of how I’ve been getting along.”

The Super Bowl Breakfast took place in a virtual setting this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the program touched on the impact the virus has had on the NFL and the country as a whole. Super Bowl attendance was limited, as was attendance throughout the season, and other changes were made to help stop the spread.

Chevalier offered sympathy to anyone who’s been affected or lost someone due to the pandemic.

“I would just say to anybody who is dealing with a loss from 2020 to comfort them, you know it’s OK to not be OK,” he said. “It’s OK to ask for help. I’ve been seeking out Godly counsel and great brothers around me, but there’s some stuff that I’m realizing that’s being unearthed by this grief that they really can help me with.”

Even in the midst of his grief, Chevalier along with McDonald served with Convoy of Hope, as they delivered what Chevalier described as “five trucks of hope to the Pittsburgh area” — food, hygiene supplies, and other items — serving more than 5,000 families.

McDonald was nominated by the Steelers for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in part for his efforts.

McDonald said Chevalier is always the one looking to support others, but in his time of grief, Chevalier said he was grateful the players were there to lift him up in his pain. A lifelong Pittsburgh native, he wasn’t surprised to see the Steelers organization respond the way it did.

“Growing up I always heard the Steelers were a family organization, and I got to experience just that,” Chevalier said. “The coaches, the players, the staff — they were all reaching out to me. It was absolutely incredible to see that. They were praying for me and my family, when usually that’s my role.”

“It really humbled me,” he added. “I am so grateful to even serve the Steelers in this way, but now to be able to be served by the family of the Steelers.”

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