THOUSAND OAKS — Let’s be clear about this, Aaron Donald told Pittsburgh reports on a media conference call Thursday.
This weekend is a business trip.
Last weekend was the personal trip.
“We’re going to Pittsburgh to win a football game this weekend,” the Rams’ two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year said on the eve of the Rams’ charter to his native western Pennsylvania. “It’s a business trip, and we need this win.
“I’ll get some hugs and kisses from the family. But I had my fun in Pittsburgh last week.”
The 6-foot-1, 280 pound nose tackle who set a sack record for his position with 20.5 a year ago spent last Thursday and Friday of the Rams’ bye week after their London trip back in his hometown.
He visited his old stomping grounds at Penn Hills High School.
He also visited the Art Rooney UPMC Training Center nearby where the Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers have their training facilities.
Thanks to a $1 million gift last offseason, it now features the Aaron Donald Performance Center.
“The Steelers were getting ready for their game with the Colts,” Donald said. “I didn’t run into any of their players or coaches. It wasn’t like I was there taking notes or spying on them or anything like that.”
Donald, who has four sacks in his last five games and five for the first half of the season, literally wears his love for his alma mater.
Most weeks he wears cleats in Pitt’s blue and gold color scheme.
“Everybody knows how I feel about Pitt,” Donald said. “I love everything about the school, the history, the great players like Tony Dorsett, Mike Ditka, Dan Marino, the great medical center that has done so much to save so many lives.
“I know what Pitt did for me. I want other kids in the Pittsburgh area to have the same kind of opportunities.”
Playing on the same field he did in college, against the team he grew up rooting for, has Donald more excited than his teammates say they can remember.
“I just have to remember which locker room to go to,” he said.
Wade Phillips is almost as excited as his nose tackle for this trip.
“Everyone in the locker room can tell how excited Aaron is for this game,” the Rams’ defensive coordinator said. “And when he’s excited, well, that gets us all excited to think what he might he capable of doing in his homecoming game.
“The Steelers are a physical football team and they’re going to come out running at us. Aaron is a big part of stopping that.”