NFL: The Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Success Comes From Being a Renegade

Andrew PreglerContributor IIIJanuary 29, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  LaMarr Woodley #56 and Brett Keisel #99 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate after sacking Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Down 24-7 it looked to be all over. 

2002 had been a good year for the Pittsburgh Steelers with the discovery of Tommy Maddox at quarterback, opening the playoffs at home and the trademark blitzburgh defense. Cleveland was going to come into Heinz Field and just like so many times before, lose to the Black and Gold.

But turnovers, special teams and a sloppy effort on the Steelers part had led to all of these hopes dissolving right in front of the 65,000 faithful.

The team, especially the defense, needed a spark as the snow began to fall. Mike Marchinsky, a marketing intern, would make a decision that has forever affected the Steelers defense.

The stadium grew quiet as the speakers sounded the eerie and ominous words, "Oh momma I'm in fear for my life from the long arm of the law. Lawman has put an end to my running and I'm so far from my home. Oh momma I can hear you a'crying and you're so scared and all alone. Hangman is comin' down from the gallows and I don't have very long."

Next heard was a shriek and Styx's Renegade was at full blast as the Steelers fans watched a montage of the best defensive plays the Steelers had made that season.  The defense finally made a stop and the Steelers began a comeback that would end in a 36-33 victory.

That day, Stan Savran said that it was the first time Heinz Field felt and shook like Three Rivers Stadium. The Renegade lore had begun.

The Chicago Bulls had the Alan Parsons Project's Sirius to introduce Mr. Michael Jordan. The New York Yankees have Enter Sandman for Mario Rivera. 

The Steelers had—The Steelers Polka.

No disrespect intended, but when you are the most dominant dynasty of the Super Bowl era and your theme song is a polka dated thirty years ago, it probably would be wise to look for other options. 

Enter Renegade. The dark, treacherous sounding music, like a caged animal waiting to be unleashed, fit the mentality of the Steelers defense perfectly. So much so, that the Steelers' stadium staff decided to have a special set up for this song.

The scoreboard would get blacked out at the beginning of a TV timeout and the song would begin to play. 

In black and white slow motion, the jumbo tron would show Steelers players coming out of the tunnel, the screen pulsating to the base beat. When the song would pick up tempo, the screen showed color replays of the more vicious side of the Steelers defense.

Why is this so important to know?

This little song caught on fast because it produced results. When the song was cued, the crowd at Heinz would reach deafening levels and the defense ate it up. Time and time again, the defense would come up with not just a big play after the song, but often a game changing momentum swing.

Take 2008, when Renegade reached it's height in mythical lore. Against the Cowboys, after Styx's anthem blared, Deshea Townsend's pick six off of Tony Romo was the game winning touchdown. 

In the regular season meeting between the Chargers and Steelers, introducing the defensive starters to Renegade led to an amazing Polamalu pick with his fingertips. Styx even made their first trip to Heinz field in order to perform at the beginning of the game. The Steelers came out hot and in the third quarter, the Chargers had only one play. 

According to an intern, the Steelers defense stopped opposing teams from scoring nine out of 10 times on drives when the song was played.

So how do players feel about the song? Most defensive players have it on their iPods. Interns are constantly printing out lyrics for the players and coaches. LaMarr Woodley, the first player shown in the video montage, says he "sometimes looks up to watch."

Hines Ward is the only offensive player shown in the clip as he breaks Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers' jaw.

Jim Harbaugh's staff realized the power this song has at changing momentum. He had the offense and defense practice while the song was played loudly at the Ravens training facility. That was not enough, however, as when the Ravens held a 24-7 lead over the Steelers at the beginning of the third quarter (kind of creepy right?) Renegade blared and the Steelers defense would begin to force turnovers to helped swing momentum the Steelers' way.

According to the staff in charge of Heinz's Field's jumbo-tron, sometimes they just receive a simple call saying "play it." So just a warning to the Green Bay Packers—if the Godzilla of a jumbo-tron in Dallas goes black, you had better watch out, because Hangman is com in' down from the gallows and you don't have very long.