Steeler Nation: The Story of the Fans

Charlie CoxCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2008

A sea of terrible towels waved and a loud cheer erupted from the stands as the Pittsburgh Steelers took the field in Detroit, Michigan for Super Bowl XL. However, this is the story for every away game; the Steeler fans almost outnumber the home team in every city.

NFL experts classify this as a team that travels well. The Steeler fans don't travel, they're already there.

The city of Pittsburgh, nicknamed the City of Bridges, serves the city well acting as a metaphor linking Pittsburgh's blue sky to it's proud past.

At the end of the 1970s, Pittsburgh had not just hoisted four Lombardi trophies, but the Pirates had also won the World Series. Yet a black cloud of despair hung over the Super City.

The 70s were the best years for Pittsburgh; any Pittsburgh native would say it was the center of the universe.

The economy was booming with high production of steel, and the Super Steelers gave an image to the Pittsburghers of more than just mill workers. Bradshaw passed all over the field to Lynn Swan and John Stallworth who caught anything and everything thrown to them. Franco Harris's immaculate reception and the Steel Curtain made Pittsburgh a football fanatic's haven.

However, the good times didn't last long; the steel industry collapsed and the economy of Pittsburgh dropped instantly making that black cloud only darker. The city was in a depression, emotionally and economically.

Simon & Garfunkel sings a song, "I was boardin a greyhound to Pittsburgh lookin for America," but that was the complete opposite.

The city of Pittsburgh had a mass exodus of over 40% of the population looking for America, and looking for jobs. The Sun-Belt was flourishing with opportunities. The city migrated to California, Texas, and Florida, just to name a few, displacing many fans.

Yet, things only got worse. After the high of Chuck Noll's four Super Bowl wins in six years, nobody thought it would be another 20 years until there was another one.

The 80s ran dry, and Noll's legacy was over, and Pittsburgh was losing hope. But all was not lost as a big-chinned Bill Cowher took over Noll's dynasty.

With playoff trips numerous times, the Steelers were finally rewarded with a Super Bowl, but fell short, a growing trend under the Bill Cowher era that prolonged through his tenure as coach.

In February of 2000, times only got worse. Three Rivers Stadium and 28 years of history was torn down in less than 3 seconds. The city of Pittsburgh was on the verge of bankruptcy, desperately looking for refuge.

Not too long after, the city and the fans got their wish. The Steelers, as the six seed wild card, won three straight road games to take Jerome Bettis back home to Detroit for Super Bowl XL.

After 28 years of waiting, the fans got the one for the thumb. Pittsburgh defeated the Seattle Seahawks for their fifth Super Bowl victory, elevating the depression from the City of Champions.

The fans of Pittsburgh had been scattered all over and displaced. When one is displaced, it looks for something familiar, and that's what Steeler fans did.

Any major city in the U.S. will have a Steeler bar; every game will have a Black and Gold Club.

The city of Pittsburgh and its fans are built around the Steelers, for they are more than a team; they are a symbol of hope, and Steeler fans will always cherish and support their them.

Just as Bill Cowher said, "You can take people out of Pittsburgh, but you can never take Pittsburgh out of people."