Bleeding Black and Gold Since Birth: A Lifelong Steeler Fan's Story

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IMay 7, 2009

PITTSBURGH - FEBRUARY 7:  A very young Pittsburgh Steelers fan waits for the start of the parade celebrating the win at Super Bowl XL in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 7, 2006.  (Photo by Archie Carpenter/Getty Images)

I was only six months old when Franco Harris changed the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers with the Immaculate Reception. I was sitting on my Dad's lap, watching the Steelers win their first playoff game, starting the ball rolling on a dynasty that is known as one of the best ever.

My earliest memory of the Steelers is going to my Unlce Bo's house to watch the Steelers play the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl

He had just purchased his first VCR, and was going to record the game.  While all of my cousins were playing in the room, I sat with all of the adults in the living room.

My Mom tried to convince me that I wanted to go play with the kids.  Not that she didn't want me to watch the game, she just knew the language that would be on display for my young ears.

After some reasoning from my Dad, Mom settled down with a strict warning to my Uncles to what they say.

That was the real beginning of my love for the Steelers.  My blood was officially Black and Gold.

My Dad was a Pittsburgh Police officer.  One of his jobs there was to police various parks in the city.

One day, as he was walking around the park, he saw a man taking a walk.  As he got closer, he saw that it was Art Rooney.

My Dad approached Mr. Rooney hoping to get an autograph.  Much to his surprise, Mr. Rooney stopped and talked him.

My Dad told him how our entire family is Steeler fans, and Mr. Rooney thanked him.

Mr. Rooney asked my dad about his family, and he told him about me and my sisters.  My Dad said how we all loved the team, but how crazy I was about them.

How I used to play in the living room, pretending I was Terry Bradshaw, throwing the ball (a bunch of socks balled together) to Lynn Swann (also myself) and scoring the winning touchdown to bring home "one for the thumb."

Mr. Rooney asked my Dad if we ever got to go to any games, my Dad told him that we really couldn't afford it.  Mr. Rooney told my Dad that that Sunday, he would leave two tickets for him at the box office.

My Dad didn't tell me where we were going until we were on the way.  I almost jumped out of my skin.

When we arrived at Three Rivers, we went to the ticket office.  The cashier told my Dad he was going to have to wait a minute, and someone would be with us in a moment.

My first thought was, oh no.

About two minutes later, a man in a suite showed up and introduced himself to my Dad.  He was one of the security guards for the team and he asked us to come with him.

We went in through a side door, into a long hallway.  As we walked down the hallway, the gentlemen said he was sorry Mr. Rooney could not meet us, but he wanted to let him know how much he appreciates the Police and all they do.

When we got to the end of the hallway, there were double doors with a Pittsburgh Steelers only sign on it.

The security guard said we only have about 10 minutes, then we would have to go to our seats.

When he opened the doors, it was to the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room.  I couldn't believe it.

When we walked in, I was face to face with my idols.

Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, "Mean" Joe Green.  ALL OF THEM.

I got to shake a bunch of hands.  Many of them messed up my hair.  It was an experience that I will never forget.

That Sunday, Pittsburgh beat the Cleveland Browns 16-13.

My Dad retired from the Pittsburgh Police about three years later, and we moved to Florida.  My blood never changed colors.

Down here, there really isn't one pro team that is followed.  There are many Cowboy fans and 49ers fans.  A lot for the Jets and Giants.

During the '80s and '90s, when Pittsburgh kept coming close, but never winning that "one for the thumb", my friends gave me a lot of grief. 

How can you keep rooting for them?  They haven't won in years.

And they were right.

But my blood still bleed Black and Gold.

As I became an adult, my three best friends were a Redskins fan, a Patriots fan, and a Steelers fan.

As the Pats started their own dynasty in the early part of the decade, I had to endure how the Steelers were a thing of the past.  Their days of dominance were over, as they said.

Then it happened.  The road to Super Bowl XL.

We snuck into the playoffs, winning our last four games to qualify for the postseason. We had to play the Bengals first.

We go into Cincinnati, take out Carson Palmer, and proceed to knock out the number three team in the playoffs.

Next up: Indianapolis Colts.

After dominating the Colts for the first three and a half quarters, Troy Polamalu intercepts Peyton Manning pass, for possession of the ball and possibly the ability to run out the clock.

After review, the ball is given back to the Colts, who proceed to take the ball down field, score a TD and get the two point conversion, cutting the lead to three.

After getting the ball back close to one yard away, I thought, RIDE THE BUS, BABY!  Bettis gets the ball, runs right, FUMBLE!

I look at my friend Matt (the Steeler fan) and say, "not like this."

As Ben makes the game saving tackle, I felt another year slipping away.

Manning drives the Colts for a game-tying field goal.  Mike Vandergjat takes the field, TIME OUT!

At this point I am crouched behind the couch with just my head able to see the television.

The kick is up, WIDE RIGHT!

Pittsburgh beats the top seeded Colts, and will travel to Denver to play the Broncos.

Pittsburgh pounds the Broncos, the No. 2 seed, to play the Seattle Seahawks, the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

My Patriot friend Kosta had the Super Bowl party, as he does every year.  His house was overtaken by Steeler fans.

As the game went on, I kept hearing how Big Ben was going to blow the game for us.  But when it ended, the lifetime of anticipation was finally over.

Pittsburgh had finally won one for the thumb.

This past season, we decided to have the Super Bowl party at my house.

We set up our garage as Steeler Central.  We put the big screen out there.  Couches, Steeler flags, jerseys, we even had Iron City Beer cans filled with BB's to shake.  It was a sight.

Prior to half time, I looked at my sister as she told me Arizona was going to score.  I said we have the best defense in football, we can hold them.

Just as my James Harrison intercepts the ball, my son comes outside to talk to me about his girlfriend.  I told him SHUT UP, YOUR MISSING THIS!  I mean, sure he is important, but this is the Steelers.

Harrison runs up the sideline, TD!  But wait, there is a flag.

WHAT! You have to be kidding me!

Personal foul against the Cardinals.  YES!

But, wait.  There is a review on the play to see if Harrison is down before he got in the end zone.

Of course, it was a touchdown.  His head hit inside the pylon!

Remember the Troy Polamalu interception of Peyton Manning?  Nothing is official until the ref says it is.

Then the argument went, would we get another play, or would the half be over?  Literally everyone in the garage disagreed with me that we would get one play from half the distance to the goal because of the penalty.

The ref comes out—After further review, the players head was down after it crossed the goal line—TOUCHDOWN!

Phil Simms confirmed that I was right, and if Harrison wasn't in the end zone we would have had one play left.

In the fourth quarter, when Larry Fitzgerald scored the go-ahead touchdown, my sister looked at me as if she lost her dog.

I said, we paid Big Ben $100 million for this exact situation. If he is worth it, we win.

Again, I take my place behind the couch, with only my head able to see the TV.

Ben takes the Steelers the length of the field, to Santonio Holmes, TOUCHDOWN!

But wait, it is under review.

Of course it was a touchdown.  He clearly had the ball with both feet down.  But wait, remember the Troy Polamalu interception of Peyton Manning?  Nothings official until the ref calls it.

After review, the receiver had position, with both feet down, TOUCHDOWN!

As everyone, except my Dallas Cowboy brother in law was jumping up and down screaming, I said, WAIT, they still have 30 seconds.

When LaMar Woodley strip sacked Kurt Warner, and we hurried onto the field to take the "Victory" knee, it meant that Pittsburgh had done it.

We had returned to the top rung of the ladder.  Just as we were the only team with four rings in the 70's, today we are the only ones with six.

And as Mike Tomlin said in the post game interview, Steeler Nation is a part of this success.

Because we all bleed Black and Gold!


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