Being a Steelers fan is a Tradition like None Other

By Wig

Often during game telecasts, sports analysts will remark about the amazing regularity with which Steeler fans travel. They marvel at the ridiculous distances these fanatical “Burghers” will go in order to watch their beloved Steelers play. This of course is ridiculous. Steeler fans travel relatively well, perhaps even somewhat better than other franchise’s fans. But the truth is, when the Steelers show up for an away game, many of their fans are already there.

The reason of course is no great secret. The building of a vast network of Steeler fandom has taken decades and generations. Furthermore this massive human engineering project has exacted a cost in hardship, but it was also forged through joy and celebration. Those elements were not enough though. Like the hypocycloids that represent the team there are three components to both the Steeler fanbase’s huge size and longevity. We’ve mentioned briefly hardship as well as celebration. The final component is continuity.

Determining what came first, the chicken or the egg is not at all difficult with the Steelers and their fans. Hardship was the first hypocycloid. Gold in color, there was nothing heartwarming about the abysmal record of the team in the early years. To say the Steelers were terrible would have been a dramatic understatement. Of course any Steeler fan worth his or her salt knows the story so belaboring it isn’t necessary. The Steelers were terrible and times were rough. Sadly, fate can be ironically cruel in ways you can’t quite foresee.

Against all expectations and even hope, things improved. In fact they didn’t just improve they exploded! The second hypocycloid era of the Steelers ushered in an era of unprecedented domination. Not only were the Steelers WINNING games. They were winning Superbowls. And better yet, they were one of the most feared defensive teams ever assembled. Seemingly, out of nowhere, the previously pathetic Steelers were an unmatched team of unimaginable and indomitable force that represented the blue collar town of Pittsburgh in a way that couldn’t have been better written by a pulitzer author. There was glory, there was pride, there was redemption for all the years of sticking with such a terrible team. But more important than all of that, there was a deep down respect for the blue-collar feel of the team. These weren’t the Dallas Cowboys. This was a working man’s team. This team featured a defense that pretty much single-handedly managed a season while the offense was hampered by critical injuries and skill position in-fighting. This team featured a running back who had lost part of his foot in Viet-frickin-Nam and came back to be part of a powerful one-two punch in a running game that punished other teams that “pretended” to be as hard-nosed as the Steelers. This team featured a quarterback who could get pummeled, throw 2 or 3, perhaps even 4 interceptions in a critical game and STILL come back and kill you in the waning seconds with a throw to a guy who used to dance ballet! BALLET, you say? He MUST have been soft! No, this team featured a former ballet dancer turned receiver who could take the other team’s best shot and STILL make the most ridiculous circus catch you’d ever seen in your life and spin his way into the end zone. And he was the 2ND receiver. The 1st receiver was the TOUGH Guy!

Yes, those were glorious years and they built tremendous love and loyalty among the “Burghers” and even some fans from around the country began to watch and love those Steelers, perhaps as bandwagon fans at first, perhaps because there are hard-working middle class folks in every state in the country and who doesn’t identify with a guy like Rocky Bleier or Mel Blount? Who doesn’t respect a QB like Terry Bradshaw who may have thrown 3 interceptions in a Super Bowl but still goes in to the huddle and calls a play to exploit a deep route if the line can just give him a moment or two and if he can just move around in the pocket long enough?

And then the steel industry crashed. And people lost their jobs and families lost their homes. It seemed like that yellow hypocycloid was trying to come back to the forefront.

People from the area had to move. Some moved to nearby areas, some moved to what my Mom used to call “Hell and Gone”. And when they moved, they took their love of the Steelers with them. They moved in droves. By the hundreds, by the thousands. And everywhere they went, they took their love of the Steelers. And in time, their families grew. And their values stuck and their love of Steeler football spread to their families and friends and pockets of Steeler Nation fandom began to take root. Slowly but surely. In some cases they found entirely new ground. In others, they found receptive homes where some of those “bandwagon fans” were still a little positive about that Blue-collar Pittsburgh team. And who argues with a yinzer when he’s cheering on his team?

Well there’s one thing that can kill a budding fan movement. That’s a bad team. And with only a few exceptions, the Steelers have avoided that. The third hypocycloid represents the Steelers willingness and ability to consistently produce competitive, even good teams. Truthfully, it has never been too difficult to be a Steeler fan because practically every season offers an opportunity to compete for the playoffs. The fact that the Rooney’s have invested so much effort and care into creating a stable and consistent franchise has meant as much for the fanbase as anything. True, the Steelers don’t often make big splashes in free agency. Sure they lose some great and well loved players just a bit before we fans would like sometimes. But the trade-off is manageable cap-situations, stability in key positions and regular opportunities to compete in the post-season. All that leads to a strong and healthy fan base. The Pittsburgh Steelers are not just a great team, they are a team that is run very well. And that third hypocycloid means fans in virtually every stadium because by the time our beloved Steelers arrive for an away game… We’re already here!

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