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What Makes Steelers Fans So Loyal

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Throughout the history of the team, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been legendary in their ability to draw in and keep fans. While other cities have to beg and bribe fans to show up in air-conditioned stadiums, the Steelers continue to pack them in despite rain, snow, and mud.

How have they done it? A great deal of the argument is a chicken-or-egg conversation; does the team earn fan loyalty with what they do, or does the fan loyalty inspire the team’s city-friendly decisions?

It doesn’t really matter what came first, of course. What matters is their popularity stretches so far and wide that Terrible Towels wave in all 50 states and uncounted nations. Also, while they get plenty of nationally-televised games, the option of DIRECTV NFL Sunday Max gives every loyal Steelers fan the ability to watch every single game. So even when the fan moves away from the team, the team never moves away from the fan.

They Belong To Our City

In the midst of current discussions about returning a franchise to Los Angeles, several of the roving teams are in the discussion as usual. But one team that’s never, never in those conversations is the Steelers. They are as integral a part of the city as coal dust and the Allegheny, and there’s no chance of them ever making a midnight escape from our city.

That durability in the city has done more than keep our vintage shirts from getting outdated. It has allowed some long-standing rivalries to develop, and it’s the ongoing hatred of divisional rivals or longtime playoff Waterloos that brings everyone back to the stadium year after year. What kind of animosity can ever develop between two teams that have set up in more towns than the broadcast crew?

The Players Have Matched The Town

The type of men who have put on the Steelers helmet have always seemed to match the fabric of the town. Joe Montana’s fur coat would not have made sense on the sidelines of Three Rivers. Don’t expect a Pittsburgh player on the cover of GQ. It’s a lunch-bucket, blue-collar town that loves a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger, who just happens to hail from oil-refining, tire-making Findlay, Ohio. Same geography, same background, same mindset. Big Ben was born to be a Steeler.

And so many of the legends were. There couldn’t be a better match than mouthy, hard-nosed Terry Bradshaw, even if he did hail from the Deep South. Coaches like Cowher fit right in as well. Even the uniforms look like workplace apparel. When people identify with a team, they take ownership and become very devoted.

Simply Put, They Win

With eight AFC championships and victories in six Super Bowls, the Steelers are the envy of nearly every other franchise in the country. And while there is a lot to be said for the diehard fans who won’t give up on the perennial bottom-feeders, there is no arguing that teams who win consistently get and keep their fans.

And they win regardless of the obstacles. This season holds legitimate Super Bowl hopes once again, in spite of lost-time injuries to Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell, and other key personnel. The Wild Card is theirs to lose, and now that a bum thumb on Andy Dalton has the Bengals in a potential tailspin, there’s still no ruling out a finish at the top of the AFC North.

That’s not to say these are fair-weather fans. The towels have waved even when the team’s fortunes have flagged, and it’s safe to say that the drive of these unrelenting fans has been a key part of the team’s resurgence (those few times a resurgence has been necessary).

Some things can be counted on in sports. The Lakers will be in the fight every year. The Cubs will come up short, and the Steelers will pack them in every single year. Great football is just as much a product of Pittsburgh as the steel that named the team.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. DrGeorge

    January 2, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Actually, Matt, Steelers fans are not loyal because the team wins. Our fans were loyal even back in the dark days before 1970, when a winning season was rare. We are loyal because the team is ours. Even when they lose and even when we criticize, they are ours. We care about the team. The black and gold is an extension of ourselves. Yes, we like them to win — but even more than that we want the team to play hard and play well, to the best of their ability, like the blue collar fans themselves.

    Steelers fans are loyal for several reasons. First, because the team reflects the rough and tough image men from Western Pa. like to project. Second, because the team gives the city an instantly recognizable identity, especially with the decline in local importance of beer and steel. Third, because football in Western Pa. is practically a religion, played in a Sunday shrine by the saints of the gridiron. Dads in this region don’t put baseballs and basketballs in a little guy’s crib; they give them little footballs, and teach them a three-point stance before the little tykes can walk. Other sports are entertainment; football is blood.

    In a word, Steelers fans are a little crazy. In a good way. That’s where the term “fans” comes from — “fanatics.” And while the fans are lucky to have this franchise in town, this franchise is equally lucky to have such rabid, caring fans. It is a symbiotic relationship, and the loyalties ought to flow both ways — a point the franchise and the fans should keep continually in mind.

  2. Mark

    January 2, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    I agree Dr.George! The loyalty is incredible. We take our fandom serious. We may bitch but we do not allow non fans the luxury of mocking our team without our quickly jumping to their defense. It’s sometimes tortuous, but it’s forever

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