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Steeler Nation

Steeler Nation

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Steeler Nation is the unofficial name of the fan
Fan (person)
A Fan, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person with a liking and enthusiasm for something, such as a band or a sports team. Fans of a particular thing or person constitute its fanbase or fandom...

 base of the NFL's
National Football League
The National Football League is the highest level of professional American football in the United States, and is considered the top professional American football league in the world. It was formed by eleven teams in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association, with the league changing...

 Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a professional football team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The team currently belongs to the North Division of the American Football Conference in the National Football League . Founded in , the Steelers are the oldest franchise in the AFC...

, coined by NFL Films
NFL Films
NFL Films is a Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based company devoted to producing commercials, television programs, feature films, and documentaries on the National Football League, as well as other unrelated major events and awards shows...

 narrator John Facenda
John Facenda
John Thomas Ralph Augustine James Facenda was an American broadcaster and sports announcer. He was a fixture on Philadelphia radio and television for decades, and achieved national fame as a narrator for NFL Films and Football Follies...

 in "Blueprint for Victory," the team's 1975 highlights film. Steelers Country is often used for the Pittsburgh area where the fan base originates or for areas with a large Steelers fan base.

Early years

The Steelers have had a following in Western Pennsylvania
Western Pennsylvania
Western Pennsylvania consists of the western third of the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. Pittsburgh is the largest city in the region, with a metropolitan area population of about 2.4 million people, and serves as its economic and cultural center. Erie, Altoona, and Johnstown are its...

 since 1933. That year, Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 relaxed its blue law
Blue law
A blue law is a type of law, typically found in the United States and, formerly, in Canada, designed to enforce religious standards, particularly the observance of Sunday as a day of worship or rest, and a restriction on Sunday shopping...

s allowing sporting events in the commonwealth on Sundays, paving the way for the Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles are a professional American football team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They are members of the East Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League...

 to begin play for the 1933 NFL season
1933 NFL season
The 1933 NFL season was the 14th regular season of the National Football League. Because of the success of the 1932 NFL Playoff Game, the league divided its teams into two divisions for the first time, with the winners of each division playing in a championship game to determine the NFL champion...

. Previously, the state had teams in Pottsville
Pottsville, Pennsylvania
Pottsville is the only city in and the county seat of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 15,549 at the 2000 census. The city lies along the west bank of the Schuylkill River, north-west of Philadelphia...

 and Frankford
Frankford, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Frankford is a large and important neighborhood in the lower Northeast section of Philadelphia situated about six miles northeast of Center City. Although its borders are vaguely defined, the neighborhood is bounded roughly by the original course of Frankford Creek, now roughly Adams to Aramingo...

, but both had already folded, due to both the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 and their inability to play on Sunday, when most NFL games took place.

Much like the league itself in the early years, the Steelers had to compete with baseball and college football
College football
College football refers to American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by American universities, colleges, and military academies, or Canadian football played by teams of student athletes fielded by Canadian universities...

 teams in the city, making the team third in the hierarchy to the Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a Major League Baseball club based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They play in the Central Division of the National League, and are five-time World Series Champions...

 and the Pitt Panthers
Pittsburgh Panthers football
Pittsburgh Panthers football is the intercollegiate football team of the University of Pittsburgh, often referred to as "Pitt", located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Traditionally the most popular sport at the university, Pitt football has played at the highest level of American college football...

. Despite the team's early struggles, it had a small but loyal fan base in the city due to the popularity of American football
American football
American football is a sport played between two teams of eleven with the objective of scoring points by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone. Known in the United States simply as football, it may also be referred to informally as gridiron football. The ball can be advanced by...

 at all levels, dating back to the 1800s, when Pittsburgh hosted the first wholly professional football game in 1895.

Rise of the Steelers

By the 1950s, the Steelers had gained some popularity in the city and were on par with Pitt, but they were still a distant second behind the Pirates in the city.

In the early 1970s, the Steelers began to rise in popularity. 1969 saw the hiring of head coach Chuck Noll
Chuck Noll
Charles Henry "Chuck" Noll is a former professional American football player and coach, and a member of the Sid Gillman coaching tree. He served most notably as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League from 1969 to 1991...

 and the drafting of future Hall of Fame
Pro Football Hall of Fame
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the hall of fame of professional football in the United States with an emphasis on the National Football League . It opened in Canton, Ohio, on September 7, 1963, with 17 charter inductees...

 defensive tackle "Mean Joe" Greene
Joe Greene (American football)
Charles Edward Greene, known as “Mean Joe” Greene, is a former all-pro American football defensive tackle who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL. Throughout the early 1970s he was the one of most dominant defensive players in the National Football League...

. By 1972
1972 Pittsburgh Steelers season
The 1972 Pittsburgh Steelers season was the 40th in franchise history. The team went 11–3 that season, and won their first-ever AFC Central Division title.-Depth chart:-Schedule:- Week 1 : Oakland Raiders :...

, the Steelers were a playoff contender and began a sellout streak in Three Rivers Stadium
Three Rivers Stadium
Three Rivers Stadium was a multi-purpose stadium located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1970 to 2000. It was home to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the city's Major League Baseball franchise and National Football League franchise respectively.Built as a replacement to...

 that carried over to Heinz Field
Heinz Field
Heinz Field is a stadium located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It primarily serves as the home to the Pittsburgh Steelers and University of Pittsburgh Panthers American football teams, members of the National Football League and National Collegiate Athletic Association respectively...

 and still stands to this day. The team is second to the Washington Redskins
Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins are a professional American football team and members of the East Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League . The team plays at FedExField in Landover, Maryland, while its headquarters and training facility are at Redskin Park in Ashburn,...

 for the longest active consecutive sellout streak in league history.

The team's four Super Bowl victories in the 1970s coincided with the a recession
In economics, a recession is a business cycle contraction, a general slowdown in economic activity. During recessions, many macroeconomic indicators vary in a similar way...

 that struck the United States, and the city in particular, that would lead to the closure of several steel mills in the early 1980s. The team's success was credited with giving people in the city hope and leading to the increased fan base. Due to economic uncertainty in the area, many Steelers fans relocated to other areas but retained their identification with the Steelers as a reflection of their former hometown's steel industrial base.

During the lead up to Super Bowl XIII
Super Bowl XIII
Super Bowl XIII was an American football game played on January 21, 1979 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida to decide the National Football League champion following the 1978 regular season...

 between the Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are a professional American football franchise which plays in the Eastern Division of the National Football Conference of the National Football League . They are headquartered in Valley Ranch in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas...

, Phil Musick contrasted the Dallas and Pittsburgh fans by saying that "Dallas is superfan Whistling Ray
Crazy Ray
Crazy Ray was the unofficial mascot of the Dallas Cowboys. By some accounts, he was also the team's original mascot, who attended almost every home game since the team's inception.-History:...

 and a hat that sprays the unsuspecting with water; Pittsburgh is a guy in a gorilla suit who'll stove five of your ribs if you laugh at him."

Player fan clubs

In the 1970s many fans organized fan clubs for their favorite players. Some of these fan clubs included Franco's Italian Army
Franco Harris
Franco Harris is a former American football player. He played his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks.In the 1972 NFL Draft he was chosen by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round, the 13th selection overall...

, Frenchy's Foreign Legion, Gerela's Gorillas
Roy Gerela
Roy Gerela is a former American football placekicker best known for his years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, with whom he won three Super Bowl rings....

, Bradshaw's Brigade
Terry Bradshaw
Terry Paxton Bradshaw is a former American football quarterback with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League . He played 14 seasons. He is a football analyst and co-host of Fox NFL Sunday...

, Lambert's Lunatics, Dobre Shunka (Good Ham, for Jack Ham), Rocky and the Flying Squirrels, Shell's Bombers
Donnie Shell
Donnie Shell is a former American Football strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League between 1974 and 1987. Shell was a member of the Steelers famed Steel Curtain defense in the 1970s.Shell retired as the NFL strong safety career leader in interceptions with 51...

, and Russell's Raiders among others.


Since the 1970s, the Steelers have enjoyed a large fan base and have eclipsed the Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a Major League Baseball club based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They play in the Central Division of the National League, and are five-time World Series Champions...

 as the most popular sports team in Pittsburgh. While the team's success gained it a large fan base nationally, many consider the collapse of the city's steel industry to have been a cause for the strong fan base in other cities, demonstrated when teams whose home turnout would otherwise require a local blackout on television end up selling out when hosting the Steelers. An instance of the team's large fan base was at Super Bowl XL
Super Bowl XL
Super Bowl XL was an American football game pitting the American Football Conference champion Pittsburgh Steelers against the National Football Conference champion Seattle Seahawks to decide the National Football League champion for the 2005 season...

, where an ESPN.com columnist suggested that Steelers fans outnumbered Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks are a professional American football team based in Seattle, Washington. They are currently members of the Western Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League . The team joined the NFL in 1976 as an expansion team...

 fans more than 25 to 1.

In November 2007, a study by Turnkey Sports found that the Steelers brand was the strongest in its local market of any team in the NHL, NBA, MLB or NFL.

Comparison to other NFL fan bases

Attempts at quantifying the loyalty of Steeler Nation relative to other NFL fan bases have shown mixed results. A 2006 study by the American City Business Journals
American City Business Journals
American City Business Journals is an American newspaper chain based in Charlotte, North Carolina owned by Advance Publications. It has a range of media including 41 primary metropolitan weekly publications, which reach 4 million readers with business community related news, and Bizjournals, the...

 placed the team's fans 21st out of 32 teams in the league, behind all three of its division rivals in the AFC North
AFC North
The American Football Conference North Division, or AFC North, is a division of the National Football League's American Football Conference. It was created prior to the 1967 season as the NFL Century Division when the NFL split into four divisions...

. The study found that although the team had been selling out games for years, some fans were not actually attending the games, and Pittsburgh's weekly turnout percentage for home games was 16th in the league. That ranking was down seven slots from the publication's survey conducted in 1997, which ranked Steelers Nation 14th out of 30 teams, partly due to fans leaving nearly 10 percent of the seats in the stadium empty.

Conversely, a 2008 study from Forbes.com ranked Steelers fans 8th overall, citing amongst other things a long season-ticket waiting list. A 2008 article for ESPN.com ranked Steelers fans as the best in the NFL, citing their "unbelievable" sellout streak of 299 consecutive games.


Like other large and vocal fan bases, such as the Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are a professional football team based in Cleveland, Ohio. They are currently members of the North Division of the American Football Conference in the National Football League...

' Dawg Pound
Dawg Pound
The Dawg Pound is the name of the bleacher section behind the east end zone in Cleveland Browns Stadium, the home field of the Cleveland Browns. It is known for its extremely zealous fan base.-Formation:...

, Steeler Nation has at times been presented in an unflattering light, especially by fans of other teams. They have occasionally been described in unflattering terms by sports journalists in other cities. For example, prior to Super Bowl XLIII
Super Bowl XLIII
Super Bowl XLIII was an American football game pitting the American Football Conference champion Pittsburgh Steelers against the National Football Conference champion Arizona Cardinals to decide the National Football League champion for the 2008 season. The game was played on February 1, 2009,...

, the Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times
The Phoenix New Times is a free, weekly Phoenix, Arizona newspaper, put out every Thursday. It is the founding publication of the New Times Media , but The Village Voice is now the flagship publication of that company....

warned readers that Steelers fans were the "grubbiest, loudest, and nastiest fan base in all of sports – as well as one of the largest" and that as the only NFL fanbase in Appalachia
Appalachia is a term used to describe a cultural region in the eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York state to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. While the Appalachian Mountains stretch from Belle Isle in Canada to Cheaha Mountain in the U.S...

, they were "white trash
White trash
White trash is an American English pejorative term referring to poor white people in the United States, suggesting lower social class and degraded living standards...

" and "hillbillies." Steelers fans have also been singled out by newspapers in rival cities for inappropriate behavior during games – a common problem in the NFL.

Anti–Steeler Nation sentiment has grown strong enough that in some cases, front office
Front office
Front office is a business term that refers to a company's departments that come in contact with clients, including the marketing, sales, and service departments...

s for other teams have taken steps to keep Pittsburgh fans out of games in their cities. Instead of being permitted to buy tickets to a Chargers-Steelers game in San Diego, for instance, they were required to pay for tickets to two other games, as well. In other cases, teams refused to sell tickets to fans calling from Pittsburgh's 412 area code, and they encouraged fans who were selling their own tickets to do the same. Steelers President Art Rooney II
Art Rooney II
Arthur Joseph "Art" Rooney II is the president and co-owner of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.-Biography:Rooney is the oldest of nine children of Dan and Patricia Rooney. The Rooney family has owned the Steelers since the team's founding by Art II's grandfather and namesake Art Rooney in 1933...

 complained to the NFL about the situation, but his grievance was not well received.

Famous fans

Some notable members of Steeler Nation include actress January Jones
January Jones
January Kristen Jones is an American actress. She is best known for playing Betty Draper on Mad Men.-Early life:...

 http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-february-15-2011/january-jones, professional wrestler Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle
Kurt Steven Angle is an American professional wrestler, amateur wrestler, and 1996 Olympic gold medalist. He is currently under contract with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, where he is recognized as a 15-time World Heavyweight Champion...

, Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...

 head writer Seth Meyers
Seth Meyers
Seth Adam Meyers is an American actor and comedian. He currently serves as head writer for Saturday Night Live and hosts its news parody segment Weekend Update.-Early life:...

, PGA Tour
PGA Tour
The PGA Tour is the organizer of the main men's professional golf tours in the United States and North America...

 golfer Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk
James Michael Furyk is an American professional golfer, 2010 FedEx Cup champion, and 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year. He has won one major championship, the 2003 U.S. Open. Furyk is known for consistently playing at the top level and for a visibly unconventional, looping golf swing...

, author John Grisham
John Grisham
John Ray Grisham, Jr. is an American lawyer and author, best known for his popular legal thrillers.John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981 and practiced criminal law for about a decade...

, actor Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal
Jacob Benjamin "Jake" Gyllenhaal is an American actor. The son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, Gyllenhaal began acting at age ten...

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is a family-owned and -operated business venture that sanctions and governs multiple auto racing sports events. It was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1947–48. As of 2009, the CEO for the company is Brian France, grandson of the late Bill France Sr...

 racer Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Kenneth Johnson is an American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race car driver. He currently drives the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports....

, former CIA Director
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency serves as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, which is part of the United States Intelligence Community. The Director reports to the Director of National Intelligence . The Director is assisted by the Deputy Director of the Central...

 Michael Hayden
Michael Hayden
Michael Vincent Hayden, is a retired United States Air Force four-star general and former Director of the National Security Agency and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency...

, actor Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton
Michael John Douglas , better known by the stage name Michael Keaton, is an American actor known for his early comedic roles, most notably his performance as the title character of Tim Burton's Beetlejuice . Keaton is also famous for his dramatic portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman in Tim Burton's...

, talk show host Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh
Rush Hudson Limbaugh III is an American radio talk show host, conservative political commentator, and an opinion leader in American conservatism. He hosts The Rush Limbaugh Show which is aired throughout the U.S. on Premiere Radio Networks and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United...

, actor Burt Reynolds
Burt Reynolds
Burton Leon "Burt" Reynolds, Jr. is an American actor. Some of his memorable roles include Bo 'Bandit' Darville in Smokey and the Bandit, Lewis Medlock in Deliverance, Bobby "Gator" McCluskey in White Lightning and sequel Gator, Paul Crewe and Coach Nate Scarborough in The Longest Yard and its...

, rapper Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg
Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. , better known by his stage name Snoop Dogg, is an American rapper, record producer, and actor. Snoop is best known as a rapper in the West Coast hip hop scene, and for being one of Dr. Dre's most notable protégés. Snoop Dogg was a Crip gang member while in high school...

, rapper Wiz Khalifa
Wiz Khalifa
Cameron Jibril Thomaz , better known by the stage name Wiz Khalifa , is an American rapper. He released his debut album, Show and Prove, in 2006, and signed to Warner Bros. Records in 2007...

, Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, World Series MVP pitcher Curt Schilling
Curt Schilling
Curtis Montague "Curt" Schilling is a former American Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher. He helped lead the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series in and won World Series championships in with the Arizona Diamondbacks and in and with the Boston Red Sox. Schilling retired with a...

, actor Verne Troyer
Verne Troyer
Verne J. Troyer is an American stand-up comedian, actor, stuntman and performer, best known for playing Mini-Me in the Austin Powers series...

, country music legend Hank Williams, Jr.
Hank Williams, Jr.
Randall Hank Williams , better known as Hank Williams, Jr. and Bocephus, is an American country singer-songwriter and musician. His musical style is often considered a blend of Southern rock, blues, and traditional country...

, Rock musician Bret Michaels
Bret Michaels
Bret Michaels is an American musician, actor, director, screenwriter, producer and reality television personality. He first gained fame as the lead vocalist of the glam metal band Poison. Besides his career as lead singer, he has several solo albums to his credit, as well as one chart single...

., rapper Mac Miller
Mac Miller
Malcolm McCormick , known by his stage name Mac Miller , is an American rapper from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania...

, and Olympic
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

 gymnast Shawn Johnson
Shawn Johnson
Shawn Machel Johnson is an American artistic gymnast. She was the 2008 Olympic balance beam gold medalist and all-around, and floor exercise silver medalist, the 2007 all-around World Champion, and the 2007 and 2008 U.S. all-around champion...

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