American Football Database

Steelers Nation is the unofficial name of the fan base of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, coined by NFL Films narrator John Facenda 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 since 1933. That year, Pennsylvania relaxed its blue laws allowing sporting events in the commonwealth on Sundays, paving the way for the Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles to begin play for the 1933 NFL season. Previously, the state had teams in Pottsville and Frankford, but both had already folded, due to both the Great Depression 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 teams in the city, making the team third in the hierarchy to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pitt Panthers. Despite the team's early struggles, it had a small but loyal fan base in the city due to the popularity of American football 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 and the drafting of future Hall of Fame defensive tackle "Mean Joe" Greene. By 1972, the Steelers were a playoff contender and began a sellout streak in Three Rivers Stadium that carried over to Heinz Field and still stands to this day. The team is second to the Washington Redskins for the longest active consecutive sellout streak in league history.[1]

The team's four Super Bowl victories in the 1970s coincided with a recession 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 between the Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys, Phil Musick contrasted the Dallas and Pittsburgh fans by saying that "Dallas is superfan Whistling Ray 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."[2]

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,[3] Frenchy's Foreign Legion,[4][5] Gerela's Gorillas,[6][7][8] Bradshaw's Brigade,[9] Lambert's Lunatics,[10][11][12] Dobre Shunka (Good Ham, for Jack Ham),[13] Rocky and the Flying Squirrels,[14] Shell's Bombers, and Russell's Raiders[15] among others.


File:SB43 parade route.jpg

Steelers fans line the Boulevard of the Allies in downtown Pittsburgh for the Super Bowl XLIII victory parade in February 2009.

Since the 1970s, the Steelers have enjoyed a large fan base and have eclipsed the Pittsburgh Pirates 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, where an columnist suggested that Steelers fans outnumbered Seattle Seahawks fans more than 25 to 1.[16]

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.[17][18]

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 placed the team's fans 21st out of 32 teams in the league,[19] behind all three of its division rivals in the AFC North. 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.[20] 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.[21]

Conversely, a 2008 study from ranked Steelers fans 8th overall, citing amongst other things a long season-ticket waiting list.[22] A 2008 article for ranked Steelers fans as the best in the NFL, citing their "unbelievable" sellout streak of 299 consecutive games.[23][24]


Like other large and vocal fan bases, such as the Cleveland Browns' Dawg Pound, 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.[25] For example, prior to Super Bowl XLIII, the Phoenix New Times 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, they were "white trash" and "hillbillies."[26] Steelers fans have also been singled out by newspapers in rival cities for inappropriate behavior during games[25][27][28] – a common problem in the NFL.[29]

Anti–Steeler Nation sentiment has grown strong enough that in some cases, front offices for other teams have taken steps to keep Pittsburgh fans out of games in their cities.[30] 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.[31] 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.[30] Steelers President Art Rooney II complained to the NFL about the situation, but his grievance was not well received.[30]

Famous fans

Some notable members of Steeler Nation include actress January Jones [7], professional wrestler Kurt Angle,[32] Saturday Night Live head writer Seth Meyers,[33] PGA Tour golfer Jim Furyk,[34] author John Grisham,[35] actor Jake Gyllenhaal,[36] NASCAR racer Jimmie Johnson,[37] former CIA Director Michael Hayden,[38] actor Michael Keaton,[39] talk show host Rush Limbaugh,[40] actor Burt Reynolds,[41] actress Sharon Stone [8] rapper Snoop Dogg,[42] rapper Wiz Khalifa,[43] Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence,[44] World Series MVP pitcher Curt Schilling,[45] Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, actor Verne Troyer,[46] country music legend Hank Williams, Jr.,[47] Rock musician Bret Michaels[48], rapper Mac Miller, singer Christina Aguilera, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams and Mike & Molly star Billy Gardell.

External links


  1. "NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely) – NFL – ESPN". ESPN. August 29, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  2. Musick, Phil (January 20, 1979 (reprinted January 6, 2010)). "Super Bowl Fans Contrast in Style". Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
  3. Dvorchak, Robert (2007-10-07). "In the '70s, new coach, great drafts turned Pittsburgh into City of Champions". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  4. "New Year's resolutions: How are they holding up? – MLB – Baseball". June 11, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  5. Name (required) (January 25, 2009). "Charming Pittsburgh-oriented media #7: No game? No problem. « Here in the Pitts". Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  6. Shontz, Lori (2001-08-01). "Students thrilled their art will hang in Heinz Field". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  7. [1][dead link]
  8. "I know Myron Cope invented the Terrible Towel. But why a towel? – Question submitted by: Mary Sullivan, Point Breeze – Views – You Had to Ask – Pittsburgh City Paper". Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  9. [2][dead link]
  10. Dvorchak, Robert (2007-10-25). "Steelers name 33 players who stand above rest to its All-Time Team". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  11. [3][dead link]
  12. "Bret Michaels Gives His Super Bowl Odds – Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV. January 30, 2009. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  13. "Jack Ham". Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  14. "Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete ... – Lew Freedman, Dick Hoak – Google Books". Google Books. September 15, 2009. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  15. "The Dolphins remained unbeaten and untouched by Pittsburgh miracles, so now all that stands between them and a perfect 17 are the Redskins". CNN. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  16. 6:30 pm ET, February 5, 2006  (February 5, 2006). "ESPN – Steelers get past Seahawks for fifth Super Bowl win in club history – NFL Football Recap". ESPN. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  17. Anderson, Shelly (2007-11-07). "Penguins Notebook: In this case, No. 20 ranking is huge". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  18. Collier, Gene (2008-05-25). "This is Hockeytown?". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  19. Thomas, G. Scott (2006-09-04). "Full fan loyalty rankings". Bizjournals. Retrieved 2009-02-06.[dead link]
  20. Thomas, G. Scott (2006-09-04). "NFL Fan Support Rankings". Bizjournals. Retrieved 2009-02-06.[dead link]
  21. Carlisle, Anthony Todd (1997-01-27). "Steelers fans aren't all that super, according to study". Pittsburgh Business Times (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): p. 5.
  22. Woolsey, Matt (2008-09-01). "America's Most Die-Hard Football Fans". Forbes. Retrieved 2009-02-08.
  23. "ESPN ranks Steelers fans No. Steelers are also number one ranked team for selling the most jersies and commerical merchandise. 1". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 2008-08-30. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  24. Mosley, Matt (2008-08-29). "NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)". ESPN. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Giro, Tony (2009-01-15). "Why do we hate Steelers fans? Let me count the reasons". The Baltimore Examiner (Balitmore, Md.). Retrieved 2009-01-31.[dead link]
  26. Cizmar, Martin (2009-07-27). "Arizona Cardinals Fans, You'd Better Get Ferocious or Steeler Nation Will Eat You Alive". Phoenix New Times (Phoenix, Arizona). Retrieved 2009-02-04.
  27. Forrester, Paul (2007-11-07). "NFL Fan Value Experience: Pittsburgh Steelers". Retrieved 2009-02-10.
  28. Cook, Ron (1994-12-18). "O'Donnell can't control critics or crazy bounces". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): p. D1.
  29. McCarthy, Michael (2008-08-06). "NFL unveils new code of conduct for its fans". USA Today (McLean, Virginia.). Retrieved 2009-02-10.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Bendel, Joe (2006-04-07). "Rooney: Opposing teams discriminate Steelers fans". Pittsburgh Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
  31. Bendel, Joe (2005-10-06). "Steelers are hot ticket in town". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): p. D3.,3985394. Retrieved 2009-02-19.[dead link]
  32. [4][dead link]
  33. A. D. (July 16, 2007), "Andy Samberg". Sports Illustrated. 107 (2):2
  34. "Video". CNN. 2007-06-25. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  35. "Grisham's latest fiction provokes Duquesne University". January 30, 2009. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  36. Linn, Virginia (2009-12-04). "Jake Gyllenhaal gets Steelers tattoo after stay in city". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  37. "Jimmie Johnson". CNN.
  38. [5][dead link]
  40. [6][dead link]
  42. # ESPN – Another great improviser: Snoop Dogg on Romo – NFL
  43. "Wiz Khalifa – Black And Yellow [Official Music Video". YouTube. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  44. "Rhode Island, Providence, news, sports, entertainment, ads | | The Providence Journal". October 14, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  45. "Boston Red Sox Nation: Steel Curt". February 3, 2006. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  46. "| Top News, sport, football, celebrities, dating and entertainment |". Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  48. "Steelers fan Bret Michaels ready to party at playoffs". Fox News. 2011-01-11.

This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Steeler Nation.
The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with American Football Database, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.