A lot of people consider themselves a great Steelers fan. I know my own level of love for the Steelers as a fan for parts of five decades. I’m always hearing people boast about how great of an athletic supporter they are, even though they have no clue who the General Manager is, or who Pittsburgh selected in the draft. I never will burst anyone’s bubble, but I hear a lot about how intense a fan somebody’s friend or family member is. In fact, the amount of “Biggest Steeler Fans Ever” eclipses the amount of people that lied about going to Woodstock in 1969.
For those of you that want to pass yourself off as #beststeelerfanever, here is a ten-point plan to help you achieve that goal.
1) Boast your fandom with an exorbitant amount of merch.
Nothing tells peeps that you’re a great Steeler fan like your car, house or body. If I’m driving down the road and see a bumper adorned with a black-and-gold “Stairway To Seven” bumper sticker...I know three things right away. A) That Ford Fiesta owner is a true “Stillers” fan, B) One false move and I’m getting the middle finger unless they see my vehicle swag and C) Obviously their kid isn’t an honor student at Yinzer Elementary School or that would be displayed as well.
The problem here is that that stuff gets expensive after a while, and you may be dooming yourself to black-and-gold giftdom for life. My friend once expressed his admiration for John F. Kennedy in the late 80s. His mom bought him everything JFK for years. Moms, wives, aunts and sisters like to have a buying theme. When you start purchasing one or two Steeler items to display, overzealous friends and family will buy you anything with the hypocycloids on it. My female family members have presented me with great stuff over the years. But I’ve also unwrapped gems like a Steeler garden gnome, a crocheted Steeler fly swatter (craft shows and Etsy stores exploit sports fan family gift givers) and Steeler steak knives. I’m grateful for the gifts, but if a Steeler enema kit comes my way for my birthday...I may have to speak up.
2) Listen to the radio broadcast even if you are watching it on television.
Many a Steeler fan prefers the soothing sounds of Bill Hillgrove and Tunch Ilkin instead of some network schmoes. A team’s radio network knows more intimate details of the game. I remember when I went to games in the 90s. We sat behind a guy we called “phony” for two reasons. He wore headphones every game and quoted Myron and Bill tidbits and passed it off as his own. Brilliant! Invisible ear buds and regurgitating facts without anybody’s knowledge is paramount to cementing your status as a No. 1 Fan.
3) Know the name of the long snapper.
Long Snapper is one of the least-heralded positions on any NFL team, but a truly vital one. I was at a game when Greg Warren went out with an injury against the Giants, but most of the season ticket holders didn’t know who he was. I remember saying it was a big deal (I knew about it because I was listening with headphones) and people shrugged it off. Despite four Ben Roethlisberger interceptions, the Steelers were in position to win, but the emergency snapper (James Harrison) sailed one through the back of the end zone for a safety, and the Steelers lost.
If you know the identity of the man in this picture, you get points among the less knowledgeable. Currently it’s No. 57 Kameron Canaday. If you knew of Warren, Mike Scneck and Kendall Gammon. You qualify for genius status.
4) Wearing an obscure jersey shows fan range.
I actually own a Richard Huntley jersey. For those of you that are unaware that the Winston-Salem State running back played in Pittsburgh from 1998-2000 and was the last player to ever score a touchdown in Three Rivers Stadium...go back and read No. 3 again. Anyhoo, my mom picked this little piece of Steeler memorabilia up for me at a Value City in Johnstown back in 1999. I didn’t really desire the No. 33 at that time, but loved the fact few people owned it. It’s the same reason I wore an Alejandro Villanueva jersey back in 2015. That was before Big Al inspired everybody with his anthem-pride outside the Soldier Field tunnel last September.
Now, everybody owns one.
Wearing an Antonio Brown jersey is easy. Wearing a Big Ben No. 7 is expected. Wearing a Roosevelt Nix jersey screams sheer awesomeness and shows you think outside of the box and support everyone on the team. I’m still kicking myself for not buying the Steeler Vrabel jersey at the above-mentioned Value City back in 1997. But I still have the Yancey Thigpen I bought instead.
5) Get alerts on your phone and be the first to share it on Facebook.
This is simple. If you want to seem like a Steeler insider, be the first to post it on Facebook. A lot of people like to be the news-breakers. They can even hear the imaginary sound bite in their head, “For all of the up-to-date and breaking Steeler news...Here’s Bobby Yinzawooski”. If you are the first to post anything Steeler-related on Mark Zuckerberg’s grapevine, your friends and family will think that you are the next Stan Savran. I take pride in the .01% of our friendship when I actually inform Jeff Hartman of something that he doesn’t already know (Frankly, I think sometimes he feigns knowing...but I can’t prove it).
Be careful with this one and only do it on FB or in person. If you try it on Twitter, you’ll look like a goof. They know it all on what my dad calls “the Tweeter”.
6) Bring up the Steelers in conversation within 90 seconds of meeting anyone and everyone you come in contact with.
I’m really guilty of this one. Either I’m too socially awkward, or merely don’t want to partake in anybody else’s thought-sharing, but I always try to find common ground in sports. I live in Maryland, so half of the time I just want to mention the Steelers so I can bring up my hatred of the Ravens. This method could help you gain Pittsburgh sports friends, and possibly help label you as a cool Steeler fan in-the-know. However, it most likely will be a scenario where you may just hear the dreaded “I’m not really a sports fan” or “I’m going over there now”.
7) Go to one game in your lifetime and bring it up ad nauseum.
Not the best tip to achieving your dreams of establishing yourself as “World’s Best Steeler Fan”, but it is employed an awful lot. Just like Cliff Clavin and his 1984-season of Cheers when he mentioned his trip to Florida in every breath, you can bring up that game in 2002 when Plaxico Burress gained 253-receiving yards and they tied with the Falcons, or how you were at Heinz Field for “the Immaculate Reception” and celebrated with Franco. Be careful with that last one, the game was at Three Rivers Stadium and you want to have that game down to the last minute-detail or you’ll be exposed as a fraud. Do expect some eye rolls and some body-shifting when you’re telling this story for the 6th time to the same person.
8) Get a Steeler tattoo.
If you are displaying it in permanent ink, you’ll loom more dedicated than the Rooneys. I don’t think Art Sr. and Dan had one, but no one is judging.
9) Refuse service from a restaurant, or someone’s home, if Heinz Ketchup is not available.
Depriving yourself of condiments, or anything not produced by a Pittsburgh company* is dedication personified. Let 49er fans eat Hunts, it’s sacrilege to not eat Heinz on burgers, dogs, etc.
Also, only drink Rolling Rock or IC Light or any other Western Pa-based brew or pop, even if it’s IC Light Mango.
*I realize most Heinz products are produced in Fremont, OH and the company merged with Kraft. But it will always be the personification of Pittsburgh.
10) Always have a photo taken of yourself flipping-the-bird when going past an enemy stadium and proudly share it with anybody that possesses eyes.
I know people (myself included) that give the finger to M&T Bank Stadium every time they drive past it. For the record, I live in Maryland and they hate us more than we hate them. We do have one thing in common through, we both abhor Bengals fans.
If you can show photographic proof that you actually disrespected an opposing team’s home with an obscene gesture, that’s big proof. Avoid the selfie though. It’s not worth losing your forgiveness points from your insurance company that is most likely headquartered in Ohio or New England.