Ever stroll the aisles of a Giant Eagle on Steelers Sunday?
Ever take a walk down the Strip… literally any day?
If so, you’ve seen it. Jerseys. Hats. Terrible Towels.
In Pittsburgh, the Steelers aren’t a football team. They’re a way of life. Cliche and/or comical as it may seem to an outsider, those born here (or those simply raised on black-and-gold principles) know the score.
The Steelers infiltrate every aspect of life.
But you don’t even need to hike to a Pittsburgh-area grocery store to witness it for yourself. Just take it from the players, past and present.
“Go to Wal-Mart or Target –– you know! You’re from [Ohio] –– you know how it is,” former Steelers Super Bowl-winning offensive lineman Willie Colon told Rachel DeMita during a recent episode of her podcast, Courtside Club. “You’re going to see a baby to an 85-year-old lady to some dude that looks like a substitute teacher all wearing Steeler jerseys. And throughout the city of Pittsburgh on a Friday –– maybe Thursday –– the city is dripped in black and gold. And it just is what it is.”
So what is it then, Mr. Colon? Go ahead. Say it.
“I say it all the time,” Colon continued. “Being a Steeler is like being a part of a religion. It’s definitely like a cult.”
Sound too extreme for you? Think Steelers fans aren’t quite that intense?
A) If you or someone you know lives the Steelers life, you know Colon is right.
B) Let’s ask a current player to weigh in.
“I think when guys like Willie talk about that, they talk about just the pride that you have when you play for the Steelers,” Chris Wormley said Friday at UMPC Rooney Sports Complex. “The history, the tradition: All that kind of plays [a] factor no matter how long you play here, if you’re here for a season or you’re here for your whole career like Ben [Roethlisberger] and Cam [Heyward] have [been].”
Now, one might believe every NFL team possesses this type of passionate fan base and following. Sure, the Steelers permeate the city like “a cult,” as Colon put it. But maybe that’s just the case everywhere.
Colon finished his career with the New York Jets after six seasons with the Steelers and spoke at length on the podcast about the differences between the Steelers and the Jets organizations.
Wormley took it a step beyond that by comparing a rival squad, the Ravens.
“I think Baltimore –– let me talk about Baltimore real quick,” Wormley began with a laugh. “Baltimore, you know, has only been around for 25 years or so and the Steelers are …”
Wormley trailed off a bit, possibly sensing the hot water nipping at his toes.
“Look, I grew up a Steelers fan from Toledo, Ohio, and I grew up watching these guys every Sunday and could kind of get the sense of what this organization was about from afar,” he continued. “[Then] you get in the league, you play them once a year, twice a year. When I was in Baltimore, you kind of get that sense even more.
“And now being here, it’s like, ‘OK. This is what the NFL is about.’ The organization, the tradition, all that kind of plays into the mystique –– I guess, if you’re not a part of it –– of the Steelers.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Colon left with one more story. And this one is almost too good to be true (and yet I totally believe it).
“I remember one time I was on IR and I think we had like an afternoon game,” Colon said. “It was like a 4:25 [p.m.] game. I had went to the 1 o’clock service, and literally the service is going on, and the padre was like, ‘Hey, it’s close to game time. Let’s wrap it up.’ to the congregation. And everybody was like, ‘Amen.’ Out the door.
“And it was straight like that.”
Listen to an extended cut of the Courtside Club podcast with Colon right here: