|Pittsburgh's Terrible-towel-waving faithful will be well represented this weekend in Denver. (US PRESSWIRE)|
By Ryan Wilson
When it comes to fans infiltrating an opposing team's stadium, no one packs them in like Steelers' faithful. Depending on your allegiances, the Terrible-Towel waving black and gold spectacle is either a testament to just how important football is to the region or reminiscent of the pervasive nature of the cockroach.
(It's not completely accurate to say Steelers fans travel well. That's partly true, but they're also everywhere. Many of them have roots in western Pennsylvania but their families left the area in the '70s and '80s after the steel mills closed and unemployment rose. Either way, if there's a football game, they're showing up.)
So come Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, expect Sports Authority Field to be littered with Steelers fans and Terrible Towels. Never mind that this is the Broncos' first postseason appearance since 2005 (the Steelers knocked them out of the AFC Championship game that year), or that Tebowmania is still alive. As of Thursday morning, there were 3,900 seats available on StubHub and 5,700 ready for purchase on Ticketexchange. Even if those tickets remain unsold, history suggests that it's fair to expect Steelers fans to number in the tens of thousands.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers will go up against Tim Tebow and the Broncos on Sunday in this AFC wild-card matchup. Join NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz as they preview this upcoming game. Watch the game on CBS at 4:30 PM ET.
"I'm amazed at how many season ticket holders got tickets and don't want to go," ticket broker Candy Lewis told Tammy Vigil of Colorado's KWGN 2.
In fact, according to Lewis, a lot of season ticket-holders are selling their seats. Which means they could end up in the hands of eager Steelers fans. That's exactly what happened during that AFC Championship game following the 2005 season.
"It was terrible in a way because we lost. But mainly because more than half the stadium were Steelers fans," Lewis said.
In a speech Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis annually delievered to Bengals fans, Denver head coach John Fox is imploring season ticket holders to show up Sunday.
"I would encourage all fans to keep their seats, so to speak, and not sell to Pittsburgh fan, so our stadium remains as active and loud as its been and more blue and orange, rather than yellow and gold," Fox said Monday.
For hobbled Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the sight never gets old.
“I think it kind of blows most people away,” he said. “When you’re on the road and you have guys on other teams that aren’t used to seeing that, and all of a sudden they see the Steeler fans come in and their like, ‘Holy cow, what’s going on?’ It’s a pretty neat feeling.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin added: “I’m continually surprised and awed by that, particularly when we’re out west. We’ve got world championship-caliber fans, and that’s why we work so hard to produce results on the field for them.”
Part of the problem? Maybe Tebowmania isn't quite so much alive as on life support. After winning six in a row and getting the Broncos to 8-5, Denver backed into the playoffs after three uninspiring losses. The last, a 7-3 effort against the Chiefs that saw the Broncos punt three times for each point they scored, was the last straw for some fans.
“That game was one step above watching paint dry,” said longtime season holder Todd Tenenbaum (via the Associated Press). “To watch the running back and quarterback bump into each other to see who can get up the middle first is just boring. I’d rather stay home and watch ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ with my kids.”
And that, folks, is how you end up with a stadium filled with Steelers fans. (In related news: we're guessing this won't help.)
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