The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote that “without music, life would be a mistake”. Any individual who values music as a significant and essential part of their lives will understand the sentiment that lay beneath the quote. It is one thing to live, and another thing entirely to fill your life with things that make living valuable.
Music has long played a key part in sporting events, but one song in particular has developed a special relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers for over a decade, ever since the team moved into Heinz Field.
That is when the stadium began using the song “Renegade” by Styx as a rallying cry for the team, creating a hard-hitting video montage that has developed a life of its own, and is a staple for anybody who has attended a Steelers game at home.
Admittedly, there are many who have grown jaded and tired of both the song and its purported reputation of goading the team to play better—I often note the number of beat writers who bemoan its every appearance on Twitter during games.
But there is no denying that the defense has turned in some big moments after it was played. Examples can be found readily on the internet, such as Deshea Townsend’s pick six late in a victory over the Dallas Cowboys a handful of years ago.
Of course, the song itself has no magical properties. But it does serve as a catalyst for energizing the stadium, and firing up not only the audience, but also the players, who have over the years adopted it as their own.
Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis recently talked about the song and its significance for the team while he played there, through the 2005 season that ended with the Steelers claiming their fifth Super Bowl trophy.
Speaking with Styx’s website, Bettis had the following to say:
“Renegade” is a song that has taken on a life of its own, and as a football player from Pittsburgh, I just wanted to let those guys know I appreciate it — the fact that they allowed us to play that song, because it brought us so much joy. But it also brought some wins. It helped the defense pick it up. It made a difference with us, and those guys need to hear it from me how important that was.
For Bettis, the example that stuck out for him was the Steelers’ overtime victory in the 2005 divisional round. “We were losing that game”, he said. “They played ‘Renegade’, and I’ll never forget seeing those towels — The Terrible Towels — all waving at us, and it was amazing. I would definitely attribute that song to making a big difference in that game. It was like the 12th man. It was huge”.
Many players have expressed similar sentiments about the song and its impact on the stadium during a game. Some of them have added “Renegade” to their mp3 playlists. Even some opposing players have admitted getting caught up in the energy that that moment creates in Heinz Field.
Perhaps those weary beat writers could take that perspective and embrace it the next time the screen goes black and give way to the ominous pulse-like beat that signals the beginning of Styx-aided Steelers highlight reel.