Even as the NFL continues to push itself to international heights, fandom often remains a regional phenomenon. The diaspora of fanbases have continued to push further and wider than ever before, and the Pittsburgh Steelers perhaps have the most widespread fandom in all of the National Football League, but their local ties to the city of Pittsburgh are as strong as is any team to their home town.
Established in 1933, the Steelers have certainly seen the city transform around them over the course of the past 85 years. No longer physically representative of their namesake steelworkers, Pittsburgh has in many respects transformed into region where white-collar work in medicine and technology thrive.
The Steelers and the city’s other sports teams have helped to put it on the national map, and have even helped to nurture its growth, which is why team president Art Rooney II was recently asked to be the keynote speaker at the Business Awards Luncheon touting the growth and development that has taken place along the North Shore in recent years.
“It was a long time coming in some ways”, Rooney said. “Back when Three Rivers was built a lot of promises were made and weren’t quite realized. It’s nice to see what is happening on the North Side/North Shore now. It’s fantastic”.
Many plans were laid anew with the demolition of the old stadium and the building of the new, Heinz Field, which has stood for the better part of two decades now and which saw the return of the Lombardi Trophy to the city twice now, with high ambitions for a third.
With the Steelers’ success has also come the success of the surrounding area, and no small part of that was laid in the literal groundwork around the stadium. The rerouting of the main arteries around the stadium allowed for the development of the direct riverfront area, which previously was not possible.
Rooney called it “a great idea” to open up the area to a number of opportunities. “It allowed the riverfront to be open to development and activities along the river. And I think that the idea of having more activity on the riverfront has been realized in a lot of ways by what was started with this Heinz Field”.
It is true that a lot of the Steelers’ fan base is not in or around Pittsburgh, largely a product of their own success. But it’s probably not so easy to find a Pittsburgh resident that isn’t a Steelers fan, and most of them hold a love for their city, even its beauty.
One can only hope that the continued growth and development in the north side of the city does carry over to improvements along the south side as well without uprooting those who already live there. Like all major cities, there are the public faces and the private concerns that are not talked about.