The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t necessarily been the most deserving of fan support this season, and perhaps they haven’t always gotten in, but the way that the season ended with two key victories at Heinz Field over the final three weeks of the season, I think, showed just how much this team will always mean to the city of Pittsburgh, no matter what is going on, on or off the field.
Even in the midst of a baffling losing streak heading into a critical game against the New England Patriots, the Steelers’ fanbase was ready and engaged for that one, even though most in the stadium perhaps didn’t have many hopes of their team actually coming up with the victory.
They were so loud and uproarious, however, that it would be hard to deny the impact that the crowd had on the game. The Patriots offense had a difficult time running and were forced into a number of pre-snap penalties, for example.
While the offense fitting got the boo birds during the first half on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, however, they still stuck with their team until the end—and then some. In what was one of the most amazing sights ever seen in Heinz Field, seemingly the entire stadium remained at a standstill as the conclusion of the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens game was played.
The result of that game would directly control whether or not the Steelers would make the postseason. There was everything riding on that result, both for the players and the fans, so in those 10 minutes or so, the two groups were one, and I think both parties felt that unity.
“Nobody left when the clock struck zero and they turned the Cleveland game on”, Mike Hilton said after shaking his head in disbelief over “the love the fans have” for the Steelers. “It was an emotional moment. It was also a great moment to see how much passion these fans have”.
“I didn’t want to leave the field”, he went on. “We knew we took care of business on our field. Once they turned on that game, it was an emotional moment for us and our fans. Our fans were amazing staying there like that, even if it didn’t turn out the way we hoped”.
Others like Vance McDonald expressed similar thoughts about that moment, saying that he considered trying to beat the traffic because he had family in town for the holidays, but he couldn’t pull himself away.
“I just kind of paused and looked around and imagined the emotion”, the tight end said. “I appreciated it for what it is. The fact that I get to play football and however many people were in the stadium that day watching and keying in on one game with everything riding on it. It was unbelievable”.
Of course they didn’t get the result they needed—that certainly would have been a moment to remember if they had—but I still think it was a special way to end the season, one last committed bond between the players and fans.