As much as I’d love to say that I fell for the Black and Gold when my parents brought me to Heinz Field for a game and the roar of the Pittsburgh crowd pulled me in, I can’t.
Honestly, I can’t call to mind the first Steelers game I watched. I do remember that there was a point in time that I found football ridiculously boring. I was more interested in focusing on other sports news, specifically NASCAR.
Slowly but surely, the sport drew me in. It was Pittsburgh’s improbable run to Super Bowl XL that really got me hooked. How could it not have?
Even as a kid, the human interest story of Jerome Bettis, the big, lovable lug of a robust stature, making his way to win a title in his hometown, was touching.
The joy in which he ran out of that tunnel ahead of his team in the Motor City still brings a smile to my face.
It was so compelling, the way that the underdog narrative played out. How young “Big Ben” Roethlisberger promised his running back the perfect ending — and then somehow delivered — was straight out of a storybook.
I have drawings and journals of my own from elementary school, showing that I found any and every way to incorporate football into my daily life.
Years before instantly accessible highlights were able to be posted on YouTube, I’d spend a night each week watching Inside the NFL with my dad.
I’d wake up on the weekends and watch NFL Network rather than cartoons. I religiously played NFL GameDay on the original PlayStation, helping me become more and more familiar with the names and uniform numbers of each Steeler player.
I was only in first or second grade, but I could’ve listed for you the names of each Pittsburgh difference-maker.
Of course, there was Troy Polamalu, the safety with the flowing hair that seemed to be everywhere at once. Hines Ward, always smiling, even when getting hit going across the middle for a reception. Joey Porter, the brash, belligerent linebacker who kicked the ground after sacking the opponent.
Some of those same guys were still around when Santonio Holmes got both feet down in Super Bowl XLIII. When the Steelers forged into another title tilt two years later, too.
I cried my eyes out that night that we lost to Green Bay. I don’t even think I understood why, either. Maybe it was because I loved to brag about how my team only ever lost one Super Bowl. It was probably the purest form of pride.
The thrilling years of the Killer B’s came next. I told someone recently that Antonio Brown’s helmet catch against Baltimore on that playoff path to Dallas remains one of my favorite sports memories.
The patience of Le’Veon Bell’s rushing was fun to watch — until he was patient enough to hold out for the money he wanted. The otherworldliness of Martavis Bryant doesn’t escape my memory, either.
I finally got out to a few games as a college junior. I was treated to the quarterback stylings of Mason Rudolph. And then Devlin Hodges. I still loved it.
Fast forward to the last week of this past regular season, when everyone joked and joked about Las Vegas and Los Angeles tying. What a funny concept, huh?
My heart was in my throat as the seconds in that overtime ticked down. I was elated when the Raiders won it as time expired.
Nonetheless, I told myself I wouldn’t get my hopes up when Roethlisberger, a shell of his former self, and a frustratingly listless offense snuck into the playoffs earlier this year.
Then, Kansas City didn’t score in the first frame. I got my hopes up. I should’ve known it wasn’t possible for me — and all of Pittsburgh — to not include emotions.
My favorite team now transitions to its next era, fielding players my age with the stars of yesterday now ghosts of the past. I don’t love Kenny Pickett as the face of the future — and maybe of the present.
It doesn’t matter. My passion for the team won’t wane. Give me that Terrible Towel and play Renegade, baby.