The pep rally was amazing as the Steeler fans from all over descended upon a small shopping center located on Philips Highway. There were flags on cars, bumper stickers and some even went further with their entire car covered in black and gold memorabilia. We had the official Steeler truck adorned with numerous unique and interesting stickers, we had the Steeler Jeep clad in Black and Gold sporting a new look, a Greg Lloyd autograph on the front fender and finally we had some 3000 Steeler fans attend throughout the day.
The SteelCity Mafia made it a point to treat Steeler fans to a pep rally like no other, they not only brought a Steeler great to meet with the fans, but they did this in the name of charity... donating close to one thousand dollars to the Meal on Wheels of Jacksonville.
There were many highlights on Saturday, way too many to tell you all of them but a quick recap of the big moments... Greg Lloyd arrived to throngs of fans waiting for autographs... he was extremely cordial in dealing with the Steeler faithful, spending time to not only sign, but chat with his adoring fans, he also took a turn in the dunking booth much to he joy of the crowd... while a few people were able to dunk the most feared linebacker of his day, the highlight of that came when a young man with special needs missed on his first two throws and faked a third before he ran and pushed the dunking mechanism dropping Mr. Lloyd once again into the cold waiting water below. The crowd erupted as Greg Lloyd shook the young man's hand after his dip in the water.
Another component that made the day special was the work of a local artist, who displayed some of his work ranging from Jerome Bettis to Hines Ward, Willie Parker to Greg Lloyd. Will Western was the artist and his work was gobbled up by the Steeler fans, many having Greg Lloyd sign Mr. Western's work. I was fortunate enough to get one of those for myself.
As Saturday drew to a close, the Black and Gold were still present making their way to the various hotels, restaurants and bars throughout Jacksonville. Good thing Sunday's game was a night game as the party lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
Sunday was a cloudy day, with scattered showers making it a wonderful day for football... the crowd made it's way to the stadium with the Steeler Nation dominating much of the various parking lots surrounding the stadium. As the early afternoon games ended the crowd started to grow, with more and more Terrible Towels being waved in the air... the tailgating was Steeler strong as the BBQ's began to heat up... the IC Light was flowing, the smack talking was starting and all the while the rumble of Here We Go Steelers can be heard...
Finally the stadium allowed us in to see our warriors... first in the Bud Zone, we were able to see Hines Ward stretching and Ben Roethlisberger tossing around the ball... as they opened the doors, the Steelers fans made their way to the railing, snapping photo after photo of their heroes... The offensive line was out there going over assignments, the receivers were snatching balls from Ben, Byron and Dennis, the defensive backs were getting themselves ready, listening to their ipods... finally the heart and soul of the defense the linebackers specifically the middle linebackers James Farrior and Larry Foote made their way onto the field... even though they were not in uniform, they were recognized immediately... the crowd letting them know that Steeler Nation would be with them in Jacksonville... you could see the joy in their faces as the Steeler fans began to chant for their guys... they smiled while stretching realizing that this was going to be a 'home game' in Florida.
In the tunnel they wait, standing just a few steps away, you could feel the energy, feel the buzz of the players... the moments before charging on the field are some of the most intense the players and the fans alike... and then the Boom.... players rush the field as the crowd erupts... something to see when the visiting teams gets a louder ovation than the home team... the National Anthem ends, the flyby shakes the entire stadium and it is game time...
I hope you all watched the game, so I will not recap that here... but I will tell you that the Steeler crowd was treated to a wonderful game... at times stressful, at times disheartening but finally euphoric... as I walked from the stadium savoring the victory, the rumble returned... Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go... Steeler Nation is alive and well