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mesaSteeler
01-24-2009, 09:27 AM
20,000 rally in Steelers send-off
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By Jeremy Boren
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, January 23, 2009

It's never too early to become a Steelers fan. Just ask Blake Peterson, 5, of Chippewa.

A black-and-gold sea of more than 20,000 Super Bowl-crazed fans rocked Heinz Field Friday night to send the Steelers off to Florida on a thunderous wave of adoration.

The pep rally was the final chance for many Pittsburgh fans to cheer for the Steelers and whirl their Terrible Towels before the AFC champions play the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1 in Tampa.

"We're going for the six-pack now, right?" quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shouted to the crowd as each of the 35 teammates flanking him on stage held up one hand and one thumb.

"We walk on this field to play for you guys. We're going to bring one home for you guys!" he said to deafening cheers from a crowd that mostly filled the lower level of the stadium on a clear, 43-degree night.

The players, wearing their street clothes, appeared after a full menu of entertainment, including a free concert from the Pittsburgh-bred band The Clarks, a solo performance of "The 12th Man Song" by country singer Dusty Drake and a show by the "Little Green Machine" South Fayette High School Marching Band.

Band members swapped their traditional green garb for black-and-gold jerseys.

Tom Ashton, 38, of Scott relished the chance to rev up the Steelers before they leave town.

"I think this is cool that they're doing this," said Ashton, an accountant who wore a No. 58 Jack Lambert jersey to the rally. "It's good for the fans, and it's good for the team that they can do an event that lets them say they're both thinking of each other."

Sporting a Steelers mohawk and black-and-gold, tiger-print pants, Jack Ingraham, 36, of Shaler carefully chose his words when predicting the Super Bowl's outcome.

"I think we're going to kick some, um, butt, here," said Ingraham, who runs an information technology business. "My only concern is knowing whether or not Hines Ward's (knee) sprain is OK. I love his motivation, but you just never know."

Fireworks punctuated the end of the hourlong main show, as did a pep talk to the fans from Steelers owner and Chairman Dan Rooney.

"We had the toughest schedule in the league, we had injuries, but you were always there," Rooney said. "You really gave our players the motivation, the energy to win. We're going to need you, we're going to need you next week."

Steelers fans have a few more chances to celebrate the team's Super Bowl run.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is holding a pep rally at 10:30 a.m. today and offering free admission to visitors toting Terrible Towels until Feb. 1.

During the zoo's rally, a lion will tear into cardboard cutouts of cardinals, gorillas will destroy a snowman wearing an Arizona Cardinals jersey and a Kodiak bear will predict the winner of the Super Bowl, said Tracy Gray, a zoo spokeswoman.

On Sunday, visitors to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum can snap photos of Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris and his "new life-like statue" near the museum's entrance.

The Lamar Hunt Trophy, which the Steelers received for winning the AFC Championship game Jan. 18 against the Baltimore Ravens, will be on display at the Strip District museum until Feb. 2.

Jeremy Boren can be reached at jboren@tribweb.com or 412-765-2312.


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