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mesaSteeler
04-15-2009, 12:01 AM
Stability, tradition keep Steelers golden
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_620692.html#
By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More popular than ever since winning their sixth Super Bowl, the Steelers' nationwide appeal will continue with five prime-time televised games this fall, according to the National Football League's 2009 regular-season schedule released Tuesday.

The Steelers, some say, arguably are becoming "America's team."

The Steelers' prime-time appearances begin with the NFL's regular-season opener at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 10 with the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field. The Steelers had the league's highest local TV rating, 44.5 percent, last season.

In addition to that NBC appearance and two more later in the season, the Steelers will play in night games televised by ESPN and NFL Network.

With one of the strongest fan bases of any NFL team, the Steelers' popularity soared with their stirring 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Feb. 1 in Super Bowl XLIII. The franchise is trying to determine the best way to display its Lombardi Trophy with the five other silver trophies crowding the exhibit room at the team's South Side complex.

"Every time you win a Super Bowl, that sort of adds to the tradition and following you have," said Steelers President Art Rooney II.

Top draw

From April 1, 2008, through the end of February, more Steelers merchandise sold on NFLShop.com than that of any other team, according to the NFL. The league does not disclose merchandise figures.

Five Steelers games last year were among the 15 most-viewed fall programs, according to the league and Nielsen Media. And the nearly 100 million viewers who watched the Steelers rally to beat the Cardinals in Tampa made this the highest-rated Super Bowl ever.

The Steelers are such an attractive TV draw that 12 of their 16 regular-season games in 2008 were in the 4 p.m. time slot, where networks put teams with broad appeal, or at night, when a national audience watches.

"We can put Pittsburgh on in the Carolinas, in Texas," said Rob Correa, CBS Sports' executive vice president of programming. "Virtually any state in the country, we're confident of putting on a Steelers game. They seem to have fans everywhere."

Sports marketing experts generally agree the Steelers' reach is so expansive that the franchise's brand has become national.

"I think there are a limited number of transcendent franchises whose names have been synonymous with consistency, quality and stability," said Rick Horrow, a sports business analyst for CNN and visiting expert on sports law at Harvard Law School.

He cites three teams: the Steelers, New York Yankees and Boston Celtics. Pittsburgh sports lawyer Chuck Greenberg adds to that list the Dallas Cowboys and Boston Red Sox.

Stability sets the Steelers apart. Led by just three head coaches since 1969, the team won its Super Bowl titles while enduring just 10 losing seasons.

"For 40 years, they've known who they are and who they want to be, and they've succeeded on executing that vision," Greenberg said. "With the Steelers, you know what you're going to get. With the Steelers of the '70s to the Steelers of the '90s to the Steelers of today, there's a common thread. That builds tradition, respect and longevity that is uncommon in this day and age."

Staying true

The team's no-frills, hard-hitting approach to football, rooted in working-class Pittsburgh, keeps fans true.:tt03::tt03::tt03:

Ken Kleiner, 44, a New York City attorney, started following the Steelers in the 1970s because he liked their uniforms.

Now his devotion knows no bounds.

He attends at least one game in Pittsburgh each year, and last summer drove from New York City to Latrobe and back in two days, just to watch one practice.

When he and his family were in Los Angeles during the Christmas holiday, Kleiner found a "Steelers bar" in which he could watch the regular-season finale against Cleveland.

"The place was packed," he said.

Such bars, which have become almost as ubiquitous as Terrible Towels, exist as far away as Alaska. The reason, said Dave Lambert, who owns the Gold Rush Saloon in Fairbanks, is simple: "There are people from all over the country up here."

Lambert -- who is not related to Jack Lambert, the Steelers' iconic linebacker from Steel Curtain defenses -- is a savvy businessman who embraced a black-and-gold bar designation. Steelers games regularly bring him 50 to 75 customers.

Some might argue the Steelers have yet to wrest the designation of "America's team" away from the Cowboys, but Rooney said even national commentators last year began to acknowledge that the team's fan base rivals -- if not surpasses -- that of the Cowboys, especially since Dallas has not won a playoff game in more than a decade.

"Steelers Nation continues to grow," Rooney said.

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

revefsreleets
04-15-2009, 09:02 AM
Pah! Everyone knows the Patriots have the greatest fan base...

(Even though I'm being HIGHLY sarcastic, I still just threw up a little in my mouth)

wootawnee
04-15-2009, 09:59 AM
And the first pick in the draft is............Terry Bradshaw.......