Essential Pittsburgh
4:26 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Black & Gold Devotion and the Steeler Fan Diaspora

How would you describe the ultimate Steeler fan?
How would you describe the ultimate Steeler fan?
Credit Patrick Bird / flickr

For Steelers fans living outside the city, it isn’t hard to find a nearby Steelers bar. But with more than 700 in the United States, Pittsburgh devotees can connect across the country to cheer on the iconic football franchise.

This diaspora of fans grew out of the economic decline of the 1970s and '80s when many Pittsburghers had to leave the city to find jobs.

But as PRX reporter Lauren Ober observes, “You can leave Pittsburgh, but the black and gold never leaves you.”

Black and Gold Religion

From wrapping newborns in Terrible Towels to black and gold wedding cakes, Steelers fans are notorious for their passionate devotion.

Arthur Remillard, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at St. Francis University says the modern traditions emerged in the 70’s with the introduction of the Terrible Towel by broadcaster Myron Cope.

Six Super Bowls later, fans cling to their Terrible Towels and proudly wave the Steelers icon.

Is this a sort of religion for some? Remillard sees similarities.

“Fans act in characteristically religious ways. There is a tone of seriousness that surrounds the Steeler connection to their team and their city.”