How many Steelers fans were there last night? Unclear. A lot. Enough that, after walking from the parking lot to the press box, everyone was talking about it, hours before kickoff. Enough that when Antwaan Randle El ran out before the game, the boos were obvious. Enough that, in the final minutes, when Pittsburgh got an interception, a writer who couldn't see the play guessed that something bad must have happened to Washington, judging by the roar of the crowd.
My original guess was 15 percent, but I was mocked for going too low. Was it 20 percent? Was it 25 percent? Some writers guessed as high as 30, and the Washington Times went with 33 percent, although I still say that's way too high. Your guess on the percentage?
And as long as I'm asking questions, why does this happen? Why does it happen with Penguins games? Do Pittsburgh fans have more money? More passion? Fewer outside interests? Fewer job responsibilities? If a Redskins fan isn't going to hold on to his tickets when his team is 6-2 and playing a home Monday Night Football game for the first time in six or seven years, exactly when is he going to hold onto his tickets? Or is this just an inevitable part of playing Pittsburgh? Here's what Cincy columnist Paul Daugherty wrote after a Bengals game this year.
This was a home game for the Washington Redskins. Yet, you could see on the television members of the Steelers defense asking the crowd to get louder to make it more difficult for the opposing quarterback to direct his offense. The second biggest story (the first being the outcome) was the sheer numbers of fans sporting the Black and Gold at FedEx stadium.
Sportswriters and sportscasters continue to perpetuate the myth that Steelers fans travel well. What they fail to understand is that many of the people who left Pittsburgh seeking fortune ended up in the DC area. The other factor is the success of the franchise during the 1970s when the Steelers won four Super Bowls. Many fans, such as myself, really have no connection to the city save our passion for those great teams. In that respect, Pittsburgh jingoism is likely much less than what you witness at these road games. But that doesn't mean there isn't any network potential.