Heinz Field rocks in Steelers send-off

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Bridget Terranova is no stranger to pep rallies. She is in sixth grade, after all.

Sitting with her mother and brother Friday night in chilly Heinz Field, Bridget talked of how such events get the fans -- and the players -- mentally ready.

"They do help you get excited for the game. They get you to have more spirit," said Bridget, 11, of Lower Burrell. "It's kind of like a party, but it's also [something serious]. A little bit of both. I'd say it's important because now everybody's getting more excited."

Bridget and thousands of other Steelers fans gathered at Heinz Field for the official pep rally to wish their heroes well in Dallas, where they will play the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6.

Friday night, as snow flurries and fireworks filled the evening sky, the fans waved their Terrible Towels, danced to live music and watched a replay of the AFC championship victory over the New York Jets.

They cheered as the video board showed Jets coach Rex Ryan throwing down his headset. They cheered louder when the screen showed Steelers coach Mike Tomlin holding up the AFC trophy.

They cheered loudest when the players were introduced on the Heinz Field stage.

"We're sending these guys off in style," said Bridget's uncle, Steve Harlow, 31, of Garfield. "Most of these people can't afford to be in Dallas, so we're here."

Mr. Harlow, who has been a season-ticket holder for 16 years, said he expects that the players might be in awe of the fans as much as the fans are in awe of the players.

"In August, at training camp, all those people who go out and watch them practice, to this point now, six months later, I think that it's an amazing thing. How could you not have the passion and the drive to win for all these folks?"

Lifelong Steelers fans Bruce Miller, 66, of Oil City, and his wife, Peg, 64, dismissed the notion that a pep rally might be something for kids.

"We came because we wanted to be part of the camaraderie," Mr. Miller said. "We connect with the players. Especially Heath Miller, because he's a Miller, like us."

Matt Kohuth, 44, and his daughters, Katie, 24, and Sara, 25, drove an hour and a half from their home in Cortland, Ohio, to attend the rally.

"This is our Super Bowl. That's why we're here," he said, relishing the fact that they had arrived early enough to get front-row seats.

In many respects, it was almost like being at a Steelers game. There were concessions and souvenirs. There was a dance team and a marching band. Fans got their faces painted and cheered replays. It was cold and exciting.

And there were the players.

Some of them took advantage of the opportunity -- and the open mike -- to express their feelings to the fans.

"We have the best owners, and we definitely have the best fans," said linebacker James Farrior. "We've got the best coaches, the best players, and it's time to go get No. 7. Let's go!"

And Steelers safety Ryan Clark indicated that the party wasn't over yet.

"For all the rest of Steeler Nation that didn't get to come to this pep rally, we better see you at the parade," he said.

Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456. First Published January 29, 2011 5:00 AM


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