Steelers Nation: Dad played role of secret savant in team’s success

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My mem­o­ries of grow­ing up in Pitts­burgh are vast, happy and rich with tra­di­tion.

Be­ing the only girl with four broth­ers — two older and two younger, all of us less than six years apart — I didn’t have much chance of be­ing any­thing other than my father’s fifth son.

My mother did try to be a fem­i­nine in­flu­ence, but there were no prin­cess dresses or pretty pink para­sols in my closet — black and gold be­came my fa­vor­ite col­ors.

As most Pitts­bur­ghers know, be­ing a Steel­ers fan is not some­thing you teach — it is deeper than that. It’s in­nate. It’s in our DNA. We are just born this way, and there was no big­ger Steel­ers fan than my father, A.L.

I have so many fond mem­o­ries of sit­ting around our fam­ily room in O’Hara watch­ing the Steel­ers back in the glory days of the 1970s — es­pe­cially of our four Su­per Bowls and how my dad helped Chuck Noll coach his way to ev­ery one of those cham­pi­on­ships.

You might ask: So, who was your dad? Well, if the truth be told, he was just like all the other av­er­age dads sit­ting around on Sun­day af­ter­noons watch­ing their fa­vor­ite sports team with their fam­i­lies. But to me and my four broth­ers, he had the power to do more than any other dad. He had the power to change the game.

I can still re­mem­ber how my father would pick up the phone dur­ing a cru­cial mo­ment in the game. He would hush the room into dead si­lence as he di­aled. We would sit qui­etly so as not to in­ter­rupt the grav­ity of the mo­ment. Then you would hear him say some­thing like “Chuck, Chuck, I re­ally think you need to give Rocky the ball on the next play.”

And then he would hang up the phone as fast as he had picked it up and look at each of us, as if to say, he’s got it — it’s go­ing to be OK.

As we would all cen­ter our at­ten­tion back to the TV, it would hap­pen as though he’d drawn it up him­self. Terry Brad­shaw would take the snap, step back and turn to hand off to Rocky Bleier, who would run up the side­line past the 20 to the 15, the 10 and into the end zone.

The room would erupt with cheers and hugs and the knowl­edge that our dad had just called the win­ning play of the game! While to most fans Rocky was the hero, to us, of course, it was Dad.

We lost our dad on Jan. 26, 2009. Just six days later, and just hours af­ter leav­ing the church where we held his fu­neral, we sat in the fam­ily room. We were a much big­ger fam­ily now, grown from the orig­i­nal five chil­dren with par­ents.

With Mother still pres­ent, we sat in front of the TV that Sun­day and watched our be­loved Steel­ers win their sixth Su­per Bowl. Once again we knew Dad was mak­ing the calls, only from up­stairs this time.

At the piv­otal mo­ment in the fourth quar­ter, we watched Ben Roeth­lis­berger drop back, look to his left and right and let go of the ball, float­ing it above heads to the back right cor­ner of the end zone. San­tonio Hol­mes waited pa­tiently there be­fore stretch­ing out to pull in the ball while keep­ing both toes squeez­ing the ground, as grace­ful as a bal­le­rina, and fall­ing for­ward.

A pret­tier play I can’t re­mem­ber ever see­ing, and at that mo­ment the room erupted into mass chaos. We were all hug­ging and jump­ing up and down with tears of hap­pi­ness and sad­ness as all the emo­tions of the past week just poured out of us.

And we all looked up be­cause we knew at that mo­ment that it was our dad, A.L., who had made the call.

Mary Kay Tem­mel of Or­lando, Fla., an ac­count­ing spe­cial­ist, can be reached at

The PG Port­fo­lio wel­comes “Steel­ers Na­tion” sub­mis­sions about how the foot­ball team has cre­ated spe­cial bonds, in ad­di­tion to other reader es­says. Send your writ­ing to page2@post-ga­; or by mail to Port­fo­lio, Post-Ga­zette, 34 Blvd. of the Al­lies, Pitts­burgh, PA 15222. Port­fo­lio ed­i­tor Gary Rot­stein may be reached at 412-263-1255.

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