Women here lead the league in loving Steelers

The fall fashion season has arrived, which means, of course, that the smartly dressed Pittsburgh woman is reaching for something in black and gold.

In what should come as little surprise to Steelers Nation, a new nationwide survey shows that Pittsburgh is home to more football-loving women than any other city in the country.

And while most of us already knew that, it's nice of the folks at Scarborough Sports Marketing in New York to go to the trouble to verify it.

The survey of 224,583 residents in 75 United States markets was conducted last year. It showed that 35 percent of the women living in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area describe themselves as loyal football fans.

"A 'loyal fan' is defined in our survey as someone who is 'very or somewhat interested' in the NFL," said Allyson Mongrain, director of marketing and communications for Scarborough Marketing.

Green Bay was second with 29 percent, and Milwaukee was third with 27 percent. No other market surveyed had even one-quarter of its women identify themselves as fans.

Cincinnati was at 24 percent, and five regions -- Baltimore; Kansas City; Boston; Providence, R.I; and Colorado Springs, Colo. -- came in at 23 percent.

Cleveland and Philadelphia? Oh, please. They're down there at 15th and 16th places, respectively, with 21 percent.

Nationally, the average was 16 percent, which means that Pittsburgh has more than twice the number of female pro football fans than the average market, based on the survey's results.

The results came as no surprise to those familiar with Pittsburgh women, Pittsburgh football or Pittsburgh marketing.

"The response from women and girls for Steelers-licensed apparel has been very strong," Jeff Hennion, chief marketing officer of Dick's Sporting Goods, said yesterday. "The growth is throughout football, but the Steelers are especially [popular]. Black and gold jerseys, T-shirts, everything from car flags to blankets. Anything that is associated with the Steelers is extremely popular with women and growing much faster than it is with men."

Mr. Hennion said one of the sharpest increases in the past two years has been in the sale of pink football jerseys, which are designed to fit women. The Pittsburgh-based sporting goods company also sells NFL-logo Crocs, the open, plastic footwear that more and more women are purchasing. And women are being featured more in product advertising.

The Steelers have long been aware of their popularity with women. Each year, more than 300 take part in a simulated day of Steelers training camp, and the team sponsors a Football Knowledge for Women classroom course.

Next month, the Steelers will hold a women's night out -- men can't attend -- at Heinz Field. Fans will be allowed to talk to players in an informal setting, eat a prime rib dinner, attend a Steelers TV show taping, and get autographs and souvenirs. The cost is $95.

News of the survey broke yesterday and it was one of the most popular stories viewed at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Web site, post-gazette.com. It also generated an impressive number of responses from women -- in Pittsburgh and around the country -- who suggested possible explanations.

"The Steelers have the most women fans because we're passionate about our families, and because we come from Pittsburgh, part of family life is enjoying the great football ... the Rooneys have given us over the years," wrote Kathy Graden, a former Pittsburgher living in Phoenix. "And yeah, I have to say it: The Steelers have some of the hottest guys around."

"Pittsburgh has the most female fans because the team represents who we are," wrote Monique R. Reed of Pittsburgh. "We girls grew up with grandfathers who worked in the steel mills, dads and uncles who worked for the Courier and The Pittsburgh Press. We're not impressed with the high-maintenance teams. We're used to blue-collar, hard-working men in our lives and the Steelers bring that to us. Sorry, but pretty-boy QBs and half-hearted defenses that are afraid to get down and dirty have no place here."

"It doesn't matter what gender you are," wrote Cheryl Kremer of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County. "If you're from Pittsburgh, you love the Steelers because you understand the meaning of home and loyalty. You root because your family roots together."

"There are no finer people in the world than Pittsburgh people and no matter where I live or have lived, Pittsburgh will always be my home," said Ann Williams of North Andover, Mass. "The caliber of men chosen for this team always seem to have high standards, not only for themselves as teammates but as human beings and contributors to society. Women love the Steelers because they are a team with no divas, just great determination and teamwork. Women are all about teamwork."

"First, Pittsburgh girls are those rare females who understand and love the game," said Kara Erdodi Arguello, a former Bridgeville woman living in San Jose, Calif. "Second, the Steelers have never alienated the real women of the city of Pittsburgh by bringing in scantily clad Barbie doll cheerleaders like many other NFL teams. It just wouldn't fit with the team's persona. Finally, what Steel-town girl could resist the killer smiles of Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Dan Majors can be reached at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456. First Published September 14, 2007 4:00 AM


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