This is home to them. Always will be, spiritually, structurally, emotionally.
See, this is more than the town of their upbringing, the location of their families, another abbreviation on an airline luggage tag. This is a way of life. This is a life ravaged by storm and, later, oil spill, turned right-side up and rebuilt anew. It's their life.
That makes New Orleans and a Halloween homecoming all the more special for this handful of Steelers.
"I've never started a game there as an NFL player," said Ryan Clark of nearby Marrero. His church will be featured in an NBC segment during Sunday night's game broadcast. He first played in the Superdome as a 10-year-old quarterback-safety with the Pard Hawks rec-league team, came back as a New York Giants special teamer in 2003 and returns home Sunday as a Steelers safety playing against the Saints, so ingrained in this community, his community. "So I'm excited."
"I'm ready," added cornerback Ike Taylor, a city native.
"I can't wait," continued receiver Mike Wallace, from the Cut Off neighborhood in the same Algiers section from where cornerback Keenan Lewis also hails.
"Superdome is my home," said a grinning Mewelde Moore, halfback from Baton Rouge and Tulane University. He is the only member of the Steelers subset who has started an NFL game in the place, as a Minnesota Vikings rookie back in 2004. "Tulane, that's where all our home games were. Those locker rooms, I pretty much dressed in them all."
Sunday, they dress as visitors in a familiar home.
Mr. Clark just bought a house in his hometown, envisioning a day when his three children leave the nest and he becomes another middle-aged LSU grad tailgating at his alma mater 80 miles west. Second-year players Mr. Wallace and Mr. Lewis return there in the offseason, work out together so often "I'm tired of seeing him," the latter kidded.
Mr. Clark bought 30 tickets for Sunday the same as Mr. Wallace. Mr. Lewis growled about his number of requests, "I got about a million," though he purchased only 20. Mr. Moore? "I need a bunch," said he.
Attending Tulane, Mr. Moore spent every college home game in the building. Mr. Lewis and Mr. Wallace cannot erase from their memories a state 4A high-school championship game under the dome, their O. Perry Walker High falling by 16-14 to John Curtis High as juniors: "We lost the biggest game of our high-school careers there," the former said.
"For a 10-year-old kid to play on what you felt was the biggest stage of his life was amazing," Mr. Clark recalled.
"This is going to be the biggest stage: the past two Super Bowl champions. The only thing bigger would be to play in the Super Bowl there."
Each of these guys followed the team once known as the Aints, infamous for fans with bags over their heads.
NFL football in New Orleans meant no playoffs until the franchise turned 21, meant losing every one of the first four playoff games, meant falling somewhere along the postseason way all seven times the Saints somehow made it between 1967 and 2008. Then came last season.
New Orleans, remember, had been the flooded epicenter of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Mr. Clark saw his home and his parents' house torn asunder by Katrina; he moved, but they rebuilt his folks' place. Then, a year before Super Bowl XLIII, a lightning strike ignited a fire that burned down his parents' house. They rebuilt once again.
It's their life, their way.
So when the Steelers subset watched Super Bowl XLIV last February, they couldn't help that it caused their cell phones to buzz, warmed their hearts, encouraged their community. It was almost the next best thing to winning the big game themselves, as Mr. Clark, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Moore had done the previous February.
"To see the excitement they brought to the city," Mr. Clark began of the reigning champions. "My mom was texting me -- and she's clearly a Steelers fan. It's uplifting for a city that's been through so much."
"Perfect timing," Mr. Moore continued. "That's all you hear down there: Saints this, Saints that, Super Bowl this. It definitely lifted up the spirits of the people of Louisiana. It's a good thing."