TAMPA, Fla. -- Economic woes melted into the sea of gold towels at Raymond James Stadium last night, with a who's-who of Pittsburgh joining the hoarse chorus of Steelers Nation.
The city's top government and civic leaders joined other well-known Steelers fans from across the country with hopes of seeing the team clinch its sixth Lombardi.
"It's not really about the economy -- it's about the great togetherness of Steeler Nation. It sounds corny, but it really is," said city Councilman William Peduto.
Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers -- whose father Larry graduated from Peabody High School -- was going to a pregame tailgate hosted by his dad's high school friends. After doing Saturday night's show, in which Steve Martin was the host, he took a 7 a.m. flight from New York.
"The irony in it, if irony is the right word, is three years ago [when the Super Bowl was] in Detroit, Steve Martin hosted. So I'm hoping that means good things," he said.
WDVE's Jim Krenn was joyous before the game, surrounded by fellow fans. "I feel like I'm at home -- in June," he said.
Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato mixed rooting for the team with meeting with other leaders from around the state. Going to Tampa was "part civic pride, part business," he said.
Pittsburgh-area government luminaries sighted around Tampa included: U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire (with wife Kelly, a Florida native); Mayor Luke Ravenstahl; city Council President Doug Shields; state Senators Sean Logan and Jay Costa; representatives Dan Frankel and Jake Wheatley; Attorney General Tom Corbett and Treasurer Rob McCord; and county Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty.
Business leaders included PNC's Jim Rohr; the Allegheny Conference's Mike Langley; Chamber of Commerce director Barbara McNees; and Buchanan-Ingersoll-Rooney's Jack Barbour and Tom VanKirk.
U.S. Steel chairman Tom Usher was there, as well as former chair David Roderick; Gateway Financial's Dave Malone with wife Nancy and children Zach and Cally; Linnea Glick from PittArts; Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson; Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and former Gov. Tom Ridge. (Former Penguin and current Tampa Bay Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet entered carrying a Terrible Towel.)
The game was played against a backdrop of economic woes. Ticket prices, especially those from re-sellers and scalpers, were lower than they had been in years, though they shot up well above face value in the last three days as Steelers fans descended on the city.
After a slow buildup to the game, fans finally hit Tampa in droves Saturday -- they arrived the same time the sun did, disintegrating some of the gloom. All weekend long Ybor City, Tampa's version of Bourbon or Carson street, was mobbed with rowdy fans, probably 90 percent of them in black and gold.
The economy "doesn't seem to be apparent -- an event like this is for Pittsburgh, and everybody is focused on the Steelers. It's a little respite from all the rough news," said Shields, wearing his lucky white wrestling shoes -- the only part still left from the Stevie Steeler mascot uniform he wore in the 1980s.
There was a bit of regret that the matchup was not against the Philadelphia Eagles, who lost the NFC championship game. The government/business connections for the statewide tilt would have been monumental.
"It would have been a great matchup, great for both sides of the state," said county executive Dan Onorato. "I'm not sure Tampa would have been left the same."
Tim McNulty can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1581.