Catching up with their competitors, the Steelers christen a mascot
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The name and the character may take some getting used to. But move over Stevie Steeler and The Terrible Fan: The mascot named yesterday as part of the 75th anniversary season of the Steelers is ... Steely McBeam.Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Steely McBeam -- a hard hat and a jutting jaw.
Click photo for larger image.
It almost felt like the football gods were frowning yesterday at the Steelers' training camp on this break from tradition -- What's next? A steel-toed drill team? -- but it turned out to be nothing more than a few raindrops and the rumble of distant afternoon thunder.
In fact, while some disparaging remarks have been heard from a fan base that resists change and doesn't think the Steelers need a mascot -- even though most National Football League teams have one -- Darnell Drewery of Wilkins has warmed to the idea.
"My first reaction was that if they didn't have one for so long, why do it now? But I've come around. I think it's really good for the new generation of fans," Mr. Drewery, 35, said at the announcement of the name following afternoon practice at Saint Vincent College. "I took pride in the fact that the Steelers didn't need anything but their hard-core fans. No cheerleaders or gimmicks. No Hollywood stuff. Pittsburgh is all about old-school. But now I think this is a good idea."
He would, however, have preferred the name Man of Steel.
For the record, Steely McBeam's reaction was steely silence. But that's because the mascot doesn't talk when wearing his costume of a plaid gold shirt, black bib overalls, a hard hat and a jutting jaw.
The winning entry was chosen from a pool of 70,000 suggestions submitted by fans around the world after the contest to name the mascot was announced in April.
The name was submitted by Diane Roles of Valencia, who receives a VIP package for four to the Steelers' Sept. 16 home opener against the Buffalo Bills. She will also get an authentic Steelers throwback helmet and jersey, just like those that will be worn by the team that day.
"We've been ecstatic all day. I am just so thrilled, I don't know what to say," said Mrs. Roles, a grandmother of five.
She said she picked the name because of Pittsburgh's steel history, the Irish name McBeam because of the Rooney family name and "beam" for the city of Pittsburgh.
The mascot, a steel worker who represents Pittsburgh's legacy as an industrial furnace, is a modern version of a logo that the Steelers used during the 1950s and '60s. Mr. McBeam will be visible at all home games and participate in the team's charitable programs and other club-sponsored events.
The continuity of generations is a hallmark of a franchise with such a rich history. When the team changed its name from Pirates to Steelers in 1940 by holding a contest, founder Art Rooney made the announcement. Yesterday, his grandson and namesake, team president Art Rooney II, served as master of ceremonies when the mascot's name was revealed.
"We've had mascots in the past. We just felt it was time to have an official one. We felt it would add some excitement and fun to our 75th season. It was a good way to try and reach out to the young folks a little more," said Mr. Rooney.
Mr. McBeam's jutting jaw conjures up memories of former coach Bill Cowher, he of the steely glare. But any resemblance is purely coincidental.
"It's been mentioned a couple of times that there's somewhat of a resemblance," laughed Mr. Rooney. "There was no effort to replicate Bill."
Debbie Townsend of Avonmore mentioned the resemblance, saying that the "highlight of my life" was getting an autograph from the former coach. She was at training camp yesterday with her husband and two children trying to get the autograph of new coach Mike Tomlin. And it's the new chapter in team history that makes the mascot appealing to her.
"I love it," she said. "I think this is the year to do it. It's a new beginning. A new book."
Longtime fan Pete Ringus, 66, of Arnold, didn't feel hidebound by tradition. While trying to keep track of two grandchildren who were with him at practice, he gave a thumbs-up to the idea.
"I think it's cool. Fans are interested in the Steelers anyway, but it gets them more and more involved, especially the new generation," said Mr. Ringus, a union carpenter for 38 years.
The honor of saying the name for the first time in public fell to Takara Corbett, who made the journey from Hawaii to St. Vincent College to see the Steelers up close. Her father, Kevin, is a native of Monongahela who bought a satellite dish and the $380 NFL TV package to keep up with the Steelers, even if he has to get up at 7 a.m. on Sundays to watch his team.
Miss Corbett, wearing a Willie Parker jersey, carried a hand-made sign that read:
Plane tickets: $5,000
Rental car: $500
Official jersey: $300
Getting an autograph from the Steelers: Priceless.
"I think the mascot is a very good idea," she said. "It's somebody that the kids can go up to when they're at the games. I like it."
First Published August 8, 2007 11:19 pm