Steeler Nation

Photos (L-R): Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images, Julia Rendleman/Post-Gazette, Comedy Central, Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette

Celebrity Steelers Fans Q&A

By Dan Sostek and Maya Sweedler



Seth Meyers

Claim to fame: Comedian/host of “Late Night With Seth Meyers”

Age: 42
Hometown: Bedford, N.H.

Origin of Steelers fandom: Father grew up in East Liberty and attended Carnegie Mellon for grad school. Said it was “non-negotiable” that he root for the Steelers.

What is your favorite moment as a Steelers fan?

For me, certainly the most emotional was when my whole family went to the Detroit Super Bowl. And it had been so long and I was six the last time they won before that, so I didn’t really remember it. My brother has an incredible video that he took with his phone of my entire family screaming, and my father literally wiping his eyes with a Terrible Towel. He was making the noise a bear in a trap would make.

What is your worst moment as Steelers fan?

2001, AFC championship game. I was at Heinz Field. And I remember that. I was also at the Super Bowl we lost to the Packers, but we had recent success, so that was easier to swallow. But that 2001, that seemed like a team that was destined for greatness, and so many weird little special teams-y things went wrong that day. I remember I had a terrible towel that day that I sort of nervously was chewing apart. And towards the end of the game my dad said, “You ruined that terrible towel.” and I said, “Yeah, because it’s f___ing over.”

Do you have any notable Steelers’ memorabilia?

I have a Franco’s Italian Army mug that I bought on eBay and paid a pretty penny for it. I should also note that I was in Pittsburgh last year and my family went out to dinner with Franco and his wife and his son, because I met him at the NFL Honors. and in 2011, I hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner, and because of that, my parents got to meet and take a picture with the President of the United States of America. And that really paled in comparison to the night that they got to meet Franco Harris.

Do you have any gameday traditions?

One of the sad things about living in Manhattan is not being able to get a DirectTv dish. So despite having a fairly high profile television job I watch the games more often than not on my iPad. But that’s better for my wife. She prefers that I have to hole up in a corner with my mobile device.

Who are your favorite Steelers, past and present?

As a really young kid, because of the Coke commercial more than anything, I loved Mean Joe Greene. The fact that because we didn’t live in Pittsburgh, the fact that there was sort of a national Steelers character, a personality that was a big deal. I don’t know if it’s apocryphal or not but my parents always say I had to miss school the day Mean Joe Green retired, because I was too inconsolable. From the past, my dad for every birthday, he would give me old Sports Illustrateds that had Super Bowl covers and old NFL tapes. So I loved Jack Lambert. I just found the mystique of Jack Lambert. And in recent years, Hines [Ward] and Troy [Polamalu] were guys that I loved. And I would say my current favorite Steeler is Antonio Brown.

Do you own any jerseys?

In old photos of us growing up, I had a Franco, my brother had a Bradshaw. There are a lot of 32s and 12s in our past.

When was the last time you saw a game at Heinz Field?

It was last year, we went to the home game against the Bengals. Everything about it was kind of a dud. Ben was just back from injury, Bell got hurt, there was a lot wrong with it.

Who is your favorite person to watch a Steelers game with?

At this point I think my favorite to watch with is my brother. Because I think we have an ability to watch, while remembering that it isn’t life or death. I have too many Steelers fans, and my father is at the top of this list, where it’s so fraught that I don’t actually enjoy it. I realized that I enjoy the week between games after the Steelers have won more than I enjoy the three and a half hours I’m watching the game. I just want it to be over, have had them won, so I can read about it.

What is your outlook for next season?

I am an eternal optimist. I feel like every season of the NFL where the Steelers don’t win the Super Bowl, something has gone wrong. So I am very excited about this year, and excited about the focus they put to the secondary. I truly cannot wait for it to start again. And then when it starts, I will be miserable and nervous, so I do like this time. I should point out, I follow the Steelers so much, I just read an article about how Doran Grant’s not eating meat, and I realize that with my job and the fact that it’s June, I shouldn’t waste my time reading about that. I have a Google alert for Doran Grant.

Anthony Jeselnik

Claim to fame: Stand-up comedian, Comedy Central celebrity roast regular

Age: 37
Hometown: Upper St. Clair

Origin of Steelers fandom: Growing up in Pittsburgh, Jeselnik said rooting for the Steelers wasn’t a choice. “It was everywhere you went.”

What is your favorite Steelers’ moment?

Winning the Super Bowl was huge. Honestly, now that you say this, I think Vanderjagt missing that kick against the Steelers in the playoffs. My entire Steelers “career” had been being on the opposite end of that, where they make that kick, where Jerome [Bettis] fumbles and doesn’t get the storybook ending, and then they kick the field goal. So when they missed it, I just felt, team of destiny, this is my time now. Like I really felt it was for me. Not just for the Steelers or for Pittsburgh, but like, I’ve earned this. That stuck out as a big one. That and the 100 yard interception return at the end of the first half of the Super Bowl. That was like a “we can’t lose this game now. This is amazing.” that was a great moment.

What is your worst Steelers’ moment?

I will never forget my mom calling me, because I’m in Los Angeles and my parents are still in Pittsburgh, calling me at eight in the morning. [I was] thinking that someone was dead in my family, something horrible must have happened. No one calls you that early in the morning. She calls me and tells me that Ben Roethlisberger had been in a motorcycle accident. I pulled my car over to the side of the road, thinking, “I would rather someone in my family was hurt.” It was such a Len Bias moment. I was completely devastated. Also, when the Steelers got destroyed by the Patriots, everyone thought the Steelers were going to win the super Bowl that year, and the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl. All my friends were Pats fans, and I remember watching that game being so overly confident, and just getting crushed. That was maybe the most humiliating moment of my life. Since that game, I’ve watched every single Steelers game either alone or with my brother and just stayed away from people as to not humiliate myself.

Who is your favorite person to watch a game with?

It’s pretty much just my brother. I lose control watching the games. I’m so emotional. Even during that last Bengals game during the playoffs, I was jumping around the room, screaming. I just don’t want people to see me like that. Even if my brother’s there, even that’s a little embarrassing. So I really have to watch alone. When I lived in Pittsburgh, it was different, because everyone was in the same boat. But once I left and moved to LA, you’re on your own. So you take everything so much harder, it really is emotionally devastating.

Which opposing team do you dislike the most?

Oh man, I really hate the Bengals. Maybe a couple of years ago, it would have been a different answer, but I really hate the Bengals. I used to hate the Browns a lot , but when they lost the team, I felt so bad for them, I kind of almost root for the Browns now, and they’re not really a rival. The Ravens, I can respect, because they’ve won things. I like the way they play the game. They’ve taken a lot of ex-Steelers, and played with them. But Cincinnati, I got in trouble on my NFL podcast for really laying into not just the team, but the fans and the city, for that playoff game. They are my rival. But even when I perform on the road, I try to avoid cities in the AFC North. I don’t play Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore very often, because I’m afraid they’re going to yell, like, “Go Browns” and I’m going to lose my mind in the middle of it. I really do kind of have a problem.

Do you have any notable Steelers memorabilia?

I’ve got a bunch of stuff. I’ve got a bunch of terrible towels, I’ve got a Hines Ward jersey, an Antonio Brown jersey, I don’t really have the game worn cleats or anything like that. I’m not much of a memorabilia guy. I definitely rock the black and gold whenever I go to a game or watch a game. I have a couple jerseys — official jerseys, none of that cheap crap. But I don’t have anything like Jerome Bettis’ hair, although I would bid on that if it was up for auction.

When was the last time you saw a game at Heinz Field?

Unfortunately I don’t get to get home too much. I usually get to see the last home game of the year and it’s so damn cold it's tough to get to. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Heinz. It’s been years. I want to say they were playing the Carolina Panthers on a Thursday night game.

Do you have any game day rituals?

I put on the jersey, and I worry about which jersey is going to work. Do I wear the Hines jersey, do I wear the Brown jersey? Do I just wear my Steelers T-shirt? I always have my towel handy. I really don’t want to be superstitious, but I clearly am. I don’t really have any kind of a ritual, but I switch it up depending how I think I can best help my team.

Who are your favorite Steelers, past and present?

Jerome Bettis meant a lot to me. Because I just remember, did you ever see the documentary about him the day after a game? How beat up he was, trying to walk downstairs? That made me cry. My dad went to Notre Dame, so I followed Jerome’s entire career. So Jerome was special to me, getting to watch him like that. Hines Ward, I just love everything he did. The smile, the clutch play. I loved him. But now Antonio Brown is my new everything. I’m a huge Antonio Brown fan. So I kind of get one each generation. But I’m Steelers across the board. There’s no player I dislike, I like everybody.

What is your outlook for next season?

I’m very optimistic. I’m at the point now where, since I’ve seen us win a couple of Super Bowls, that I can relax a little bit more. And this team is so good, that you really just hope there’s no injuries. Barring injuries, I think we can totally win the Super Bowl, and I think it’s going to be a fun season to watch. It’s not going to be one of those grind-it-out seasons. I’m going to enjoy watching every game. But if Ben goes down Week One, it’s going to be miserable. So I am cautiously optimistic, but very optimistic. It’s just all about injuries now. So we’ll see.

Swin Cash

Claim to fame: WNBA player

Age: 36
Hometown: McKeesport

Origin of Steelers fandom: Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Cash said she rooted for all local teams. “Either you’re going to be a Steelers fan or you’re going to be exiled from your home.”

What is your favorite Steelers’ moment?

There are so many great moments, but for me personally, it had to be in Detroit when I was playing for the Shock and I had the opportunity to be part of the whole committee that was doing a Super Bowl there. The Steelers were in it and I was on the 50-yard line with friends. To watch the Super Bowl from there was pretty amazing — to see Jerome Bettis end his career by winning a Super Bowl there. It was just special for me.

Who is your favorite player?

That's difficult, because I've seen so many who are fun and I just love. I love [Antwaan] Randle-El. He's such a spark plug, and his energy was high level all the time. But I grew up around Michael Logan — he went to McKeesport High School, so I was a huge fan of him and Charlie Batch, the hometown guys. To be honest, there are so many. It just goes back, from Plaxico [Burress], obviously Ben [Roethlisberger] for what he's been able to do, and players like Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis, Randle-El, Heath Miller. I always liked the tough guys, especially our receivers who would go through the middle. They kind of reminded me of basketball players. And how could I forget Troy Polamalu? One of my favorites, and probably one of the best Steelers players from a humility standpoint. The way he played the game exemplified class all the time.

Were you able to stay connected to the team, even as you moved away from Pittsburgh?

Yes, even through the ups-and-downs of my college years, with the Patriots on my last nerves, it was always the same: cheer for my home team. I married someone who is a diehard Giants fan, and the only way we were able to get married was the fact that they're NFC and we're AFC. Also, we reached the understanding that, as our kid is born at any point in time, their loyalty will lie with mommy's side. That's just what it is. We're on the same page there.

What’s your outlook for next season?

We have what it takes. My heart was a little broken with Heath leaving us, because he's so tough and so consistent through the middle. I think it's going to be a year where it's going to be interesting to see if we can build up some young talent that we have. I think with Antonio [], our wide receivers coming back, and a healthy Ben — I know he's dropped a few pounds and he's always the Iron Man — it will still be tricky to develop young talent and get back to having that solid defense that kind of keeps us in games and helps us win games, too.

What do you think the first Bengals game will look like?

Oh, my goodness. Let me just tell you right now, a friend of mine — Gary Owens — is a diehard Bengals fan. He's a comedian, but when these games start, I'm telling you, you would think we were on the field as players. That's how intense it gets. Friendship, family, alliances, all those things are severed whenever it comes time for kickoff. That's how serious it is.

How long have you been a Steelers fan?

I didn't really have a choice in the matter. I feel like if you're born and raised in Western Pennsylvania, then either you're going to be a Steelers fan or you're going to be exiled from your home. No, I'm just joking. But I grew up understanding the pride of the city, being a Steelers fan and being a fan of all sports teams in the city of Pittsburgh. That's how I really got involved in it. And I grew up with 75 first-cousins, a huge family, and that's all we did — play sports. It was football, baseball, basketball, all day every day.

What is your favorite piece of Steelers memorabilia?

I would have to say my Terrible Towel, the one I used in Detroit. Also, Polamalu’s jersey is probably one of my favorites that I got and had for the second Super Bowl that I was able to watch, that was down in Tampa.

Do you own any jerseys?

I do. I have Mike Logan, Troy Polamalu. I'm also really big on collecting Terrible Towels, so I have ones from different seasons, from Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

When was the last game you went to at Heinz Field?

The last game I went to would have been last year. I think they were playing my guy Larry Fitzgerald and Arizona. I was in town and participating in the Steelers fashion show, so I went to the game the next day.

Who is your favorite person you’ve watched a Steelers game with?

I would have to say my whole family. I grew up with Sundays that were about church, football and food. Those were our things. Watching the games with my family was the best. They're just diehard Steelers fans, and as a professional athlete, it’s always cool to listen to family and friends.

Can you get all 75 cousins in front of the same TV?

No, that's a little much. Everyone is spread out in their different families but gets a chance to watch it. Then we have bigger celebrations. If it's a huge game, people will come together, but the majority of the time, it’s just immediate family that’s in close proximity.

Do you have any gameday traditions?

No, but I would say my mom has a big one. She always has some type of memorabilia on, so I just ask her all the time why she doesn't just buy stock in it because I feel like it's one of the those where now you have the glittery hat that comes out, or now you have the cool Steeler shirt that comes out for women. I always say my mom is the best-dressed when it comes to our Sundays and watching football.

Joe Manganiello

Claim to fame: Actor, director, producer. Starred in “True Blood,” “Magic Mike”

Age: 39
Hometown: Mt. Lebanon

Origin of Steelers fandom: Manganiello was never not a Steelers fan. “When you grow up in Pittsburgh, that’s how you’re raised.”

What's your favorite Steelers moment?

I was at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, when they beat the Cardinals. That was, until my wedding, the greatest weekend of my life. I actually was sitting in the New Orleans Saints box, so it was right around the 50-yard line. It was pretty amazing.

Who is your favorite player?

There's a few. All-time, I'd probably have to say Troy [Polamalu]. Nobody played the game like Troy, nobody moved like Troy. I've become friends with Troy, and he's one of the good guys.

How did you get to know players such as Polamalu?

Funny enough, all the Steelers loved True Blood [a show Manganiello was on], so I wound up getting to ride out onto the field and meet all of them, and then I got to know the Steelers organization. I became very good friends with Thomas Tull, the CEO of Legendary Pictures and one of the owners of the Steelers. He would offer me a seat on his jet from LA to Pittsburgh for any games I wanted to go to, so it was this perfect storms of friendships that I made that led to some amazing, amazing Steelers experiences over the past decade.

Such as?

Ben Roethlisberger forced me to sing with a band, an 80s cover band, at a bar in Laguna. We spent the whole night hanging out, talking. Ben was like obsessed with True Blood at the time, so he kept asking me all these insider questions about True Blood, and I was bugging him about the divisional playoff game in '05, against the Colts, the Super Bowl. He told me all this stuff about Super Bowl XLIII, what went down on the final drive, and then the band was getting ready to wrap up. Ben forced the owner to make the band play one more song. He kind of shoved me up on stage and I sang 'Hungry Like The Wolf' with this cover band at this bar. So that was pretty fun ... I've gotten to know these guys as people and it's probably been one of the coolest parts about my career getting to the level it's at. It's the fact that I'm a Pittsburgh kid who now gets to hang out with his sports heroes.

What are your favorite pieces of Steelers memorabilia?

I do a lot of work with the children's hospital in Pittsburgh, and on one of my trips back, the kids signed a Terrible Towel for me. I actually have a Terrible Towel that was signed by some of the children at the hospital and they gave it to me for my first towel wave on the field. I got to come on the field before kickoff and wave the towel that was signed by the kids. That's probably number one. I'd say, number two, Antonio Brown gave me his first Pro Bowl jersey and signed it. I have it hanging up in my home gym. Actually, a couple years ago for my birthday, my wife bought me a very, very rare piece of artwork. It's a big black-and-white photo of Franco running back the Immaculate Reception. On top of the image, Franco wrote, in cursive, a big paragraph documenting a play-by-play of what happened during the Immaculate Reception. She somehow found this piece of memorabilia and got it for me. I talked to Franco about it, I said, 'Do you remember signing this giant photograph in cursive documenting the Immaculate Reception?' He said, 'Yeah, I remember that, I only did one of them.' I told him I have it, my wife bought it for me. He couldn't believe it. That's a good one too.

Other cool experiences with Steelers?

Also, the last time Troy was in LA, we got together for dinner. Just picking his brain about his playing days and his training with Marv Marinovich was awesome. Antonio Brown, after his rookie season, came over to my house to watch the AFC Championship that year we got knocked out in the playoffs. There's all these really cool, fun experiences I've had with the guys as people. Hanging out with Keisel and Jerome and [James] Harrison and the whole gang at Jerome [Bettis]'s Hall of Fame induction. That was amazing. Trying on Jerome's Super Bowl XL ring, that was cool. I can go on and on and on. Franco Harris is like my uncle, so we always get together when we're in the same city.

Did you grow up going to games at Heinz, or did you mostly watch them on TV?

I grew up watching them on TV. It wasn't really until Super Bowl XLIII, when I started going to the Super Bowls. I played the beach football before the Super Bowl for DirecTV, and because I played in those games, they give you free tickets and flights and everything. That was right when the Steelers were going to all the Super Bowls and winning, so I was lucky enough to go to all of those games.

What's your worst moment as a fan?

Probably Super Bowl XLV, which I was at in Dallas, when they lost to Green Bay. Rashard Mendenhall fumbled in the fourth quarter. It looked like we were going to win, and when he coughed that ball up, it was over.

Other than the Brown jersey, do you own any other Steelers jerseys?

Yeah, I have AB's Pro Bowl jersey, Ben [Roethlisberger] signed a jersey for me, Troy signed a jersey for me, Jerome [Bettis] signed a jersey for me and Franco [Harris] signed a jersey for me.

Who’s your favorite person to watch a Steelers game with?

I have a blast watching the games with my brother. We grew up watching them together, so he's the go-to.

Do you have any special traditions or superstition?

The jerseys get particular, who you're going to wear for that game. Then jersey selection prior to a season — who you're going to order for the year — is probably the most superstitious. If something's going wrong in the game, I might go change jerseys at halftime.

What jerseys are you guys looking at for this year?

My brother is wearing Maurkice Pouncey. He was leaning towards maybe going with a Cam Heyward. I am going to wait for the color rush jerseys, because I heard we're going all-black. I've been saying for years that I want a black-on-black uniform, and it looks like we might go that direction, so if we go black-on-black I might get one of those. I don't know. I oscillated last year between a Big Ben bumblebee jersey, an Antonio Brown bumblebee jersey and I actually got a Bud Dupree jersey that I wore during the playoffs last year. I was wearing the Bud Dupree when they beat the Bengals, so that was good luck.

What did you think of that Bengals game?

The Bengals game was a disgrace for them and their city. When you're throwing beer at an injured player who's being taken off the field and you're cheering a man who's been knocked out and most likely had a severe concussion in Antonio, how much more low-class can you get? I was really shocked, because I never thought of Cincinnati that way, but I now will never be able to think about them in a different light. I've never wanted to beat a team or beat a city so badly as I did during that game. That was just a disgusting display.

What's your outlook on next season?

I don't want to put too much pressure on, because I think we pay best when we don't have pressure or expectations, historically speaking, but it's just one of those years where I think we have the capability to be the No. 1 offense in the league, even without Martavis [Bryant], which is a shame. But I really think we're capable of scoring 30 points a game. I think we've got the best running back, I think we've got the best wide receiver in the league and I think we've got a quarterback that is capable of an MVP season this year. I know with the draft, we became a lot better on defense, a lot faster and younger. I think Ryan Shazier is going to have a big breakout year this year, and hopefully Bud Dupree has a breakthrough year as well. He's an edge rusher, and I think we've added some help in the secondary. I think we're capable of big things. I mean, look at how we did last year against Denver, who wound up winning it all. If it wasn't for a late-game fumble, we win that game. So I really do have high hopes this year. I think we can do it all. I believe in the guys. I'm hoping I wind up in Houston at the end of the year.

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The season

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Visitor's Guide

Magic of 'Renegade'