Now I Get It

If you are a fan of NFL Films, you know they mix football film video with powerful music and well-crafted writing to bring drama to our favorite game. However, NFL Films has outdone itself with its latest endeavor.

If you caught our newscast Wednesday, you may have seen my special report on “Steeler Nation.” That’s the title of NFL Films’ half-hour look at the army of Steelers fans from coast to coast — and beyond. It tells how this passion for Pittsburgh originated from the nearly devastating steel mill closings of the late 70’s and early 80’s. People had to leave Pittsburgh to find work – causing the city to lose one-third of its population. While they left for greener pastures, they never forgot their roots and that longing for home turned into a love of the Steelers — the most visible symbol of the city.

What really touched me is the way the story was told. It was done without little football and used stories of passion and love for the Steelers. Personal tales were told by everyone from Poison band leader Bret Michaels to a pastor in Patriots country who bleeds black and gold. In between the narrator, we hear Steeler Nation’s story being told by such Pittsburgh people as WDVE’s Scott Paulsen, UPMC sports psychologist Paul Friday and our own Sally Wiggin. Sally was eloquent and her descriptions capture the cult that is Steeler Nation. Of course, she has had 26 years of this stuff.
I’m a relative novice having covered the club for a decade before moving to news. In that time, when I traveled with the team I saw this Steeler Nation phenomenon first hand. Steeler fans outnumbering the home team fans and creating a home away from home. While I watched it for years, I never understood it until I saw this special from NFL Films. The story and the way it was told touched me and moved me. I’m both proud and embarrassed to say I finally get it.

Plus — let’s give big props to Keith Crossrow. The Mount Lebanon native and NFL Films producer put his heart and soul into this project and the result is perhaps the best piece NFL Films has ever done. It airs Saturday at 12:30pm on the NFL Network.

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