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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 January 2006, 09:21 GMT
Steeler madness
By David Brooks
For BBC Sport in Pittsburgh

Jerome Bettis addresses "Steeler Nation" ahead of the Super Bowl
Jerome Bettis addresses "Steeler Nation" ahead of the Super Bowl
It's been Steeler madness in Pittsburgh ever since the Iron City's team booked their place in Super Bowl XL by beating Denver in the AFC Championship game.

The level of the mania here ahead of the big game in Detroit on Sunday, 5 February can't be overstated.

Middle-aged ladies wear foam hats with buses protruding out of the sides (in honour of running back Jerome Bettis, nicknamed "The Bus"), while others pay $2,300 (1,300) and more for bog-standard Super Bowl tickets.

It seems that no-one in this Pennsylvanian city, some 315 miles west of New York, has been left untouched by the Super Bowl run of the team in black and gold.

The Steelers have actually worn and white and gold on the road to Detroit, with three fine play-off wins away to higher-seeded teams.

They will also wear white against Seattle in the big game, but black and gold are the colours decking out Pittsburgh at present.

One fan, supposedly a well-to-do lawyer, is said to have worn black, silk Steelers boxer shorts over the top of his suit to work the Friday before the AFC Championship title decider.

There's no word on whether he might forego the trousers next week.

Sales of Steelers apparel have gone through the roof. And in Pittsburgh, it's not just boys and young men who wear shirts, it's everyone, from babies to grandparents.

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At a supermarket one hour before kick-off ahead of the game in Denver, every single person sported some sort of Steelers clothing.

Come Sunday, it's unlikely there'll be anyone shopping at all.

The newspapers, the radio and TV shows can run nothing else, and for the most part, the 300,000 population (the metropolitan area is far larger) couldn't be happier about it.

Gwen, a recent immigrant from New York (if you're not from Pittsburgh, you're a foreigner) said she was nearly "blown off her feet" when a passenger in a car sped by, wound down the window and screamed "Steelers are going to the Super Bowl".

She said: "There's nothing too unusual about that, except that it was five days after the victory over the Broncos and in the middle of the afternoon."

The euphoria stems from a deep-rooted bond between the city and its football team.

Pittsburgh has been in decline since the steel industry began to shut up shop in the early 1980s, at a time when the great Steelers team of the 70s - which won four Super Bowls under quarterback Terry Bradshaw - were also past its best.

The city has staged a partial recovery in recent years. A few new businesses have popped up and most of the buildings have been cleaned so they are no longer black from the soot from the steel mills.

And the "Stillers" - that's how it's pronounced here - have also enjoyed a renaissance, making the AFC Championship game six times under current coach Bill Cowher and making the big game in 1995 where they lost to Dallas.

Perhaps that's why the big game on Sunday is so big, because in the hearts of many "yinzers" - as the locals are known - as go the Steelers, so goes Pittsburgh.

Live coverage of Super Bowl XL will feature on the BBC Sport website and on BBC Radio Five Live from 2200 GMT on Sunday, 5 February.

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