Sunday, June 26, 2022

Steelers Embrace Atmosphere Of Playing At Heinz Field: ‘There’s Not Too Many Moments Like That In Sports’

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Pittsburgh Steelers teammates Chase Claypool, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Miles Boykin appeared on the Varsity House Podcast Wednesday with host Shaun Crawford and talked about numerous topics concerning the individual players themselves as well as the Steelers as a team. When show host Shaun Crawford asked the guys what it’s like to walk into Heinz Field on a cold winter afternoon to a sold-out stadium of die-hard Steeler fans waving their terrible towels with the noise filling the entire venue, Claypool explained how the history of the Terrible Towels and the song renegade affect him personally as a member of the Black and Gold.

“It’s definitely goosebumps for sure,” Claypool responded to Crawford according to video via the Varsity House Podcast’s YouTube page. “Because it’s like, you know, so traditional and something that kind of embodies the Steelers culture is that thing. So, that was pretty dope, because you fired up.”

Claypool didn’t have the opportunity to experience a sold-out crowd his rookie season at Heinz Field in 2020 due the pandemic, having to wait until 2021 to fully understand what the effects of the Terrible Towels and renegade can have on a home game in Pittsburgh. However, when the fans were allowed to return last season and Heinz Field got rocking in the fourth quarter of games down the stretch like in Week 9 on a 29-27 win over the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football or Week 13 in a 20-19 win against the Baltimore Ravens.

Minkah Fitzpatrick quickly latched onto the city of Pittsburgh in 2019 after being traded from the Miami Dolphins, and after signing a record-setting deal to make him the highest-paid safety in football, he too recognizes the power and mystique of what it means to play in front of a home crowd at Heinz Field.

“There’s not too many moments like that in sports,” Fitzpatrick said after Claypool’s remarks. “You know what I’m saying? In the moments that you do have, when they start playing renegadewhen everybody starts waving the towels, like it’s just like, even when you’re not feeling like fired up intensity, once they start playing the music and they are waving the towels, you just immediately just like, everything’s just start flowing.”

The tradition of playing renegade at Steelers home games began in 2002 when the team was behind in a playoff game against the Cleveland Browns. The team was down 24-7 when they got the ball in the second half, and the crew working the sound system decided to play the song on the jumbotron. The music immediately revitalized the fans in the stadium and the team fed off their energy, storming back from a 17-point deficit and win the game, advancing to the next round of the playoffs.

“You got the whole stadium behind you, and you know what it’s doing to the opponent too, you know what I’m saying?” Fitzpatrick continued. “You see them over there and they got to get in real tight into their huddle to talk to each other and our sideline’s jumping. They’re shooting and hollering, and they over there, like all stiff. It’s cool. It’s a great experience. And like I said, there is not a whole lot like that in all of sports.”

As mentioned earlier, one of the key moments that Renegade came into play this past season for Pittsburgh was in a pivotal home win against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13, the former team of WR Miles Boykin. When host Shaun Crawford asked Boykin what was like to come in as the opponent and play at Heinz Field, Boykin reiterated the sentiments of Claypool and Fitzpatrick brought up about the feel in the stadium and the effect that renegade and the roar of the crowd can have on the opposite sideline.

“They wait for the perfect opportunity to play too,” Boykin responded to Crawford regarding when the team decides to blast their fabled pump-up song on the loudspeakers. “I think one game, we were up by 10, and y’all score a touchdown. So, now we’re only up by three now and we’re going on offense. It’s like probably two and a half minutes left, maybe three minutes left. Soon as we kick off, start playing it, and it goes crazy in there, man. I think we have like a three-and-out or something like that and they go down and score and we lose. I never won in Pittsburgh, but yeah, that song is crazy. It’s definitely, out of all the places that I’ve played in, that is one of the best songs that they play for their fans.”

Boykin, who has never played a down for the Steelers as a former division rival, also acknowledges the power that song can bring to a fan base. Boykin is heading into his fourth season in the NFL after being selected by the Ravens in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. While Pittsburgh didn’t have the benefit of the crowd noise and terrible towels twirling back in 2020 when they walked away with a home victory over Baltimore, Boykin still has be a part of two other losses to the hands of their arch rival with their fabled song playing at the most crucial time of the game.

I personally have never been to a Steelers home game at Heinz Field; therefore, I cannot speak to what the actual sensation is like having over 68,000 fans on their feet at full throat making as much noise as the can as the song by Styx plays throughout the stadium. However, in my experience at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and seeing the place be overrun by Steelers fans in the fourth quarter and terrible towels waving throughout the venue as Pittsburgh walked away with a 19-13 win against the Chiefs in 2017, I can only imagine what it is like on their home turf given the way the fanbase takes over opposing stadiums.

Boykin will now have the opportunity to experience Heinz Field from the other sideline of this fall, having the full support of everyone in attendance like Claypool and Fitzpatrick mentioned, seeing thousands of towels fly and having the team’s trusted song come on when needed the most in the fourth quarter to energize the players and fans alike, making Steeler Nation what we know it to be today.



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