By John Ingoldsby, Player Engagement Insider
When Steelers Nation invaded Boston for AFC Championship Weekend, they not only had a place for a Pep Rally on the eve of the game, they had former Steelers legends leading them.
Past Pittsburgh players Tunch Ilkin, Craig Wolfley, and Willie Parker whipped hundreds of Steelers’ fans into a frenzy on Saturday night during a gathering at Cityside Bar in Boston, a well-known Steelers viewing establishment where hundreds of Western Pennsylvania transplants gather each weekend to watch their beloved black-and-gold.
But this weekend was even wilder than usual as their cohorts came in from the ‘Burg for the big game, and long lines waited to kick off the Pep Rally with fellow fans and the team’s fan outreach, Steelers Nation Unite (www.steelersnationunite.com), led by Steelers Radio Network hosts Ilkin and Wolfley, along with Parker and www.steelers.com hostess Missy Matthews.
“This is such a cool event tonight, and we do this for all the road games since Steelers fans are everywhere, so it always gets crazy,” said former offensive lineman Ilkin. “We do our pep rallies everywhere, sometimes even in hotel ballrooms, and host a live broadcast with Q&A, raffles, and autographs, and had a big turnout last week in Kansas City.”
So crazy in fact that the media from both Boston and Pittsburgh were there en masse to cover Saturday night’s Boston Pep Rally, and they were treated to true fan fanaticism with Steeler songs and decades-old chants like “We got a feeling, Pittsburgh’s going to the Super Bowl” and “Here we go Steelers, here we go,” both of course complete with the rapid waving of Terrible Towels.
“This is awesome, and Steelers Nation is really out in full force tonight,” observed Wolfley, who like his partner Ilkin was also an offensive lineman.
“As we do these around the country, I am always struck by so many stories of fans connecting the Steelers to big events in their lives like weddings and whatever other happenings were important to them,” added Wolfley, who pairs with Ilkin to form a perfect partnership of affable ambassadors who clearly can’t wait to mix and mingle with fans before and after their broadcast.
And Saturday night’s Boston broadcast was something special as Detroit Super Bowl XL star Willie Parker, who that day peeled off a Super Bowl Record 75-yard run, joined the crew for a live Q&A and then adjourned for autographs and photos, and like his Steelers brethren, couldn’t get enough of Steelers Nation.
“I never expected this, but it is an absolutely awesome evening to see this turnout and talk with fellow Steelers fans,” exclaimed the excited Number 39.
John Ingoldsby is the President and Founder of IIR Sports, Inc. (www.IIRSports.com) a sports media firm based in Boston. He has covered the NFL throughout his career that began as a newspaper reporter/editor, which includes articles in Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine (NFL Player Engagement), London-based Financial Times newspaper (NFL's international strategy), the Philadelphia Daily News (annual NFC Coaches Breakfast) and the Boston Globe (Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll).