Casey Hampton can hear the chant. It never fails.
Regardless of the venue. Regardless of the weather. Regardless of the circumstances. Preseason or the Super Bowl. Heinz Field or Houston.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers are leading late in the fourth quarter, the sound of “Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go!” while thousands of Terrible Towels twirl will reverberate inside the veteran nose tackle’s helmet.
“Our fans are going to stay until the end,” said Hampton, who has watched the phenomenon since his rookie year in 2001. “They’re going to ride with us. A lot of times, especially when you’re winning at the end, when the home fans clear out they’ll still be there doing their thing.”
It happened Sunday in New York during Pittsburgh’s 24-20 victory over the defending Super Bowl-champion Giants. At a stadium typically swathed in blue, the roar for the Steelers grew so loud at one point quarterback Ben Roethlisberger actually had to put his hands up to ask for quiet.
Coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t joking when he said recently the self-appointed “Steeler Nation” is everywhere.
Whether it’s folks traveling from Pittsburgh to watch the black-and-gold or western Pennsylvania transplants who fill their nearest NFL stadium when the black-and-gold visit is unclear.
What is clear is the backing the Steelers and other marquee NFL teams receive when they don their visiting uniforms is growing.
The explosion in the secondary ticket market combined with the league’s ever expanding popularity and just plain old family ties means for teams like the Steelers, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, homefield advantage isn’t limited to gamedays where the players wake up in their own beds.
The ubiquitous Terrible Towels mean the support that greets the Steelers on the road is a little more visible than most, but Pittsburgh isn’t the hardest road ticket in the league according to brokerage site Stubhub.
Even with the Cowboys stumbling to a 3-5 start, watching them on the road will cost about $196 a ticket if you go through Stubhub according to spokesperson Joellen Ferrer. The Steelers are the second-most expensive at $190.
It’s simple supply and demand. The brighter the name, the more difficult the get. The Giants, Cowboys, Packers, Steelers and Bears are the five toughest road tickets in the NFL for Stubhub customers.
All five have a proud history littered with championships — 20 Super Bowls and counting — and dozens of Hall-of-Fame players, teams whose fandom is handed down generation to generation or in the case of Brad Stoller, from wife to husband.
The 48-year-old Stoller grew up in Indiana rooting for the Cowboys long before the Colts fled Baltimore for the Midwest. Dallas was at its “America’s Team” zenith at the time. But the combination of Jerry Jones’ arrogance and his wife Amy’s lifelong devotion to the Steelers led Stoller to switch allegiances. Now he runs a Steelers Fan Facebook page that features more than 98,000 likes from all over the globe.
“What I’ve found, there’s a tremendous number of people, maybe they grew up in Pittsburgh, but somewhere there’s a connection with Pittsburgh,” Stoller said. “They may live in Florida today, but when their Steelers are around, they try to make it to the game.”