This past weekend, Northern Virginia turned into a Steeler paradise for thousands of fans who traveled from as far away as Florida, Alabama, Ohio, and of course Pittsburgh for the chance to see their heroes up close and personal. As we all know, Steeler Nation does a little traveling here and there – a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by many of the players making appearances at the show over the weekend.
Former Steelers WR Roy Jefferson signed autographs for several hours on both days, and was very impressed with the way Steelers fans support their team. Sitting next to former Steelers RB Mike Collier at the autograph booth, both players had alot to say about the quality of the Steel City and their fans. “Steelers fans are amazing, besides this show I have been many shows all over the Country where Steelers fans always make their presence felt. A few years back, when the Steelers played the Redskins in FedEx Field, the stadium was easily 70% black and gold, and felt like a Steelers home game ” said Jefferson, who played for both the Steelers and Redskins in his career and makes his home in Washington, DC. Mr. Collier added “It is amazing the way these fans support their team, even the guys who only played for them for a few years get treated like royalty.”
Former Steelers DE Keith Gary, signing autographs in the front area of the show, spent many hours mingling with Steelers faithful, and was talking football with the fans all weekend. Even former Cincinnati Bengals RB Ickey Woods was impressed with the Steelers turnout, although Ickey – as a Bengal for life – wanted to also make sure Steelers fans know the rivalry is still there. “No matter what type of season each team is having, when the Bengals and Steelers hook up, you know it will be a good game.” stated the former “Ickey Shuffle” master.
While most fans came out to catch a glimpse of their heroes, the real event was the Collectables Show featuring over 500 dealers from all across the country. For a sports memorabilia collector, it was a dream show. Autographed items, sports cards, sports figures, and every oddball collectable you could dream of was available in Chantilly this weekend. The show drew over 50,000 fans over the three day length, and at no time could you look anywhere without running into Steeler Nation. The Steel City Mafia, the most prominent Steelers fanclub in the Country, was all over Chantilly signing up new members and holding auctions for great Steelers gear. TotalSports had their booth lined with thousands of “Forever86″ items honoring Hines Ward, who made his entrance on Sunday afternoon to a massive Terrible Towel wave organized by Wendy Bennett of the Steel City Mafia.
The show was sponsored by Collectors Showcase of America, a company who promotes shows throughout the east coast. Besides Steelers players such as Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Dermonnti Dawson, Emmanuel Sanders, Levon Kirkland, Rocky Bleier, and Ryan Clark, the show included Dallas Cowboys players Jason Witten and Miles Austin, Rams QB Sam Bradford, Paul Hornung, Cortez Kennedy, Matthew Stafford, Michael Vick, and baseball legends Jack Morris, Wally Moon, and Pedro Sierra.
Even with the firepower of many non-Steelers players making the trip, the weekend was owned by Steeler Nation and Robert Griffin III. The former Baylor QB and possibly soon-to-be Washington Redskin brought out the Redskins fans and the local media on Saturday afternoon. He signed autographs and met his future fans before leaving to a thunderous applause.
One of the big topics discussed over the weekend was the immediate future of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have had a rocky offseason. Former Steelers RB Mike Collier summed it up best “Next year will be a challenge for the Steelers, finding new leaders, and allowing the younger players to find their spots, but in the end two things are for sure – the Steelers will compete, and Steeler Nation will be there with them the entire way.”
I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Collier.
You can follow Jeff Snedden on Twitter at @jeffsnedden
You can follow Nice Pick, Cowher at @nicepickcowherc
Of course, you can also get the best Steelers coverage right here at Nice Pick, Cowher!