A fun night out for the ladies

Legendary running back Rocky Bleier laughed when he was asked the simple, yet unusual, question.

How good of a painter are you?

"My great artistic skills. I can paint walls," laughed Bleier. "We'll see how great a painter I am."

The good news is, he isn't alone when it comes to struggling with artistic talents, but that didn't prevent Bleier and former Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke from helping others with their painting skills during the teams Ladies Night Out, presented by UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.

"As long as they are okay with my second grade level painting, with stick figures and really painting outside the lines types of painting, I am good," said Hoke. "It's a lot of fun. I like to interact and socialize with the ladies and have a good time. Paint and talk with them. Understand them. Show our appreciation and gratitude for them."

The Steelers mixed things up again this year for the annual Ladies Night Out. Instead of it being all about football, they turned it into an opportunity to create a fun painting the ladies could take home with them at the end of the night.

The painting was something the ladies, and players, could personalize as it was an image of themselves in a Steelers hat.

"It's not a competition where you have to have a great skillset," said Bleier. "All the talk about football, past stories, with this you are with a group of people that are in the same boat. I don't know how many of them are artists. It's a chance to see another side of players and talk in a different kind of relaxed atmosphere. It's not as if we are Van Gogh and they expect great art from us. It's just fun."

While painting, and enjoying a relaxing dinner, was at the forefront, you know when it comes to Steelers Nation the conversation is always centered around football. But this time, it was a more relaxed football conversation.

"It gives us an opportunity to be ourselves and let our guard down," said Hoke. "Sometimes when you are on a stage and it's a Q&A there is a separation. When you are relaxed and doing something like that you really let your guard down and you get on the same level, you are just there as human beings sharing the same passion for one thing – the Pittsburgh Steelers. It lets us connect.

"I have been around the Steelers for a long time. The women of Steelers Nation are the most energetic, the most knowledgeable, the most passionate of all the fans we have. Even on the post-game show I am on, when the fans call in, it's the women who have the best analysis, it's the women who understand the game the best. I learned quickly how knowledgeable they are. I am never blown away by it anymore because it's standard. When these women talk about the game they understand defense, offense, personnel, they know who is coming, who is going. It's fun because you can have a really good conversation about Steelers football when you get together with them.

"Whenever we have these ladies night out or events for them, they show up and are passionate about the Steelers and I love it."

Bleier has been around the team even longer, drafted in 1968, and has seen how the fan base, especially the female fan base, has developed through the generations.

"I find that what has developed over the years, from my rookie year on and just to see the fan base, from generation to generation of fan bases, how I get responses from young people today and young women specifically sharing how great a Steelers fan they are," said Bleier. "They talk about growing up watching the game with their father every week, that they have season tickets now. I find it somewhat amazing. I don't know whether or not other teams have that experience or generational support of a fan base from their father, or grandfather, who have watched games with them, taken them to games, make sure everyone watched the game and they became fans. Then they come back to watch games or go to events like this. I think it's unique. For players it's something special to be able to say there is a whole new generation being attached to a new generation of players so it will continue."