By Mike Mettler
Official Biographer for Styx
(This article originally appeared on www.styxworld.com)
Anyone who has ever seen The Pittsburgh Steelers defense rally in the fourth quarter knows just how much "Renegade" plays a role in the way the team surges under pressure. Since January 2002, the Steelers have regularly shown a video compilation of its defense in action with "Renegade" as the soundtrack on the JumboTron at Heinz Field whenever the team needs a boost. During a recent event, Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, star running back for the Steelers from 1996-2006 (he retired after the team won Super Bowl XL) and a 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, exclusively told Styxworld how special the song has been to him and his former team.
"I want to let those guys know how important it was to me as a player, because sometimes, they don't know the impact they make," says Bettis. "'Renegade' is a song that has taken on a life of its own, and as a football player from Pittsburgh, I just wanted to let those guys know I appreciate it — the fact that they allowed us to play that song, because it brought us so much joy. But it also brought some wins. It helped the defense pick it up. It made a difference with us, and those guys need to hear it from me how important that was."
Is there one game where Bettis feels "Renegade" made its biggest impact? "I remember one good one, when we were playing The New York Jets in Pittsburgh, and it was a playoff game [the AFC Divisional playoff on January 16, 2005]," The Bus recalls. "We were losing that game. They played 'Renegade,' and I'll never forget seeing those towels — The Terrible Towels — all waving at us, and it was amazing. I would definitely attribute that song to making a big difference in that game. It was like the 12th man. It was huge." The Steelers ultimately tied the Jets in the fourth quarter and then won the game in OT, 20-17, with a field goal. Bettis ran for 101 yards in the game and scored a touchdown.
Bettis' heartfelt words are not lost on the creator of "Renegade," Styx guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw. "I'm completely blown away by this," Tommy says. "I wish Jerome knew how much that means to me as the songwriter, and I'm sure the rest of my bandmates feel the same way. I wrote that song in my living room on my piano back when I lived in Michigan. Nobody else was around, and for it to become something like what Jerome described is so surreal to me!"
On January 11, 2009, Styx was in Pittsburgh to perform our National Anthem and sing some of "Renegade" at Heinz Field before the team's AFC Divisional playoff game with The San Diego Chargers — a game the Steelers won, 35-24.
Bettis, 43, is the NFL's sixth all-time leading rusher with 13,662 yards, and he currently works as a studio analyst for ESPN. More information about The Bus can be found at his website, wwww.thebus36.com.
(About the Author: Mike Mettler grew up in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh. He is also the Music Editor for Sound & Vision and Chief Content Officer at Hi Res Audio Central.)