By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com Brett Keisel walked into Heinz Field on Friday night with a smile on his face. Sure he just fought through traffic to get there, but it really didn't matter. It was for a good reason.
Keisel was one of the many players on hand at the Steelers Pep Rally and for him it finally made going to the Super Bowl a reality
"I think this is the first time it set in, when I pulled up, that we are really going to Tampa and we are really playing in the Super Bowl," said Keisel. "It's bizarre, but it's an incredible feeling. I am excited for us and all of Steeler nation. Everywhere we go, doesn't matter who we are playing, we have fans everywhere. It's wonderful and as players we really appreciate it."
It was like a game-day atmosphere at Heinz Field, with a jubilant crowd decked out in jerseys, Steelers jackets and waiving their Terrible Towels.
"This was great," said cornerback Deshea Townsend. "To see the city come out and cheer us on, it lets you know the fans are always behind us. I heard people call my name when I walked in to the stadium and I wondered how they knew me, I didn't even have a jersey on. It's crazy.
"Steelers fans are everywhere. You love to see it. You go out there and fight for your teammates, but also the fans."
The pep rally included a concert by the Pittsburgh based group The Clarks as well as other entertainment. And whenever there was a break in the action, cheers of "Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go," were deafening.
"It's wonderful to have the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl and see the city is behind us for a pep rally," said defensive end Nick Eason. "It's crazy. To see the turnout, it's so huge. But with the support we had all season I am not surprised to see that many people out there. It's exciting for us and the fans. It's great to know the city will be behind as we head to Tampa.
"The fans have done an awesome job this year, helping us on third down and being a factor. It makes a big difference in a game. It helps the momentum in a game and keeps us pumped. It gives us a lot of energy at times when we might be tired, so it's big."
When the video to the Styx song Renegade, one that shows the hard hits the defense has laid on opponents this year, was shown on the scoreboard the fans went crazy.
"There are a lot of people here," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "If I said it surprised me I would be lying. We know how amazing the fans are and this is what I expected but it's still amazing. They are the heart and soul of what we are as a football team and a franchise. We bleed for them on the football field."
Both Dan Rooney and Art Rooney, II thanked the crowd and then it was time to introduce the players and the excitement reached a fever pitch as they came out of the tunnel and on to the stage.
"It's a surreal deal because I get a chance now to enjoy this," said running back Mewelde Moore. "I am having fun. It's a wonderful experience and I am happy to be a part of it. These are the best fans in the world. I appreciate everything they do for us. We try to represent our fan base the best way we can by playing hard and going out there and having fun."
Linebacker James Farrior kicked it off for the players, thanking the fans for their support and letting them know how excited they were to win their first AFC Championship game ever at Heinz Field.
"We appreciated what you guys put into this with us this year," said Farrior. "It's been a long tough season, a long road, nice journey and we are definitely glad we had two home playoff games in Pittsburgh. We finally got that monkey off our back and now we're going to the Super Bowl."
Roethlisberger and Townsend also addressed the crowd, before the evening ended with the newest version of "Here We Go."
"This is one of the best feelings I have ever had," said Townsend. "I am glad I am here. We have the best fans in the nation."