On Thursday night in New Orleans, Steelers fans from around the area got together to celebrate the team's first trip to the city in six years. As part of this special event with Steelers Nation Unite, which took place at the Fox and Hound - New Orleans, fans were able to get to photos and autographs with Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley, as well as a take part in a Q&A session with the former Steelers.
And while "The Big Easy" isn't an annual stop for the team, the fans in the area have no problem keeping the Steelers pride going and proudly wearing their black & gold.
A big part of that reason is Rich Engle, a native of Uniontown, PA, who's lived in New Orleans for the last 13 years. He helps organize the game day meetups for Steelers fans in the New Orleans area, which take place at the Fox and Hound. The game day crowd ranges from a few dozen fans to more than one hundred, depending on the date and time of the game.
"I was looking for a Steelers bar to hang out in and watch the games, and I came across this place. We had a small group of us who started getting together to watch the games and it started to grow from there," Engle said. "Now we've got a pretty good group of people who come out every week to watch the games."
Many of those game day regulars were among the group who attended the event on Thursday night and enjoyed the up close interaction with Ilkin and Wolfley, and having the two former players in attendance made the night even more special for this dedicated group of Steelers Nation loyalists.
It's not just game days, either, when this group gets together, as they have a number of events throughout the year with this extended Steelers family.
"We do a lot of stuff outside of here, too. Crawfish boils. parties, all that type of stuff. And then we're here every Sunday watching the Steelers," said Engle.
For Engle, finding this group of fans was not totally unexpected when he moved to New Orleans, but he didn't realize what started 13 years ago would evolve into what they do today.
"It's amazing. I knew Steelers fans traveled well, but I didn't realize how [many Steelers fans there are everywhere]," he said. "There are a lot of Steelers fans in this area, around the country and around the world."
That was evident on Friday night, as the unmistakable black and gold of Steelers Nation could be seen inside and outside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The familiar sight of Terrible Towels on the road was seen throughout the night, from the start of warm-ups until the final whistle blew on a Steelers victory.
Now, it's on to Carolina and another opportunity for fans to get together on the road with Steelers Nation Unite. For any fans attending Thursday's preseason finale or who live in the Charlotte area, be sure to head out to Fitzgerald's Charlotte for a pregame event on Wednesday night, with appearances by Ilkin and Wolfley and prize giveaways throughout the night. Be sure to visit SteelersNationUnite.com for all of the info on upcoming Steelers Nation Unite events.