It was a game that was dubbed the Steelers annual ‘Thank You Fans’ game. One where prizes were given out from start to finish.
In the end it was a game where Steelers players once again realized how thankful they are to have the best fans in the NFL.
After the Steelers defeated the Bengals, 16-13, at Heinz Field, the scoreboard immediately went to the fourth quarter of the Browns-Ravens game, a game the Browns needed to win to keep the Steelers playoff dreams alive.
The minute the game went on the scoreboard, thoughts of leaving Heinz Field vanished from the minds of the fans, and the players alike.
While players sat on the field, many sitting on their helmets, fans stayed in their seats, standing and cheering on the Browns while waving their Terrible Towels. Even some of the Bengals remained on the field, standing alongside Steelers players watching the game.
Inside, near the Steelers locker room, staff, family members and media stood around televisions. The scene was the same inside the Steelers locker room. And even outside of the Bengals locker room, former Browns coach Hue Jackson, now with the Bengals, was glued to the television, along with an array of Bengals players watching off and on.
It was a scene like nothing else ever at Heinz Field.
And it was a scene that gave the players an even greater sense of appreciation for their fans.
“I considered going in and beating the rush because my whole family was in for Christmas and the New Year,” said Vance McDonald. “I just kind of paused and looked around and imagined the emotion. I appreciated it for what it is. The fact that I get to play football and however many people were in the stadium that day watching and keying in on one game with everything riding on it. It was unbelievable.
“The way it ended was the way it ended. But, at the same time, we got to enjoy like 10 minutes of it. I kept looking around in circles, just appreciating it.”
He wasn’t alone in that feeling.
“The love the fans have for this team,” said Mike Hilton, just shaking his head in amazement. “Nobody left when the clock struck zero and they turned the Cleveland game on. It was an emotional moment. It was also a great moment to see how much passion these fans have.
“I didn’t want to leave the field. We knew we took care of business on our field. Once they turned on that game, it was an emotional moment for us and our fans. Our fans were amazing staying there like that, even if it didn’t turn out the way we hoped.”
Saying Thanks: Several Steelers players went to social media to thank the fans for their support throughout the season.
Sharing news: Zach Banner tweeted out some news on Monday, that he will be back with the team for the 2019 season. Banner didn't play at all this season and was inactive for all but one game.