It's not often that Steelers fans in Texas get the chance to see the team play in their home state. So, when the schedule came out for the 2017 season and as fans everywhere began making their plans, so too did Steelers fans in Houston. Even though the game was slated for Christmas Day, it wasn't going to stop fans in the Houston area, and well beyond, from turning out in droves to support their team.
"When the schedule came out, we decided we had to do something," said Bev Daigle, a diehard Steelers fan from Houston who helps organize the "Hwy SixBurgh Steelers Nation" fan club.
Each game day, a couple hundred fans from the club gather at Frank'N'Steins in Sugar Land, TX to watch their Steelers play. This past weekend, though, was much different.
Since the schedule release, the fan club had been planning a game day tailgate for more 350 fans, complete with music, food, prizes and plenty of holiday cheer and excitement. At least, they thought there were only going to be about 350 people at their tailgate. Once game day arrived, though, that number quickly grew, as the parking lot they were in outside NRG Stadium became a sea of black and gold.
"We had easily more than 500 people. It was a party before we even got in the stadium," Daigle said. "We had people from Canada, Germany, all over Texas, Tennessee, Florida, California - it was fantastic."
When it was all said and done, the tailgate consumed more than 20 parking spaces. In addition to that, there were 20 briskets, 100 pounds of sausage, 40 pounds of macaroni and cheese and countless side dishes and desserts that fans contributed to the tailgate. Plus, there were dozens of tables, tents, flags and even a giant blowup Steelers figure. Throw in hundreds of Steelers fans, and it was a recipe for one heck of a party that probably more closely resembled Heinz Field than anywhere else.
"We said we were going to do it like we do it at the bar each week, just on a bigger scale," said Daigle. "The DJ from our bar even came, because he gets everybody going on game day."
As it turns out, fans were so excited for game day, they started showing up at NRG Stadium at 8:00 am on Monday, but were forced to wait until the lots opened at 11:30am. That didn't stop them, though. Instead, they went and picked up food from a restaurant nearby and had a pre-tailgate tailgate on the side of the street before the party officially kicked off.
"People just kept joining us on the side of the street as they were walking up. We were all together three hours before they even let us in," Daigle said. "When they opened the lots, we got in and cornered off our area and starting getting everything set up so we could be ready when everybody showed up."
These fans knew they had to take advantage of this fairly rare opportunity to get together with their extended Steelers family. And with it being Christmas, Monday afternoon at NRG Stadium was a day well spent with their football family, cheering on their team to a victory and showing exactly what it means to be part of the best fan base in the world.
"People were high-fiving and hugging and Steelers fans were all wishing each other Merry Christmas," said Daigle. "Steelers fans were singing as they went into the stadium and to their seats. It was just a great atmosphere."
The effort from Steelers fans didn't go unnoticed either, with players tweeting after the game about how Houston felt like a home game. QB Ben Roethlisberger even gave the fans a shoutout in his postgame press conference.
Fans can read and see more about this fan story, as well as much more exclusive content, at SteelersNationUnite.com. The official home of Steelers Nation, Steelers Nation Unite is how fans can get rewarded with benefits and experiences all year long.
Coming on Wednesday, members will receive exclusive access to a new episode of "When The Pads Come Off", which features a look at players off-the-field. This week, members can learn more about Ramon Foster and what he likes to do when he's not lining up for the Steelers.
Visit SteelersNationUnite.com now to find out more about how this season can be even more rewarding as an official member of Steelers Nation. Learn More