By Teresa Varley
There was a game-day atmosphere at Heinz Field on Saturday as the team hosted the annual Steelers Fan Blitz.
Over 10,000 fans were on hand on a beautiful spring day to watch the Steelers select Ziggy Hood in the first-round and take in all of the fun activities being offered.
The highlights of the day included current and former Steelers players signing autographs and the chance to have a photo taken in front of the six Super Bowl Trophies.
"It was pretty great," said Alan Barz of Michigan, who was there with his nine-year old son William. "My son is a Steelers fan. He got to watch the Super Bowl for the first time. It was great to share that with him. What a great game to share with him and then to come in and see the trophies is magnificent.
"We have been waiting a long time for this. It's a great experience, something we have never done before. I am glad to be able to share it and enjoy it with him."
Sam Smith of Pittsburgh attended the Fan Blitz with his two sons, Marvin and Vee, who were excited to be at Heinz Field seeing everything that was happening.
"You don't see those trophies like that often," said Smith after having his photo taken. "It was nice to see it. It's fun to be here, getting autographs, things like that."
Former Steelers offensive tackle Tunch Ilkin, now a member of the Steelers radio broadcast team, was drafted in the sixth round by the Steelers in 1980 and marveled at how different things are now, with the draft being an event now.
"There wasn't even ESPN on my draft day," said Ilkin, as he looked around at all of the fans gathered. "If the Giants didn't call me to tell me they weren't going to draft me, I wouldn't know it was the draft. I was told I would go around the 11th or 12th round or a free agent.
"The first day I wasn't thinking about getting drafted. I went to class. They called while I was gone and no one answered the phone. They called my mom and she doesn't speak real good English. I didn't tell her to expect a call because I wasn't thinking I would go then. Coach Noll called and said congratulations Mrs. Ilkin we drafted your son in the sixth round. My mom freaked because she thought I was drafted into the Army. This was post-Vietnam war. My graduating class was the first one that didn't have to register to be drafted, so it was wild."
The Fan Blitz also gave Steelers fans the chance to help out others in the Pittsburgh community. The Central Blood Bank held a blood drive during the event, allowing people to donate.
In addition, City of Pittsburgh Police Officers collected donations for the "Pittsburgh Fallen Heroes Fund," which has been established by the Fraternal Order of Police to support the families of the three officers slain in the line of duty Saturday, April 4 in Stanton Heights – Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo.
"This is absolutely phenomenal," said Pittsburgh Police Spokeswoman Diane Richard of the collection and outpouring of support from the Pittsburgh community. "We have had so much support that it's overwhelming. The appreciation and gratitude we have for the people who have come forth and want to do something for our fallen officers' families and have shown love for our fallen officers and others in the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is wonderful.
"Typically people look at police officers as reactive and forget we are human. We have families and we hurt. With the outpouring of support and love through all of this, something good is coming out of it. The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and the City of Pittsburgh thank everyone who has given to this cause."
For fans who are unable to attend the 2009 Steelers Fan Blitz, you can still donate by sending a check to:
*Pittsburgh Fallen Heroes Fund
Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union
1338 Chartiers Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15220 *