By Teresa Varley
When you have fans that wave Terrible Towels at the Olympics, take them with them to the top of mountain ranges, and wave them after saying "I Do," then you know that you have a strong fan base.
Now, others are acknowledging it as well.
As a part of their 2008 NFL Preview ESPN.com ranked the NFL's 32 teams fan bases. And the Steelers finished first.
ESPN's divisional bloggers were asked to rank fans over the past five seasons, using criteria such as how well they travel, tailgating, loyalty during tough times and other topics.
The Steelers finished tied for first in the poll with the Green Bay Packers, but with a winner needing to be determined the Steelers were given the edge by ESPN.com's football writer John Clayton cast the deciding vote.
As far as Steelers fans receiving the honor, the ESPN.com article read:
"Steelers fans are deserving of the top honor. The decline of the steel industry in the 1970s coincided with the rise of the Steelers dynasty. At a time when the city's collective psyche was taking a major blow, the local football team offered a weekly respite.
"A generation of young people left the city to find work elsewhere, but they remained passionate about their hometown team. And that's why your local stadiums are often invaded by a black-and-gold army."
Steelers players are certainly used to their fans being loyal and in no way, shape or form are surprised by the ranking.
"They definitely show their support," said running back Willie Parker. "Whenever you see fans with tattoos of you and your teammates that says a lot. They are really dedicated about this football stuff. You can be sure they will be in the stands cheering you on whether it's good or bad, rain, snow or sun."
And most importantly, they will be there on Sunday afternoon when the Steelers take on the Houston Texans at Heinz Field.
"They play a huge role. They always play a big role," said wide receiver HInes Ward. "We feed off their energy. They know when we need them. They are going to be behind us 100% and we have to go out there and put on a good show for them."