By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com Super Bowl XLIII won't be played in Pittsburgh, but that doesn't mean that the city won't benefit from the Steelers representing the AFC in the biggest game of the year.
Steelers fans that can't make the trip to Tampa for the game will be flocking to Pittsburgh restaurants to watch the game with fellow Steelers fans. Merchandise is flying off the shelves and game day food will be purchased by hordes of hungry Steelers fans who will gather at home with friends and family.
"The last two playoff games meant millions of dollars for hotels and restaurants in the city," said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. "We will experience that again on Super Bowl Sunday. It's great that Pittsburgh people that moved elsewhere are going to come back and enjoy the game here in Pittsburgh."
Steelers fans that grew up in Pittsburgh and had to leave the region for various reasons plan on coming home to Pittsburgh to watch the game. Even fans who have never stepped foot in the city plan on coming to Pittsburgh to meet up with fellow Steelers fans to enjoy the excitement of the Super Bowl.
"Pittsburgh is one of the few cities in the world that people want to come back to, even if they had to leave for whatever reason," said Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. "This is so family-oriented. People that left want to hold on to what they remember. It was a great place to grow up and they love to come back. Whenever they have the chance to come back they do. What better excuse to come home and celebrate and watch the Super Bowl in the city.
"You also had people that left the area that talked about it to others and they want to know what is so special about this area. When you see the away games and how many fans are in the stadium, you know this Steeler nation is real."
National media has been in Pittsburgh since the playoffs began and didn't leave town until the team wrapped-up their practice preparations on Friday afternoon. In addition, the media blitz the week before the Super Bowl won't just focus on the team, but also on the city itself, something that is invaluable.
"The national and international exposure you get all through the playoffs and the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, you couldn't put a price tag on it," said Onorato. "This is unbelievable. It's good PR for the city, the Pittsburgh region, and how we promote what we are doing here. To have that kind of advertising everywhere for that long is a great PR tool for us."
Ravenstahl, who has extended dropping the 'Ravens' portion of his name and maintaining 'Steelerstahl' through the Super Bowl run, knows that the Steelers are perfect for the city right now, bringing a lift to fans and giving the city an opportunity to show why it is such a special place.
"It's real exciting for the city," said Ravenstahl. "To be a part of the Super Bowl run is always great. Throughout the course of the next week there will be fans traveling to Tampa. It's a great pick me up for Pittsburgh. It's also a great chance for us as a city to tell our story to the world. We all know as Pittsburghers it's a wonderful place to live. To be able to brag about it to the outside world is something the Super Bowl brings, which is an added bonus."