CINCINNATI – The party in Cincinnati got started for Steelers Nation well before the clock hit all zeroes in Paul Brown Stadium late Sunday afternoon. With a highly-anticipated AFC North showdown looming large for the better part of the last week, Steelers fans brought the black and gold to Cincinnati.
It started on Saturday night at a Steelers bar called Martino's on Vine. For many Steelers fans, this is the go-to spot in Bengals territory, regardless of whether or not it's game day or the Steelers are even in town. It's a haven for the black and gold in enemy territory, and Saturday night offered a glimpse into just how excited and united Steelers fans were for Sunday afternoon.
Steelers Nation Unite, the team's loyalty program, promoted the bar as the top place to be for Steelers fans on Saturday night. With prizes and giveaways for members in attendance and those who signed up (for FREE), it only added to what was already a fun atmosphere. When Martino's opened over 20 years ago, they didn't expect it to become what it has today.
"We're Steelers fans and we wanted only Steelers games on when the Steelers play. So we bought the package but we never advertised it. We made it all by word of mouth," said Marty Angiulli, owner of Martino's. "What made us is when the Steelers came here in the 2005 season and beat the Bengals on the way to the Super Bowl. That's what did it, and then everybody knew Martino's."
Indeed, the word is out about this Steelers bar. Just ask Laurie Luba, who traveled from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati for the game with her husband, brother and sister-in-law. They knew they had to make a stop at Martino's.
"It feels like we're home. People know the songs, they know the chants. We found new friends here and it's just awesome," She said. "I've never been to a Steelers bar like this. I've been to one in Florida and it was nothing like this. This is amazing."
The night came with an added bonus for two brothers, also, as Tom and Fred Frisco of Cleveland got a special surprise for being Steelers Nation Unite members – pregame field passes for Sunday afternoon. It was exciting addition to Sunday afternoon, as they continue their mission to see the Steelers play in every NFL stadium. It was made even more special for Fred's young son when Antonio Brown flipped him a football during warmups.
While that was something to make it more than worthwhile for the Frisco brothers, there was another group on Sunday in Cincinnati who had made quite a journey for the game.
They call themselves Regios de Acero and they came from Monterrey, Mexico to see their team. That would be quite a journey if they had flown up for the game. However, a bus was their method of transportation and, including stops for food and gas, it was a trip that was north of 38 hours. If that's not dedication and loyalty, then who knows what is.
"We are 54 people from Monterrey, Mexico. We get together every week to watch our Steelers in a bar," said Omar Santos. "Every year we decide to come one or two games, depending on the budget. We drove 38-40 hours to come here and cheer for the Steelers."
Having been to a number of road cities including New Orleans, Nashville and Atlanta, among others, they're always happy to see so much black and gold with them.
"There is always a Steelers fan wherever we are," said Santos. "We outnumber the locals most of the time."
Take a look at these photos of the Steelers Nation Unite experiences and events from the team's trip to Cincinnati in Week 14.
For another group who made the short (relatively speaking) trip out from Pittsburgh, their weekend was not without a little bit adversity. Jeff Duricic was among the organizers for a busload of Steelers fans who were trekking to Cincinnati when, about 11 miles outside of Columbus, OH, the bus broke down. However, they made the most out of the situation.
"We broke down 11 miles outside of Columbus, and we took the place over. It was a rundown little gas station and beer distributor," Duricic said. "We pulled in with our Terrible Towels and we were playing ring toss and we had it going. We set up photo opportunities and were there for three hours. Everybody made it safely. We did everything but cook food. We had a good time."
Of course, being able to stand behind the Steelers bench with Terrible Towels flying and send their team home with a victory is enough to make even the most difficult trip worth it for Steelers Nation.
Every fan has a story. Every fan has their role in making Steelers Nation what it is today. Steelers Nation Unite is the official way to get recognized and rewarded from wherever your Terrible Towel flies.
The fans mentioned here are all members and were rewarded in some way or other during the weekend with on-field experiences or gear and prizes. Free to join and with ways to get rewarded all over the world, it's time to make your membership in Steelers Nation official.
Join now at www.SteelersNationUnite.com and become a member for a chance to get rewarded this weekend, as there is plenty in store the regular-season home finale.