From custom hats to profane shirts, Steelers fans wear it all at training camp |
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Patrick Varine
Stephen and Kristan Fazenbaker of Frostburg, Md., were at their first Steeler training camp on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Stephen's shirt makes his feelings about the New England Patriots abundantly clear.

If you want to know what Stephen Fazenbaker of Frostburg, Md., thinks about the New England Patriots and their star quarterback Tom Brady, look no further than the shirt he wore to Steelers training camp Thursday, Brady’s birthday.

“You Can’t Deflate Balls Made of Steel,” it proclaims in black and gold lettering.

“I bought it at an Italian festival in Uniontown,” Fazenbaker said.

Brady was suspended by the league for the first four games of the 2016 season after the Patriots were found to be in possession of underinflated game balls during their 45-7 trouncing of the Indianapolis Colts in a 2015 playoff game.

While there is no shortage of officially licensed Steelers gear on display at the merchandise tent, several fans chose to express their love for the black and gold in unique — and occasionally, profane — ways.

Robin Jackson and his daughter Charity of North Lewisburg, Ohio, were attending their first training camp. Hidden beneath Jackson’s voluminous beard was a shirt bearing the message, “Pittsburgh Against the World,” in camouflage-colored lettering.

“I like the camouflage and the support of our troops,” Jackson said. Charity had the same black shirt, but with the traditional gold lettering.

Will Howcroft of Carnegie had a shirt whose timing could not be more perfect with the HBO series “Game of Thrones” having recently begun its seventh season: giant block letters with “King of the North” in white and gold, marking the Steelers’ AFC North title last year.

“They sold them at Dick’s, but I actually got mine from a guy at this bar I go to in Carnegie,” Howcroft said.

With Howcroft was Nikki Hinterlang, 31, of Carrick, who goes by the artist name Dryfft, and has turned her love of nontraditional gear into a business called Yinz Lidz .

“We were at (athletic apparel store) Lids, and I saw a kids’ hat with ‘Chicago’ printed on the bottom (of the bill),” Hinterlang said. “I thought to myself, ‘That’s really cool. I’d like a hat like that.’ ”

At the time, Hinterlang, who has been a hobby artist since her freshman year of high school, was experimenting with wood-burning: scorching an image onto a piece of wood.

“I went to the store the very next day and bought a bunch of different types of wood and glue,” she said. “People started coming up to me and saying, ‘Oh, that’s so cool,’ and I started doing more with it.”

Yinz Lidz features a distinctive logo incorporating “Y” and “L,” each adorned with several of the familiar hypocycloids that appear in the Steelers logo.

Hinterlang created several different drawings featuring the Pittsburgh skyline that form the main image on the thin layer of burned wood fixed to the underside of the bill.

She says what started as a fun hobby has helped her become a better person.

“I started learning what it took to become a successful person, to start thinking more positively,” she said.

Not everyone is quite as motivated as Hinterlang.

Darcy Mazur of Cranberry was walking around training camp with a purse made from a Hines Ward No. 86 jersey.

“I’ve had it for so long,” she said. “I think I got it somewhere in the Strip District. I love my Hines, and this way, if I run into him, he can sign it.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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