Steelers fans from near and far enjoy tailgating before home opener
Randy Dotson and his cousin, Tremmel Booth, flew from Arkansas for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ home opener wearing black-and-yellow tights, combat boots and skirts.
“People say we’re real brave to travel like this, but we’re just fans,” Dotson said in between taking photos with both Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs fans alike outside Heinz Field on Sunday.
The pair have been going to every Steelers home opener in their attire every year for many years, said Dotson, who’s been a Steelers fan since 1972. Ever year, they tailgate with their friends who live in Virginia, who they met the first year.
The cousins weren’t the only ones who had traveled from out of state for the game.
Fans from Indianapolis, Kentucky, Connecticut and Canada stopped to take photos with Jay Tindall’s black-and-yellow 1957 Chevy Bel Air, he said.
Tindall, of Harmony, used a Crayola marker to draw photos of Steelers’ players on his car, which he plans to bring to the rest of the home games this season.
“It’s an attraction,” Tindall said. “It makes people happy.”
Kim Shanahan, of Whitehall, brought her ambulance-turned-tailgating mobile.
Shanahan and her husband started buying ambulances and bringing them to Steelers’ tailgates more than 10 years ago.
“We used to bring our cars, but they would smell like booze afterward,” she said.
Shanahan keeps up the tradition even though her husband died three years ago.
She’s now on her third ambulance, which she bought from a municipality about an hour outside of Pittsburgh.
“The first year after he died, nobody said I would do it,” she said, “but I wanted to carry on the tradition.”
Rich Maley, of Elizabeth, blew up a giant Steelers’ player on top of his SUV for the tailgate.
“It’s just so everybody knows where we’re at,” said Maley, who’s been tailgating at Heinz Field since it opened. “This is our third one. We wear them out.”
Maley got to the parking lot at 8:30 a.m. ahead of the 1 p.m. game to blow up the balloon with a generator and to tailgate — his favorite part of every Steelers game day.
Kevin Wilson, of Munhall, and Phil Fusca, of Mt. Washington, brought a U-Haul to the tailgate to hold their music speakers and all the free burgers and chicken they planned to serve.
The pair has been bringing a special van to the tailgate for the last 10 years, but this year, officials told them it wouldn’t fit in the parking space.
“We had to get creative,” Wilson said.
As the tailgaters made their way inside the stadium for the kickoff, a group of about a dozen people held a demonstration outside to encourage social justice reforms.
The group, led by Tracy Baton, of Park Place, took a knee while the national anthem was playing shortly after 1 p.m.
The protest is called “Stand for Justice/Kneel for Those Who Cannot,” referring to the NFL’s policy of banning players from kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as some did last season to raise awareness about police brutality.
Most Steelers fans who walked by were supportive of the message, said Baton, herself a Steelers fan.
The group plans to repeat the protest at every home game and a playoff game.
Many local activist groups have been calling for reforms after the fatal police shooting of unarmed teen Antwon Rose II in June.
“I want to see every voter ask their representatives at all levels if they think black lives matter,” Baton said. “That’s the first change I’d like to see.”
Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Theresa at 412-380-5669, [email protected] or via Twitter @tclift.