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July 26, 2006

They like Bon Jovi, they love their Steelers

- They like Bon Jovi, they love their Steelers

We find out Friday how prepared the Pittsburgh Steelers are to defend their Super Bowl title. One thing's for sure: Steelers fans are already in midseason form.

The Heinz Field parking lots were teeming Sunday with hard-drinking, black-and-gold tailgaters.

Their excuse to party: The Pittsburgh Steelers World Championship Celebration, an event mixing the region's two biggest loves - the Steelers and stadium-style classic rock.

Rockers Bon Jovi headlined the concert portion of an event that drew 45,000 fans.

"I like Bon Jovi, and I got my hands on Hines Ward three times, and I'm fine with that," said Lisa Nichols of Jeannette, seated in Section F-10, about one-third back on the corrugated-metal-covered floor of Heinz Field.

Clawing her way through the crowd, Nichols got her mitts on Ward as he and a batch of Steelers, including Charlie Batch, were introduced and brought onto a stage jutting into the crowd.

With one last chance to celebrate before starting training camp Friday, Alan Faneca, Deshea Townsend, Chris Hoke, Jeff Reed and Super Bowl XL MVP Ward, clutching the gleaming, silver Vince Lombardi Trophy, drew rapturous cheers.

With women in Polamalu and Roethlisberger jerseys standing on their chairs while their men waved Terrible Towels, you could have called the event Yinzerpalooza.

Before the music started, the celebration featured the official dedication of the long-desired fifth Super Bowl trophy, placed in steel column inside Heinz Field's Coca-Cola Great Hall.

Then multi-platinum selling hard-rockers Nickelback performed loudly, followed by the Steelers introductions and a video presentation of behind-the-scenes, post-Super Bowl celebrations by team members. Next up was Bon Jovi, fronted by full-haired singer Jon Bon Jovi, still setting the bar impossibly high for 40-something dads with three kids.

"He still looks like a kid," said Gary Kamil, of Matawan, N.J. (exit 123 of the Jersey Turnpike), who had come to Pittsburgh on Friday for a business convention, but stuck around Sunday to see the Garden State rocker.

Though he's a Giants fan, Kamil will return to Jersey with fond memories of Heinz Field and Steelers fans.

"Look at that," Kamil said, motioning toward the upper decks where Steelers fans were on their feet. "I see a lot of smiling faces. They're Steelers fans, but they're Bon Jovi fans, too."

Kamil was joined by his girlfriend, Terri Villanti, who was a cafeteria worker in the Sayreville, N.J., high school that Jon Bon Jovi attended.

So what was Jon Bon like when he was waiting in line for tater tots?

"He was very sweet," Villanti said.

Two songs into its set, Bon Jovi, the band, played its hit "You Give Love a Bad Name." The group's 1982 breakthrough single, "Runaway" came a little later. The band also slipped in a riff from "Jumpin' Jack Flash" preceded by a verse from "Dancin' in the Streets."

The Heinz Field crowd was dancing in the aisles, enjoying the rock, and ready to root for an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl title.

Posted by riesambo at July 26, 2006 06:05 AM