A few years back, I came across a story about a survey conducted by Scarborough Sports Marketing that found that nearly 35 percent of women living in Pittsburgh identified themselves as Steelers fans. SSM had surveyed more than 220,000 residents in 75 U.S. markets and Pittsburgh’s numbers more than doubled that of the national average. I saw another story that stated Pittsburgh was the only major sports franchise in the U.S. with a 51 percent female fan base and mentioned that more women attended Steelers games than any other NFL team. Being from Pittsburgh, and the daughter of a crazed Steelers fan (my mom, that is), none of this information surprised me. But why? What is it about women in Pittsburgh?
Most stories I read cited the fact that the Steelers hold an annual women’s-only football camp, sell pink jerseys in their online store (and sell out of them every year) and hired the first—Ariko Iso—and second—Sonia Gysland—female athletic trainers in the NFL as reasons for why women in Pittsburgh identify with the Steelers. But none of those facts explain why women in Pittsburgh love football, and the Steelers; they are simply side effects of having a large female fan base, doing a good job of catering to them and hiring the best man or woman for a job.
So why? Why are women in Pittsburgh such football fans, so knowledgeable about the game and the Steelers? Why is Pittsburgh the greatest city in the country for female NFL fans?
That is what I am here in Pittsburgh to find out. I’m spending the next five days here in the City of Bridges to report and write a piece answering exactly those questions for ESPNW. I’m attending the Steelers-Ravens game on Sunday and my twin cousins’ high school game on Friday night. I’m talking to local women, my 94-year-old Grandma Freda, my aunts and cousins and as many players, coaches and local celebs as we can round up over the course of the weekend.
Oh, and of course, I’ve brought my mom, Joy, with me to help with my reporting. I mean, I got this bug from someone. We both packed our Terrible Towels.