Final Chapter: Welcome Home Champions

February 7th, 2006

Final Chapter: Welcome Home Champions

Pittsburgh Victory Parade, February 7, 2006

The road back to Pittsburgh was full of cars marked with “Super Bowl Champs” all the way from Detroit. At the last Ohio toll plaza, there was a traffic jam two miles long. But everyone was in good cheer, honking “here we go Steelers” as they passed the toll booth. Why was everyone in a big hurry to get back? Because the Steelers were bringing the Lombardi Trophy home to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh welcomed its champions with a grand parade. An estimated 250,000 people packed themselves into downtown streets just to catch a glimpse of their Super Bowl heroes. There was so much goodwill in the air, that everybody had smile, even when they were being crushed or pushed around by the crowds. It felt like a historic moment. One that the City might not see again for a long time.

The only way to get from Mellon Arena to the grandstand at the Point was to join the parade. I jumped into the parade at the very start, falling in with the lead marching band from North Allegheny High School. Then I dropped back from car to car, spending time with the crowd as the players passed. By the time I got to the grandstand, the parade was almost over. To see so many happy faces was to see what a Super Bowl victory really meant to the people of Pittsburgh. Everyone was carrying signs that said “Thanks.” People of all ages crowded every inch of space to see the motorcade pass. Fire escape stairs were packed with people taking photographs with video cameras, and camera phones. Even the roofs of buildings were lined with people, all cheering.

I got to the end of the parade just in time to see Hines Ward drive past me wearing a giant foam Then a glimpse of Jerome Bettis, walking toward the grandstand, proudly holding the Lombardi trophy high. That was the moment I was waiting for. The trophy was home in Pittsburgh. The City was proud, and Jerome, on behalf of himself and the whole team, thanked the City for their enduring support. And the City responded with “We Love You Guys! Thanks for the memories.”

And then the historic 2005 season was officially over.

Now what?

After I photographed the remains of the parade, I took a seat on a bench along Liberty Avenue and watched the street sweepers quickly remove all evidence of the thrilling events of the day. Finally I put my camera down and thought to myself: I’m done. This is the end of Sixteen Sundays.

I never would have completed this project without help along the way. Whether you fed me, posed for a photograph, sold me a spare ticket, drove me to a game, or just offered to buy me a beer, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

My final task is to put all these photographs together into something meaningful that I can share with you. I will be working hard during the off-season on publishing a book of these photographs, so check back in September.

Thank You Steelers! Thank you Steeler Nation!

Final Chapter: Welcome Home Champions

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