There is always an electric atmosphere at Heinz Field when the team plays on Sunday Night Football, but add on to that four legendary Steelers receiving their Hall of Fame Ring of Excellence, and the energy will be enough to light up the entire North Shore.
Bill Cowher, Alan Faneca, Bill Nunn, Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell became a part of football immortality with their enshrinement into the Hall of Fame, when the Class of 2020 (Cowher, Polamalu and Shell) and the Class of 2021 (Faneca and Nunn) were enshrined in August.
Tonight, four of them, Cowher, Faneca, Polamalu and Shell, will receive their Hall of Fame Ring of Excellence, while the Nunn family will also be recognized, in front of the Heinz Field crowd at halftime, something that always gets their blood pumping, especially during their playing days.
“Listen, nothing is going to beat running out of the tunnel for the starting lineups,” said Polamalu. “That’s the truth. The game is played on the field today. As I much as I love to be in my position, we’re football players at heart, not award recipients. Being able to run out of the tunnel onto the field is really the epitome of what it is to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. Only 11 people can really represent us at a time.
“But to be back here in front of the crowd, obviously it’s been a while since I’ve been back. One thing I have always really known about Pittsburgh is we support each other. Supporting the black and gold is really important to the city, and this means a lot.”
Sitting in the media room at Heinz Field, Shell was nothing but smiles just taking in the special bond with the fans and his former teammates.
“It’s always good to be back in the City of Pittsburgh,” said Shell. “We have some of the greatest fans ever.”
And he also knows, they have some of the greatest players ever.
“We came from a good foundation, from the Steelers organization,” said Shell.
The group has spent part of the weekend reconnecting with former teammates as well as continuing to bond with many of the other Steelers Hall of Famers who are in town as a part of the team’s Alumni Weekend. It’s a unique fraternity, one where many have said something changes when you put on the Hall of Fame Gold Jacket.
“I don’t know what it is, but there is something,” said Faneca. “You don’t change the person, but there is there is a change of some sort, and I can’t really put my finger on it. It’s something. There is something I can’t put my finger on.”
But what will be put on their finger at halftime is a ring that is the next step in their Hall of Fame journey, a journey that started in front of the hometown fans.
“Coming back to Pittsburgh it’s always special, particularly the event tonight,” said Cowher. “The other enshrinees will be here. Coming back here for a night game is always kind of a special atmosphere.”
It will be the next step in what has been an incredible journey, and here is a look at their journeys.