Stillers faithful have probably noticed the large banner of a skull wearing a hard hat that says, "Stiller Gang" hanging from one of the rotundas at Heinz Field. It is apparent every game, adding to the hometown aesthetic. It is also the official signage of one of the largest Steelers fan clubs in the world. Whether at home or away, Stiller Gang hosts weekly tailgates where supporters of the Black n' Yellow showcase their affinity with a variety of official merchandise. In fact, Stillers linebacker Vince Williams and mega-fan Snoop Dogg have been spotted in Stiller Gang gear. We caught up with John Irvin via email:
ITR: Some people become Stillers fans by birth, others are Stillers fans because they’re from Pittsburgh...some base their support on merit, while others are fans by association. We accept band-wagoners and roll our eyes at the fair weather-ers. What’s the story behind your Stillers fandom?
JI: I was born in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers are a part of the culture. It's taken for granted here that the average citizen is a fan. You have the occasional jag off that just wants to go against the grain, but for the most part we all support the home team.
ITR: Favorite Stillers memory?
JI: Of course my 1st game was the most memorable... But my favorite Stiller moments were being present at Shazier's draft (the "fans" present at Radio City boo'ed when we didn't select a DB) and Dec. 25, 2016 when AB stretched for the Inch That Stole Christmas. Intense isn't powerful enough of a word to describe the emotion in Heinz Field at that moment... We all went nuts
ITR: What was the impetus behind Stiller Gang (and when was it founded)? How were you able to spread this identity across the globe?
JI: I attended my first game ever (thank you for the ticket, Bobbi) Dec. 4, 2011 and was blown away by the camaraderie amongst fans from all over the world and all walks of life. People who normally wouldn't interact with each other based on demographic differences embraced each other like family, bonded by a common love for them Stillers. On that day the first "Bang Bang Stiller Gang" was uttered (we beat the Bungles 35-7) and an idea was formed to gather fans under a common banner. The following summer of 2012, the movement began. Spreading across the globe has been made possible in part by social media, and in part by people in key places pushing the movement. The West Coast (California has the most Steelers fans outside of PGH in the US) has shown a tremendous amount of support, and it couldn't have been done without Martin Villareal pushing out West. Mexico, Germany, The UK, etc.. all places with people going all out for the movement and creating the momentum that spreads it further.
ITR: What do you make of Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation? The recent disparaging comments by his offensive line suggest a rift between the all-pro back and his army. How does his absence affect our season?