Gold and black-clad fans with Steelers’ iconic Terrible Towels waving in the air or tucked into their back pockets partied into the early morning hours Monday in an impromptu block party across Pittsburgh to celebrate the team’s historic sixth Super Bowl win.
Thousands of people gathered in the city’s Oakland neighborhood near the University of Pittsburgh and also along the quirky strip of bars known as the South Side. City officials had anticipated the large crowds, and had about 400 police on the streets as a precaution.
Moments after the Steelers sealed the 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Tampa, Fla., revelers poured out of area bars, and some broke out in song, bellowing Queen’s “We are the Champions.”
Yellow confetti swirled in the air, people released gold and black balloons and Super Bowl championship paraphernalia was up for sale in the middle of the street.
Pittsburgh police didn’t report any major problems, but there were pockets of trouble, mostly in the Oakland section.
Police arrested more than 100 people for failing to disperse from various locations, at least one for arson, and two others for drunken driving. Couches and several garbage containers were set on fire, and several vehicles were overturned as police responded to more than 400 emergency calls during the game and a similar number in the 2 1/2 hours after it ended, city police spokeswoman Diane Richard said.
One officer suffered a possible broken arm and some revelers broke windows, threw bottles at police — including a state trooper on horseback — and engaged in fights, Richard said. Large numbers of police in riot gear and on horseback were out in force, surrounding one fire and keeping the crowd back in an effort to let it burn out.
Police in riot gear patrolled the South Side on bikes and in cars, letting the loud and rowdy celebration run its course.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that some sort of city celebration would likely be held Tuesday or Wednesday, but details still need to be worked out.
Crowds spilled out of the doors of Primanti Bros., Pittsburgh’s famous gut-busting sandwich shop.
Rocky Plassio, a 32-year-old high school teacher from the suburb of Washington, had his 3-year-old son, Noah, perched on his shoulders. The elder Plassio made sure his son didn’t miss the celebration.
“The last time the Steelers won, he was an infant,” Rocky said. “If you’re from Pittsburgh, the Steelers are really part of your culture. It’s in your blood.”
Nearby, Jim Jacobs, 43, had his 8-year-old son, Marcus, on his shoulders and 9-year-old Luke by his side. They traveled from the suburb of Mt. Washington and, even when the Steelers were losing late in the game, Marcus was preparing for the celebration.
“We’re going to have a hard time getting them up for school tomorrow, and they are home schooled,” Jim Jacobs said about 90 minutes after the game ended.
Brittany Barcoay, 21, drove seven hours from Liberty University in Virginia just to be in her hometown for the Super Bowl and celebrated outside the South Side bar Town Tavern, which sported a “Steeler Tavern” banner.
“I have never had so much pride in my city, ever,” said Barcoay, decked out in a Jerome Bettis jersey.
Bars were packed in the area popular with college students and the 20-something crowd, with music blaring.
One man carried a life-size cutout of President Barack Obama, with a Terrible Towel draped around the neck, while a one-man band played in the middle of a blocked-off street and photos of players were projected onto the sides of buildings.
Dan Decriscio, 51, returned to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia and had the chance to celebrate yet another NFL title.
“This is awesome,” Decriscio said. “I’ve been here for every Super Bowl. Every one is great. From the first one with Chuck Noll to Mike Tomlin; this is Christmas in February.”
In one neighborhood south of Pittsburgh, people lit fireworks and ran outside and cheered after the game.
When the Steelers last won the Super Bowl in 2006, thousands of drunken fans celebrated in the streets and several small fires were set.
Pittsburgh schools delayed openings two hours Monday to allow for the celebration, but other schools were following suit after the victory. TV news stations were scrolling school delays for Monday as if it were a snow day.