David Lauderdale

Steeler Nation finds a second home in the Lowcountry

Warm up the pierogies. Get out the Terrible Towel you inherited from your Mom.

Y'all, even the Lowcountry can look like the Steel City when Pittsburgh plays in the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans stand out in our world of mossy, hushed tones. They leave their iron stamp wherever they go, even when it's quiet Hilton Head Island, where former Steelers coach Chuck Noll escaped the pressure of real Steelers Country in western Pennsylvania.

Betty Butterworth of Crescent Point in Bluffton shows her colors before you get to the door. Her "You're In Steelers Country" flag has been flying beneath Old Glory all week, as her Steelers and the Green Bay Packers prepare for Sunday's game.

Inside, her centerpiece is a Steelers football balloon.

A Steelers flag is draped over the artwork above the mantel. Two Terrible Towels, one of them 20 years old, hang like stockings over the fireplace, and a Steelers sweatshirt from Super Bowl XXX, which she paid a scalper $500 to see in Phoenix, rests on the hearth by two large sea shells.

"Pittsburgh is a melting pot of the whole United States," Betty says. "People came from all over the world to work in the steel mills."

They came from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Germany. They came for work, freedom and peace. They worked hard all week, and on Sunday afternoons their passion for cold, blue-collar football has been richly rewarded. From infancy, they hear about the "Immaculate Reception" and the "Steel Curtain" defense, a name given to posterity by the Rev. Gregory Kronz, senior pastor at St. Luke's Church on Hilton Head. He won a contest when he was 14 years old to name the Steelers' front four. Maybe there's a divine reason the Steelers have six Super Bowl championships, more than any other team.

Betty is preparing kielbasa and sauerkraut for her Sunday party, and the pierogies are on order. Pierogies are dumplings stuffed with potatoes or other options, then fried in butter and onions.

"They've built whole churches selling these," she said.

As the steel mills have closed, the secret ingredients of Steeler Nation have spread across the land, even to the Lowcountry. Pittsburghers might not miss the snow blowers, but they miss the thick, ethnic glue of home, of work and of reward. This week they find themselves decorating their palmetto trees with gold and black, praying for victory and forwarding e-mails with jokes like: "If you carry jumper cables in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you live in Pittsburgh."