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Pittsburgh fans on buying blitz

February 03, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HALFWAY

andrews@herald-mail.com

Black and gold - the Pittsburgh Steelers' colors - are helping local merchants sell everything from team jerseys to salt and pepper shakers.

Customers at Shenk & Tittle at Valley Mall have been "blowing through" Steelers merchandise in the days leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl, said Josh Houser, an assistant manager.

Other mall stores were experiencing a similar rush this week.

At Finish Line, sales have been "phenomenal," said Steve Taylor, a store manager. "Jerseys. Basically, anything they can get their hands on."

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The preferred jerseys have been the No. 7 of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the No. 36 of running back Jerome Bettis and strong safety Troy Polamalu's No. 43, Taylor said.

On Wednesday, Hat World sold the last of about 20 caps celebrating the Steelers as American Football Conference champions, said Brian Beall, a sales associate.

Pittsburgh is farther from Hagerstown than Washington, D.C., home of the Redskins, and Baltimore, where the Ravens play. Regardless, the Steelers have a solid fan base here.

The Steelers had the best year of the three teams, finishing 11-5 in the regular season. The Redskins were 10-6 and the Ravens were 6-10.

Of the Steelers' five previous trips to the Super Bowl, they've won four.

On Sunday, they'll play the Seattle Seahawks, the National Football Conference champions, who were 13-3 in the regular season.

A display of Steelers clothing and caps was set up this week along Virginia Avenue, near Bower Avenue, to attract passing eyes.

Richard Roberts of Hagerstown, who staffed the roadside booth Wednesday, said he works for Boonsboro Novelties, which sells items tied to big games and events.

Hanging on a clothesline were T-shirts trumpeting the Super Bowl or the Steelers. One shirt, reading "Troymanian Devil - Pure Lunacy!", was a tribute to Polamalu, who's known for constant motion and bushy hair sticking from his helmet.

Roberts said pennants and hats have been popular, along with yellow "Terrible Towels." He expected to get more merchandise in Pittsburgh today.

Merchants interviewed Wednesday weren't worried about having enough Seahawks gear; there's been little demand.

"We can't give Seattle stuff away," Roberts said.

The Seahawks were far from Dru Bannon's mind at Shenk & Tittle on Wednesday.

Amid Steelers mugs, mailbox flags, pennants, dog bowls and eye black strips (players apply them under their eyes to reduce glare) was the item she wanted: a license plate frame.

"I've been looking for this," she said.

Bannon, who lives in Hagerstown, said she's been to stores that have sold out of their Pittsburgh merchandise.

"All the Steeler fans are coming out of the woodwork," she said.

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