Saturday, November 05, 2011

Renegade: A Nation's Anthem

By Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
November 3, 2011

PITTSBURGH - The Baltimore Ravens know how difficult it is to win at Heinz Field. They know they have a formidable opponent to deal with. They know a passionate home crowd will cheer on the Steelers. And they know the atmosphere will be especially amped when the first notes of "Renegade" blare through the loudspeakers.

"That ‘Renegade' song is a sweet deal they have going on," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "Every time they play that song, the Steelers seem to make a play. Their fans are into it and the Steelers get up for it."

"Renegade" was a hit for the rock band Styx in 1979 when it charted as high as No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.

It's been played at some point late in the third quarter or early fourth quarter at every Steelers' home game since Jan. 5, 2002.

On that day, the Steelers trailed 24-7 in the third quarter of a playoff game against the Cleveland Browns. At that point, the crew operating the Jumbotron scoreboard at Heinz Field decided to play "Renegade" as a means to fire up the crowd and hopefully fire up the home team. It was the idea of Mike Marchinsky, an intern in the Steelers' marketing department at the time.

As it turned out, the Steelers rallied for a 36-33 win and another Steelers' tradition was born. Ever since, "Renegade" has been a Heinz Field staple.

It's played just as the defense takes the field during a TV timeout. While the music booms throughout the stadium, a highlight video of memorable Steelers defensive plays is shown on the scoreboard.

"Our fans love it," said Steelers free safety Ryan Clark. "When the (scoreboard) screen goes black, they know what's coming. We know what's coming. It's exciting. It's tradition. That's a part of what's so big about the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's about understanding the importance of defense and the way we play defense. It's about understanding how important the fans are. That's what ‘Renegade' is."

"It gets the crowd fired up, and when the crowd's fired up, that gets our defense fired up," added safety Ryan Mundy. "They get a rush off it, and we feed off our fans. So it's good for the atmosphere, and usually good things happen after that song comes on."

The Steelers don't keep official stats on how the defense fares after "Renegade" is played. But in 2008 when the Steelers were 8-2 at home -- two playoff games included -- the defense either forced a turnover or at least stopped the opposing offense nine times on their next possession.

In the '08 season, the Steelers beat the Ravens twice at Heinz Field. The second of those two wins was a 23-14 decision in the AFC Championship Game, 23-20.

Last season in an AFC divisional round playoff game, the Steelers rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit and beat the Ravens 31-24. When it was "Renegade" time in that game, all the highlights on the video were great defensive plays against the Ravens.

Flacco, a fourth-year pro who's 1-3 at Heinz Field, wasn't the only Raven to comment on "Renegade" this week.

"We are even looking forward to that (Renegade) song in the fourth quarter," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It's going to be fun."

Last year before the playoff game at Heinz Field, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said "Renegade" even gets the Ravens fired up.

"When that ‘Renegade' songs comes on and they crank up the music, the crowd goes crazy and that energizes us," Harbaugh said.

Still, since Heinz Field opened in 2001, the Ravens are 3-10 there, including 0-3 in the playoffs.

"The fans like ‘Renegade,'" said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "The game is for enjoyment. It's for people to get out and have a good time and get into the game. So yes, I really think our fans do like that song. But I think our guys feed off the crowd more than they do the song."

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