On a brisk fall night, hundreds of fans packed the venue, dressed head to toe in black and gold. They danced to the "Steelers Polka" under Terrible Towels and Steelers pennants, and they cheered wildly when their Pittsburgh heroes took the spotlight.
This wasn't a football game at Heinz Field. It wasn't even an NFL Sunday at a Western Pennsylvania home. They were halls in Altoona and Johnstown, where the Steelers' legends joined Steelworkers to rally support for Barack Obama in the crucial final quarter of the presidential campaign.
Steelers heroes Franco Harris, Robin Cole and Dan Rooney joined USW's Jim English and John DeFazio and the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO's Billy George on the latest leg of the Steel Blitz for Barack bus tour, which since Oct. 11 has been rolling through battlegrounds Pennsylvania and Ohio. The tour has taken Mr. Rooney, a host of retired Steelers and USW leaders to working class towns to talk about why it's so important to elect the Obama-Biden ticket.
English, the USW's International Secretary-Treasurer, reminded voters about Obama's and John McCain's records when it comes to issues important to working families. It's Obama, he said, who supports health care for all, trade policies that protect American jobs, strong Social Security that doesn't gamble retirements in the stock market and the right to join unions to bargain for a better life.
"When you look at it from the point of view of workers and their economic interest, there really isn't a race is there?" English asked the crowd, which responded with a loud, No! "The choice is clear. Barack Obama."
Former All-Pro linebacker Cole told more than 500 at the Bavarian Hall in Altoona that the economy has everyone dealing with tough times and that Obama is the only candidate proposing solutions for working America.
"When you're feeling the pinch, there's something called teamwork. Teamwork makes the dream work and there's only one guy out there talking about teamwork," Cole said. "It's going to take all of us and that's what Barack Obama is talking about. Our cause is to make America better and that means all Americans working together."
Hall of Fame running back Harris also got the crowds in Altoona and Johnstown fired up for Obama. In Johnstown, more than 1,000 people attended the rally at Ace's.
"I welcome all of you as one team," Harris said. "Labor, you built America. You made it strong. You are fighting for the rights of the working class. The change will only happen when we elect Obama and Biden."
Rooney, who has endorsed Obama since the Democratic primary, said the presidential candidate reminds him of John F. Kennedy and symbolizes the strong family values the Rooney family has always represented. He encouraged everyone to work hard for Obama between now and Nov. 4.
"The largest reason I support Barack Obama is because he challenges us to be the best Americans we can be," Rooney said. "Barack believes in our greatness. He keeps challenging all of us to go for it."
The Steelers signed autographs for those who attended, and while the fans waited in line, volunteers from the Obama campaign signed them up to work in the last days of the campaign.