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'Steel City Stomp Towels' take aim at Titans

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Monday, Sept. 7, 2009

Ben Roethlisberger doesn't care. Willie Parker doesn't care. Neither does Ryan Clark or Mike Tomlin.

But what transpired nine months ago at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., when a handful of brash Titans players used a Terrible Towel as a handkerchief and a shoe-shine rag has sure caught the attention of a few players in the Steelers' locker room.

At least three "Steel City Stomp Towels" are displayed in the Steelers' locker room. A gold one is in Darnell Stapleton's locker and black ones are displayed in the lockers of Santonio Holmes and Jeff Reed.

"There are about 10 guys on the team who got one," Reed said. "It is a reminder. But at the same time, it is a good looking towel."

Reed was given his towel, which depicts a cartoon-like Steelers player stomping on a Titans' jersey with the numbers 53, 25, 80 and 90 around it, during training camp. Stapleton got his from a fan during the final home preseason game.

"He gave us a bunch of them to pass out," Stapleton said.

The incident happened last December when the Titans' home field was overrun by more than 15,000 towel-waving Steelers fans.

Tennessee went on to win the game and clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. In the final moments of the 31-14 Steelers loss, television cameras caught LenDale White, Bo Scaife and Keith Bulluck stomping a Terrible Towel into the ground while Jevon Kearse blew his nose in one.

It didn't go over very well in Pittsburgh — then or now.

Former Steelers receiver Nate Washington, who now plays for the Titans, was curious enough to broach the subject with his new teammates very soon after arriving in Tennessee a few months back.

"The best response was that when they came out of the locker room and saw all those Pittsburgh fans, I guess they felt kind of disrespected by having so many (Steelers) fans there," Washington said.

Kearse still hasn't backed down from his actions and even reiterated last week that he still wasn't pleased with all the Steelers fans in attendance that day.

"We shouldn't have seen them in our stadium," Kearse said. "That's just how it is. I'm sure if we had Terrible Towels or Rowdy Rags or whatever and went to their place and threw them around and they won, I'm pretty sure they would do the same thing."

Even so, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher wasn't very amused when he learned what transpired with his players and the Terrible Towel.

"I told (my players) that those kinds of things aren't necessary," Fisher said. "Players who come into the league now, even some of the veteran players, don't necessarily have a sense for history and tradition."

Steelers' fans seem to have that sense, and Clark found that out when he went to watch his son's game, and a fan approached him about the stomp.

"He was like: 'When he stomped on the towel, he was stepping on the late, great Myron Cope,' " Clark said. "I think our fans were more agitated than anything."

And if history is any indicator, the Steelers might be a little agitated come Thursday night when the Titans come to Heinz Field for the season opener.

"We aren't worried about it," Parker said.

"The media makes such a big deal about it," Roethlisberger said. "It's a different team. Our fans might not like it. They are allowed to. But we need to go out and play football."

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