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Talking Steelers Football: Bret Michaels

Posted May 19, 2011


Bret Michaels, a front man for the rock band Poison, was born in Butler, Pa. and raised in a home where watching Steelers games was a family affair.   

Recently Michaels appeared on the reality show Celebrity Apprentice, showing off his hometown pride by wearing a Steelers t-shirt in an episode and eventually winning the show.

This past season Michaels was in his glory, taking part in the “Terrible Towel” wave prior to the Steelers-Ravens AFC Divisional playoff game. 

“This is such an amazing feeling to be here in town to start the Terrible Towel wave,” said Michaels after getting the Towel wave going. “The stadium was rocking. I flew back just to do this. When I looked around and saw we got the insanity of the Terrible Towel coming down on you, it gave me chills.”

Michaels, who has come home to do concerts in Pittsburgh, talked with Teresa Varley for Talking Steelers Football.

When you hear the name Steelers what is the first thing that comes to mind?
The first thing for me, and I mean this, is a tradition.  It’s family, it’s a family-built team, it’s where I grew up and it’s what I love. I think of black and gold, football, the fall, tradition, my family – all of us gathered around the TV watching Steelers games when I was a kid. It just brings a really good feeling to my soul.

Was it your family that passed that love of the Steelers down?
I grew up in Butler, Pa. and we would go down to Latrobe to see them practice at training camp. I have pictures of me with Terry Bradshaw, Roy Gerela and Terry Hanratty. I have tons of pictures. It started then and it’s a family tradition.

What is your favorite Steelers memory?
It was when we played the Cowboys in the Super Bowl and Cliff Harris was giving it to Gerela who just missed a field goal. Jack Lambert was all fired up and he grabbed Harris and threw him down and everyone grabbed Lambert and it fired them all up. Until then they were playing a little rough and weren’t really in the game. Jack Lambert’s pure audacity drove them to win that game.

One of the best quotes ever is great teams don’t always need to be great, they are just great when they have to be. When the time came down to it and you needed to be great, they were and that was awesome.

Who is your favorite all-time player and why?
I have been a Steelers fan since I was born. Of all of the Steelers of all generations, Jack Lambert was one of the true people that really inspired me in my life. When a wall came up, you fought through it. Being a diabetic all my life I went through so many battles. You have a tough time making a long-life span being a childhood diabetic. And then being in the music business where one in a billion bands get a chance to not just make it, but make it for 25 years, that’s a good day. I don’t know if the Steelers know how much of an inspiration their do or die attitude was for me.

Of all of the Steelers, from Rocky Bleier going to Vietnam – and I am a huge supporter of our troops and have his book – to Franco Harris to recent. I want to let all of the Steelers know that they are all an inspiration, but Jack Lambert’s action was a defining moment in my life.

How closely do you follow the team now?
I follow them every game. We have the football package on the tour bus. In the back room in my lounge I get the NFL Network, it’s 212 on DirecTV. It’s always on. We have the baseball package too for everyone. I watch hockey too. But I have the NFL Network on 24/7.

What do you prefer, a defensive battle or high-scoring game?
I am going to jump to both sides of the fence. When they say “team” that is what the Steelers are. You have to have great special teams, offense, defense and a coaching staff. Without all of it, you can have the best quarterback in the world but if your line doesn’t protect him you don’t stand a chance. You can have the best line in the world, but if the quarterback doesn’t have it, you aren’t going to make it. The same with the defense, if your safeties and corners don’t cover, you can have the best defensive line in the world but if the quarterback completes the pass against them every time he throws it. It really is a team effort.

Is there a current player who you really enjoy watching or respect their game?
I love Hines Ward. He is a guy that shows you he can go out there and block, he can catch. He is great. Ben Roethlisberger is a terrific quarterback. Troy Polamalu is unbelievable. Going back a few years Jerome Bettis would will the Steelers to win with his sheer energy. I had the chance to meet him and he is a really cool guy. He was one of those guys who can put you in a great mood with his smile. On the field, his will to win would pick you up.

You wore a Steelers shirt on the Apprentice – was that a fun way of representing your hometown?  
I walked out there and all of the other people looked at me because they have different teams and I was like, you should have brought your shirt, I brought mine. They told me I couldn’t wear it and I was like, oh yeah, here I go and I just walked out there and we started the day. They were like you can’t wear that. I told them yes I can. I felt really proud.   

What is the favorite Steelers item that you own?
I love the Steelers helmet. My workout room is a Steelers shrine. People say I am a little Steelers crazy, I just say that I am a fan. Some joke that I really might have black and gold my veins. I have an authentic Lambert shirt I bought at a fund-raiser. It still has the grass stains on it – even if they aren’t real I tell myself they are. But, I also have to say the newly invented Steelers cowboy hat is now a classic.

I also have an original Steelers guitar. It will be on my wall hanging forever. It was made by Gibson.

What current Steelers player would you like to have singing back-up for you?
I am going to go with Casey Hampton. If anything goes bad I know he has my back.

What current Steelers player do you think would make a great Apprentice?  
You have to have good business savvy, be creative and able to roll with it. It’s very tiresome. I think Troy Polamalu would do a good job. I think he is smart, he plays the game smart, and he is aggressive. He is cool enough to keep his cool. When you watch him, you know inside he is fired up but he keeps his cool, he fires when he has to. You don’t want to rant and rave on that show or people will think you are nuts. I would be fired up, but I would know I had to stay focused and get the job done.