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Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger calls Highmark Stadium a 'hostile place,' praises Bills fans

Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger calls Highmark Stadium a 'hostile place,' praises Bills fans

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The crowd noise at Highmark Stadium left an impression on the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, with both veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth taking note.

Ben Roethlisberger, the 39-year-old quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has played in front of many boisterous crowds in his 17 years in the NFL.

His praise for the Bills fans at Highmark Stadium after the Steelers' 23-16 win on Sunday, then, carries considerable weight.

A sea of Bills fans and some Steelers fans wait to enter Gate 2 of Highmark Stadium for the Buffalo Bills season opener in Orchard Park.

"That's a hostile place. Those fans are awesome. They were loud. It was very, very loud," Roethlisberger told reporters after the game according to a tweet from Brian Batko, who covers the Steelers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Roethlisberger has previously lauded Bills fans after the Steelers played here last season and said last week that he was looking forward to playing in front of the Buffalo Mafia. 

The near-deafening crowd noise from a packed Highmark Stadium came as a much greater shock to Steelers rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth, who described his reaction to his veteran quarterback after the game. " 'Holy cow, that's loud out there,' " Roethlisberger recollected Freiermuth saying. "I said, 'Yeah, welcome to the NFL.' " 

The return to the approximately 72,000 full capacity in Orchard Park – the first time for a football game since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – likely amplified the noise for NFL players like Roethlisberger, who played in front of limited fans last season, and Freiermuth, whose Penn State Nittany Lions competed in empty stadiums last fall.

But given the impact of the roughly 6,700 Bills season ticket holders permitted for the team's two home playoff games, especially in the divisional round against Baltimore when crowd noise was enough to force the Ravens into back-to-back timeouts, it's little surprise that 10 times the number of fans – hyped for the season opener after a magnificent 2020 season – would leave a lasting impression on visitors.

[Read more: Jay Skurski's 10 observations from the Bills' loss | Bills Twitter fumes after loss to Pittsburgh]

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