If you want to find the hottest Steelers bar in Titans territory, look for the guy with the, um, knife. Don't mind him, he's such a cut-up. That's Michael Hanlin, Oakmont native, Steelers follower and the operator of three restaurant-bars in Nashville -- where he's pictured here scaring the bejabbers out of Devon Long, brother to former Titans defensive lineman Rien Long.
"I had 30 Steelers fans who were just here; they partied hard for two hours," Hanlin was saying over his cell Thursday from Nashville, to where Nation members already have begun flocking for Sunday's Steelers-Tennessee contest to determine the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs. "On a Thursday night, I've never had that many people for a Sunday game. It'll be crazy Friday and Saturday."
Hanlin is 110 proof Western Pennsylvania. He grew up worshipping at the Black and Gold altar. He got a degree in psychology and philosophy -- now that must've screwed him up -- at Thiel College. Nine years ago, he followed his older brother to Nashville, met his future business partner that first week and never left. He opened a self-described "hole-in-the-wall window" from which he served roughly 1,000 sammiches a day "back when Joe Nedney did that flop," after Dewayne Washington got called for a roughing-the-kicker penalty and allowed a Nedney rekick to win in overtime these same teams' Divisional Playoff after the 2002 season.
A half-dozen years later, he is part-owner of three establishments around Nashville's Second Avenue area: Decades, an '80s-music bar modeled after the former Oakland haunt The Decade; and the two hotspots for Steelers and sports fans, Piranha's Bar and Grill and the 4-month-old Doc Holliday's Whiskey Saloon where he served as host to the first Nation visiting party of the week. What he serves: Yuengling (Iron is so hard to get in the Deep South) and sammiches fraught with fries and cole slaw, which should sound familiar. Steelers center and former Titans center Justin Hartwig is an old bar pal. Former Titans and Ravens quarterback Steve McNair still pops in and plays shuffleboard.
"Well, I'll tell you, I'm a little torn," said the businessman and Steelers fan in him. "As much as I'd love to see the Steelers win [Sunday], I got three bars here. An AFC Championship game, especially a rematch with Pittsburgh [returning to nearby LP Field], would be absolutely phenomenal."
Or did he mean Absolut-ly?