Recap - Chiefs 42, Steelers 37
My day started at 7 AM with me hopping in my rental car loaded up with Yoo-Hoo, Combos and Peanut M&Ms to take a 6 hour drive up from Louisville to Pittsburgh. I had clear roads, nice weather and good music, so even though I hate driving, it wasn’t so bad.
I got to Pittsburgh a little before 1 and my first stop after checking into my hotel was over to the Strip District for one of Primanti’s legendary sandwiches. I went with the Corned Beef ,Swiss, Fries, Cole Slaw and a Fried Egg all stuffed between two thick slices of white bread. This was of course washed down with a couple of Iron City’s – a beer that I couldn’t be paid to drink outside of Pittsburgh
With a day to kill, I hit most of the attractions in the city - Market Square, the Cultural District, Point State Park, then took the Duquesne Incline up to Mount Washington and finally had some great German Food and beer for dinner at the Penn Brewery.
The elevator back up to my room at the Embassy was packed. Two of the riders were Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs. A lady in the elevator with us wearing a Chiefs jersey got a ‘selfie with Kelce’ and almost fainted after he got out on his floor. I think her husband got a bit jealous because he didn't try and catch her.
The city of Pittsburgh has made a dramatic transformation from its steel mill past. Today it is a city filled with museums, parks and cultural offerings. Many of the neighborhoods have gone through gentrification but at its core, Pittsburgh is still very much a ‘smash-mouth’, blue collar city and there may be no team in professional sports more synonymous with their host city than the Steelers.
Owned by the Rooney family since 1933, the Pittsburgh Steelers are known for stability, community involvement and doing things the 'Steeler Way'. This has resulted in six Super Bowl Championships, twenty two Steelers being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and possibly the most loyal fan base in any professional sport, as generations of Pittsburgh residents have been brought up as fans.
I headed out to Heinz field about 10:30 AM on Sunday and there was already a pretty intense feeling of gameday excitement in the air. I walked over the 6th Ave bridge and down North Shore drive past PNC Park into the section where all of the bars and restaurants were grouped (the two best being Clark Bar and Grill and Jerome Bettis Grille 36). Most were already packed with fans getting primed for the game.
Located just a stone’s throw from the field on the jogging trail along the Allegheny River is a statue of one of Pittsburgh’s most beloved icons, Mr. Rogers.
I found this to be a real ironic contrast to the pumped up rowdies that filled the streets who would be anything but ‘neighborly’ to opposing fans.
Once through security and ticket scan, I entered the main gate into an area of the concourse called the ‘Great Hall’ which is a shrine to Pittsburgh’s long and successful history in the NFL. I’ve never seen so much of a team’s history on display in an open area of a stadium like this. Wonderful artifacts and pictures of all the great Steeler players and teams - Super Bowl trophies, jerseys, equipment, replicated lockers of all the Steeler greats with their personal items, etc. There was also a DJ getting the crowd pumped for the game making the setting very much like a party atmosphere.
The seating area had good sightlines to the field and offered a really nice view of Mt. Washington, but it paled compared to its neighboring baseball field, PNC Park, about a mile up the road. A unique feature is the two giant Heinz Ketchup bottles on each end of the scoreboard. Every time the Steelers enter the Red Zone,the bottles “dip and pour” into the scoreboard making it turn red.
There are two things that will stand out the most in my memory.
First is the intense heat and blazing sunshine which made it feel a lot more like Miami than Pittsburgh. Just earlier that week they had temps in the mid-60s.
The other is the fans. Everyone was dressed in black and gold and seriously amped up. All of these fans are Western Pennsylvania / Eastern Ohio folks who grew up Steeler fans and bleed Steeler colors.
On my left was a skinny biker who drove in from Gettysburg who had only 12 teeth, each of which was a slightly different shade of brown than the others. Due to the intense heat, he decided to take his shirt off midway first quarter. This was not very pleasant. To my right was an electrical contractor born and raised in Pittsburgh who was with his wife and behind us was a group of his fellow season ticket holders. This guy described himself as “more of an alcoholic than a football fan”. True to his word, by the two minute warning he had drank so many beers that the pile of empty cans under his seat would have provided enough aluminum to build an airplane. He then disappeared at half time showing up again late in the 3rd quarter even drunker than when he left. He offered me a sip from his plastic flask and for some unknown reason, I accepted. I took one swig and for a brief moment felt my heart stop and my vision blur. I’m not exactly sure what was in the flask, but my guess is it was either bathtub moonshine or kerosene.
I will say without hesitation that the fans I sat with at this game were the friendliest and most fun of any that I’ve sat with so far on my journey.
The food offerings at Heinz field are a big cut above most other parks and reflect the diverse ethnic neighborhoods that make up the Pittsburgh area. You will find Italian, Greek, German, Polish and Eastern European fare. There’s even a Primanti’s with a limited menu. Heinz Field offers a wide selection of beers as well. Craft beers such as Third Shift, Magic Hat and Sierra Pale. But if you are in Pittsburgh, you need to do the right thing and drink Iron City.
The game was exciting as well. The Steelers looked sloppy at first allowing Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes to pick apart their secondary striking with 3 quick TD passes and going out to a 21-0 lead. But the Steelers struck back with Big Ben Roethlisberger pitching 3 straight TD passes of his own tying it up at 21 at the half. The teams swapped TDs in the 3rd making it 28-28 until Mahomes struck for 2 more TD passes going up 42-28. Pittsburgh scored once more on a Roethlisberger scramble to make it 42-37 and that's where the score stood at the final gun. Loads of offensive firepower. 10 total passing TDs - 6 by Mahomes.
May times throughout the game I heard the fans call out Le'Veon Bell's name followed by a long string of profanities.
Great game, great city , great experience. Would have been nicer if it were 15 or 20 degrees cooler.
On to Buffalo in 3 weeks.
Fans - A - Hard core, old school, working class, hard drinking, fun loving football fans. This team and it's fans are perfect for each other
Features - B - The Great Hall and all of the wonderful memorabilia is a great touch. The lack of open concourse for gathering and watching the game was a let down
Location - A+ - Right across from the Allegheny river on North Shore Drive. A close walk to everything. Tons to do before and after the game
Food - B+ - Mediocre by baseball standards but exceptional for a football stadium. Not the best, but better than most
Game - A - See saw game. Lots of offense. Fans were really into it. Too bad the Steelers lost
Overall Experience - A