"In Pittsburgh, there's family, religion and the Steelers." "Everyone" is "very tied emotionally to how the team performs," whether in the most expensive club seats or in the highest bleachers." "Grown men [have been] brought to the edge of tears in defeat, and little kids cuss out the refs at the top of their lungs over a bad call." This is a crowd "that uses game day as an outlet from the real world," a place where men and women can "wave yellow towels" in unison, and where "even executive types aren't executive." The "scary" "fan intensity" is "not a good environment for younger kids, though." There is "lots of profanity" and "a few too many people who go just for an excuse to get drunk." "Fans from opposing teams are not welcomed with open arms," either, "especially those fans of division rivals." It should come as no surprise, then, that "everyone in the stadium seems to hang on every play" and are "on their feet the whole time." Attending a Steelers game "feels like you are at THE event every week."
9 out of 10
FOOD & SOUVENIRS
Soda (16 oz.)
Beer (16 oz.)
Expected Meal Cost
"Pittsburgh staples" abound, not only in the "kielbasa and kraut and pierogies" served by vendors, or the local Iron City beer served, but in three of the "crown jewels" of Pittsburgh dining available. Quaker Steak & Lube has what many feel are the "best hot wings you'll ever have," although some say it is also "the most expensive food in the stadium," and "far too messy for a sporting event." Benkovitz's "fish sandwiches" are "pretty badass (in a good way), as well". But "game day food doesn't get any better" than "a Primanti Bros. sandwich." Piled high with "meat, cheese, fries and coleslaw between two thick slices of Italian bread," a Primanti's sandwich is, at the least, "a true Pittsburgh experience," and, to some, "the best sandwich ever." That almost makes the Hebrew National hot dogs a moot point, no matter if "they are the finest dogs anywhere." All in all, "the food is the second-greatest thing about Heinz Field."
8 out of 10
"The three rivers and extensive number of bridges can make getting from place to place around Pittsburgh a little bit of a hassle," causing "main transportation arteries to converge in only a few spots, which, in turn, causes heavy traffic." Heavy pedestrian traffic on game days "bring intersections to a crawl around the stadium," "one-way streets are difficult to navigate and on-site parking difficult to obtain" without a permit. "The best thing to do" is "drive downtown, park somewhere and walk across the Roberto Clemente bridge" to the stadium "or catch a ferry across the river." "A 10-minute boat ride [on the Gateway Clipper] is $5 ... and drops off at the steps of the stadium." "The boats even have full-service bars on them as well as souvenir stands" "You just can't be in a hurry," especially after games "because everyone is jammed in line to get onto the boat." Those who do drive face a "dreadful" commute home, thanks to "limited access roads around Heinz Field and poor synchronization of traffic lights." It's better to take "public transportation to avoid the mess that is post-game traffic."
5 out of 10
"Blizzards are welcome" at a scene where "no matter the weather, there are people grilling dogs and putting away cold ones all morning." "Even on the river, you will see boats ... crawling with fans" "tethered right outside the stadium as far into the winter as possible." For the landlubbers, "a lot of prime tailgating spots have been eaten up by VIP parking" and "season parking pass holders" (and will become even more scarce "with the construction of a casino where the largest lot is"), but "almost every parking lot" "spread out all over downtown" "has groups of people eating and drinking." "What results is a day-long block party before Steelers games," that not only has "kids getting their faces painted black and gold," but also "drunken diehards slamming back Iron City beer and trying to stagger their way to the stadium." "For the most part, everyone gets along," and even if "the people next to you are total strangers, by the time the game starts you'll know their life stories and be invited to their house for pierogies next weekend." "You could go down to the stadium without any food or beer and still go into the game full and drunk," courtesy of a "community" that doesn't just cook "your regular dogs and burgers, but really well thought-out meals." The "smell of pierogies and kielbasa fill the air at a "tailgate so "festive" many "Pittsburghers will show up without any intention of going to the game."
9 out of 10
Ben Roethlisberger :: Peter Read Miller/SI
Record through Week 9
Players Worth Watching
Ben Roethlisberger (QB), Willie Parker (RB), Hines Ward (WR), Troy Polamalu (S)
8 out of 10
As you enter the stadium through "gates made of steel," "you feel like you are walking into a blue-collar event," one further reflected by the stadium's "black and yellow steel support beams, which are great symbols of both the Steelers and the steel industry of Pittsburgh." If that isn't enough to convince a fan he is in Pittsburgh, the "mustard-yellow seats" and "the beautiful city/river view" afforded by "the open south end zone" should, although the "brutal wind coming in the open end" may be a little too convincing. For the most part, "this is an incredibly fan-friendly stadium," with "washrooms under every section" and a standing-room concourse "in the open end zone where fans can stretch their legs, buy a kielbasa and watch the game from a close perspective." That may present a more palatable option than an "upper tier [where] steps are steep, and seats are pretty tight when it's cold and people are wearing heavy clothing." "Aluminum benches ... in the closed end of the upper deck" may provide a bit more room, but prompt some to believe "it would be more beneficial to watch from home." Of course, a seat on the couch won't allow a fan to see the giant "ketchup bottles on top of the scoreboard ... that tip and pour [video] ketchup onto the scoreboard when the Steelers get inside the 20-yard line." Nor will the comforts of home gain you access to the "Great Hall," a "40,000-square-foot area" along "the entire lower concourse from end zone to end zone" exhibiting "the history of the team, including lockers of past great players and a display of all five Super Bowl trophies." "It's like a mini Steelers Hall of Fame." Should you get lost in the 75 years of Steelers memories, or live music in the main concourse," "yard lines painted on the lower level always let you know where you are." That's a big plus in a facility in which, "just like the city, there are certain spots where you can't get there from here, where some ramps don't lead where the look they lead." And while a lack of "entrances and exits" forces fans to "stand in line to get out of your seats at halftime and the end of the game," the inconveniences seem to lend Heinz the aura of an "old-school field with a more intimate football experience."
8 out of 10
Heinz Field "sits a stone's throw from the Allegheny river" in an "older" North Shore neighborhood that is "a little rough around the edges," but is "going through a major revitalization." The Pirates' "PNC Park is just a little ways up the river" and the "Carnegie Science Center is behind the stadium." Additionally, "there have been some nice bars and restaurants built in the last 10 years," to the extent that "it's almost cool enough to hang out on days other than Sunday." Beyond all the "squeaky clean" development, "the real neighborhood is set back and elevated behind the stadium." "once home to some of the most prominent people in the area," the North Side is "semi-artsy" but "kind of sketchy" and "a little depressed." "A quick walk" "across the pedestrian bridge" or a ride on a "river taxi will take you across the river to downtown." As this neighborhood "continues to evolve," though -- a casino scheduled to open in 2008 will advance it -- Heinz's environs may graduate from the "up-and-coming" destination it is today to the "perfect example of urban renaissance" some feel it can be.
7 out of 10
Surprisingly -- to us -- many Steelers fans pine for the days of Three Rivers Stadium, in all its cookie-cutter stadium glory. They miss the deafening crowd noise the enclosed facility offered, as well as the larger tailgating areas. Heinz Field may have neither of these, but it seems to be a much better-than-average attempt at providing the Steelers the enhanced revenue streams all NFL teams need now, while also providing the masses a place that speaks to their Pittsburgh location. Granted, those masses had to fork over $158 million (of the total $281 million) to get the place built, but at least Heinz doesn't turn its back on those taxpayers. It has plenty of local food, it opens out onto the city skyline and it pays homage to the history of a team for which this city breathes.