A Steelers fan’s dream: the Heinz Field experience

I went to the Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs game at Heinz Field on November 12, 2012 and taped the experience. While the NFL doesn’t allow you to take video of plays during the game (you hear that, Belichick?), I took a lot of shots of Heinz Field and interviewed a first-time Steelers game attendee and a Heinz Field employee. I will admit, my video skills are lacking, so if you get extremely motion sick, you might want to pass on it. Otherwise, give it a view!

When football is as large a part of life as it is in Western Pennsylvania, it tends to transcend simple entertainment. After a reigning dominance in the 70s, a resurgence in the 90s and more recent years, and the values the Rooneys have instilled in the franchise, Steelers football has become more than just a game for many current and former Pittsburgh residents. On game days, it’s hard to escape the excitement, joy, and, sometimes, disappointment that seems to overwhelm the city.

The current Mecca for Steelers fans is Heinz Field, located on the North Shore of Pittsburgh. When the stadium opened in 2001, it replaced the much-loved and storied Three Rivers Stadium, which also housed baseball games for the Pirates. Heinz Field is the current home for the Steelers and University of Pittsburgh Panthers, and also hosted the 2011 Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins (which the Penguins sadly lost). It also sees local high school playoff football, several concerts a year (most notably Kenny Chesney every summer), and was featured in The Dark Knight Rises.

Heinz Field Steelers gameThe Steelers beat the Tennessee Titans 38-17 on October 9, 2011.

On Steelers game days, tens of thousands of fans fill the surrounding parking lots and restaurants to eat, drink, and be merry (while drinking some more) before entering the stadium. Inside they can visit numerous food and drinks stands, explore merchandise stores, listen to live bands, and wander down the Great Hall. The 40,000-square-foot concourse contains many Steelers and Panthers memorabilia, including replicas of all six of the Steelers’ Super Bowl trophies, as well as a Walk of Fame on Steelers history. Perhaps best of all, from their seats fans can admire the spectacular views of Pittsburgh through the open south end of the stadium.

Once the game begins, the crowd truly unites to support the team. They join together to rile up the defense, celebrate when the Steelers score, and commiserate if the opposition does well. An exciting game day atmosphere is created through numerous videos and songs aimed to engage fans. Most loved of all is the song Renegade by Styx. When the scoreboard screen turns black during the later half of the game, seasoned fans know what’s coming: an action-packed montage of impressive Steelers defensive plays meant to fire up the crowd during a particularly crucial play.

Heinz Field Steelers gameSteelers versus the Cleveland Browns on December 8, 2011, winning 14-3.

It’s not certain what makes the Steelers so ingrained in the culture of Pittsburgh. Perhaps it’s the hope and distraction their success in the 70s offered residents during a rough time for the city as the steel industry began to collapse. Maybe it’s the upstanding principles and strict standards enforced by the ownership on the organization, as others in the NFL seem to be faltering. It could be their continued success throughout the past 40 or so years, winning the most Super Bowls and AFC Championships in NFL history and repeatedly being playoff contenders. Either way, if you’re from or live in Pittsburgh, there’s only one thing to say: Here We Go, Steelers!


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