The annual pilgrimage to Mecca is always a wonderful experience. As I boarded my flight to Pittsburgh I could almost smell the grass at Heinz Field. The flight is always too long but coming in over the Steel City’s highways and byways running through the rolling green hills and mountains of western Pennsylvania is always a sight to see. At dusk over the 3 rivers with the city’s skyline in the distance the anticipation of touch down and touchdowns is dancing through my head.
Although rain and snow flurries are predicted, it turns into a beautiful sun splashed Sunday at Heinz. Parking offsite and walking through the masses of black and gold tailgate parties one gets the feeling that something special is going to happen. As opposed to being in enemy territory spotting a pack of Steelers fans here or there the scene at Heinz is all Steelers. Only a handful of Browns fans in the building. On Heinz hallowed ground, a sea of black and gold awaits the crush of the crowd heading into Heinz Field…the Mecca of professional football. Once inside Steelers alumni are honored as the fans cheer. Former Steelers like Mike Wagner, Mike Logan and Walter Abercrombie mingle with HOF Steelers’ RB Jerome Bettis. Gosh I hope they don’t let Bettis call the coin flip!
The Steelers started off slowly against the lowly Cleveland Browns. After a sloppy scoreless first quarter Ben Roethlisberger found his groove. Pittsburgh surges to a 14-0 lead behind Ben TD passes to Heath Miller and Hines Ward. Ward’s TD actually looked like it was headed to Santonio Holmes but Hines picked it out of the sky and ran 52 yards to glory. The terrible towel twirling revelers were rocking to all the classic rock. Just when it seemed Homecoming would be an easy W, the Browns lone offensive threat Joe Cribbs returned a kick 98 yards for a TD to cut the lead to 14-7. Why the Steelers kicked it to him is beyond me but Cribbs is a superstar KR guy and he gave the Browns life.
The Browns opened the second half with a big long TD drive cutting the lead to 17-14 and suddenly with the clouds rolling in it looked like it could be a typical tight Steelers game. As the 3rd quarter turned to the 4th there was a deluge. Not rain or snow but turnovers. Four of them in a short span by both teams slowed the scoring. Ugly and sloppy play gave way to more sunshine and a 21 yard reverse by soon to be Steelers rookie of the year Mike Wallace. It led to a Mendenhall score. After another Skippy Reed FG the sun reappeared, Styx “Renegade” blasted from the PA and the crowd got very loud calling for the defense to shut the door on Cleveland. They did. Final score Pittsburgh 27 Cleveland 14.
All in all it was a super and beautiful fall weekend back in Pittsburgh. Major Props to the Black & Gold Brigade which staged their annual Pittsburgh Weekend and hooked up some tickets for me and AG. Major Props to the people of Pittsburgh who always make me feel at home in my hometown. Heinz is a special place. The Steelers are a special organization. It’s always nice to return to the city of my birth, see the famila and enjoy a Steelers game. It’s not just football. It’s Steelers football.