Hi everybody! My name is Simon, and I am a Steelerholic.
Many of you know me as BTSC's token German, the guy who has been a die-hard Steeler fan since his first visit to the United States in 2004 and who, despite going to college at St. Vincent in Latrobe, has never once seen a Steelers game live and in person. Well, that changed this Sunday after I was one of two people to win the 'Priceless Steeler Moment' contest sponsored by MasterCard on Behind the Steel Curtain. The prize was a pair of tickets to Sunday's home opener against the Seattle Seahawks, and I was stoked. The following recounts my experience on a not-so-typical Sunday in September.
For those of you that missed the contest, we were asked to recall our favorite Steeler fan memories, with two pairs of tickets being raffled off between all participants. I won't go into detail about my 'Priceless Steeler Moment' as it deserves its own post that I might write during the offseason. For now, I'll just say that it involved watching Super Bowl XL at 2:00 AM with a couple of beer and a joyous ignorance of a driving exam the next morning. Either way, my name popped up in the drawing and on Friday night, I held in my hand two tickets for the game against Seattle.
Any tickets to a Steelers game would have me jumping up and down in celebration, but these ones excited me even more. Not only were they tickets to the game, they were tickets to two seats on the club level, worth $200 a piece. I had no idea what club level meant, but something told me that what I held in my hand was assurance for an amazing Sunday afternoon. Boy, was I right.
Never having been to Heinz Field, I quickly started gathering advice on when to arrive and where to park. That advice steered me toward parking at Station Square on the South Side, using a shuttle trip with the Gateway Clipper over the river and to the Stadium. Sunday came, and my fiancee and I dressed for battle - sporting our Rashard Mendenhall and Heath Miller jerseys, with the token terrible towels always on our sides. We left the house at 9:30 AM, ensuring that we would arrive in the 'Burgh in time to find a good parking spot and enjoy the pregame atmosphere.
With little traffic to account for, we arrived at the South Side around 11:00 AM and hopped on one of the ships waiting to take us to the stadium. For anyone planning to go to a game in the near future, I highly recommend this route - while it cost us $30 ($10 for parking and $20 for two round-trip tickets on the Clipper), riding underneath Pittsburgh's bridges to see Heinz Field appear behind the trees in the distance is completely worth the price. It was probably at this moment that I realized I would not only have a great time, but one of the best Sunday afternoons in my life.
Upon getting to the stadium, we strolled around for a little while while trying to find our gate. We were let into the stadium after a quick pat-down by security officers, and landed right in the Coca Cola Great Hall - an impressive sight for anyone on their first Heinz Field visit. Countless food booths, merchandize shops, and TVs provided the background for a live band ensuring plenty of pregame entertainment. I even saw former Steelers defensive lineman Edmund Nelson, now a commentator for KDKA, find his way to the bathroom! Conclusion drawn: Edmund Nelson is one large man.
After a stroll through the Great Hall, my fiancee and I went up two escalators to find out what this 'club level' stuff was all about. Turns out, it was pretty damn sweet. Club level guests have to go through additional security, ensuring that only the 'right' people would enjoy the luxury lounge. Did we feel like VIPs? You bet. Imagine a lounge filled with leather chairs, panorama windows overlooking the tailgaters with the Pittsburgh skyline in the background, and plenty of food booths from a club sandwich bar to a dessert table. We weren't only at Heinz Field, we had landed right in paradise.
A costly paradise, that is. Turns out, we realized that we were actually quite hungry and ordered a foot-long hotdog, nachos, a Yuengling draft, and a mix drink to share. Adding in a piece of cake (you only live once!), our bill came to right around $45.00. Steep, but definitely worth it as the beer was fresh, the nacho cheese hot, and the hotdog delicious. This was the life! To beat the majority of fan traffic, we made our way to our seats at around 12:30 and just in time to see various Steelers warming up and goofing around. Our seats of course were the next pleasant surprise - Section 207, under the roof of the luxury boxes and at about the 10 yard line of the visitor's sideline. A perfect view to watch the game, and surprisingly comfortable seats that even included cup holders.
We were joined soon after sitting down by our seat neighbors - on one side a dad with his family who apparently had Antonio Brown on his fantasy team, and on the other an extremely nice elderly couple that just as us had won their tickets from MasterCard; their son had participated in a Twitter contest. Pleasant neighbors for sure, although the dad hated every play that didn't involve #84. Does Fantasy Football really hurt football fans? You decide. At least he was happy during a certain punt return.
A couple of random observations from the actual game follow:
After the game was over, we made our way back across the river and to our car. It was about that moment that I noticed a distinct sunburn around the edge of my sunglasses, and my face muscles hurting from constant smiling before, during, and after the game. My voice was also starting to disappear mysteriously. After waiting through some traffic at the Squirrel Hill Tunnels (I am starting to believe there truly is a monster in there - how else do you explain the constant slowing down?), we made it home about 2 1/2 hours after the game had ended. I was exhausted, content, excited, relieved, and tired all at once. Thank you MasterCard for this amazing experience! Following are a couple of pictures I took during this beautiful Sunday afternoon.
"Holy Crap! I actually got those tickets!"
Bad-Ass worker in front of Bad-Ass stadium
we made it! Jill & I in front of Heinz Field
The Club-Level Lounge
Lining up for the first Point After
Isaac Redman Touchdown!