A long time ago, in a Pennsylvania township far far away, a young PaVaSteeler would begin thinking about Halloween in August. For weeks he would read and re-read all the stories he could find by Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe and other writers of Horror to find inspiration for his next costume. For days he would scrounge around the house looking for materials to construct the scariest costume he could devise, certain that "…this year, this will finally be the one costume that will truly strike fear in all who confront it.
But alas, no matter how realistic he thought his "Illustrated Man" self-drawn tattoos looked, how life-like he believed his "Cthulhu" costume appeared, or how macabre he felt behind his mask in his Red Death getup, when he confronted adults going door to door in his creations, he always heard the patronizing tone of their feigned screams of horror.
While such disappointments never fully ruined his Halloween, young PaVaSteeler never felt he experienced the kind of birthday one should expect being born on All Hallows Eve.
As with most people, the young rebel PaVaSteeler grew up and matured, and as I changed, so did my expectations for my birthday. My birthday present to myself this year, a [first time] trip to Heinz Field to watch the Steelers unmask RGIII and the Redskins turned out far better than I could have hoped, scary weather and all.
The Steelers were certainly in for a fright, or so thought many football pundits and citizens of Steeler Nation. RGIII came into town masquerading as the third ranked quarterback by passer rating, two slots above Ben Roethlisberger; first in passing completion percentage, sixth in rushing, and first in total hype for the season.
The Redskins team as a whole was coming into town disguised as a legitimate threat, having the week before led last year’s Super Bowl champions New York Giants by three points with less than two minutes to play. While they lost that game, the Redskins were confident the Steelers’ defense, itself suspected of only being disguised as a "Steel Curtain", would fall easy prey to the multiple threats its young QB phenom presented.
Let me summarize it how I saw it from row Z of Section 510: it was a classic Steeler beat-down. An irresistible (in many ways) force in RGIII met an immovable object in Coach LeBeau and the Steelers’ defense, and the force lost. I’ll let others give you the technical and statistical breakdown of the game. The only scary part of the game was the recurring fear I had that the Steelers would somehow turn into a 22 man Three Stooges Revival troupe as they took the field in their Halloween uniforms.
Instead, let me share with you my impression of Heinz Field.
Heinz Field is indeed hallowed ground. Being a Pittsburgh native who left a long time ago and only infrequently returned to visit, until Sunday I had only seen Heinz from afar. As fantastic as it looks on the skyline, you can’t appreciate what a tremendous architectural and iconic place it is until you’ve had a chance to walk its confines with 45,000 to 50,000 die hard Steeler fans who showed up to the game.
I’ve visited many stadiums across the country to watch the Steelers play, and in all honesty, I don’t believe a single one comes close to marrying contemporary design and functionality with homage to the city and people who have supported it's team and the events that make up its history like Heinz Field does.
FedEx Field in Washington DC is such a monument to revenue generation and political deal making that any sign of the Redskins’ long and storied history is merely an adornment to the true purpose of the place; to line the pockets of the politicians who sought it for their jurisdiction, and enrich the owner who uses it to wring every last cent possible out of Redskins fans.
Reliant Field in Houston is a modern design marvel, but the Texans have no history, and the place just feels like a typical "bigger in Texas" memorial to itself.
M&T Stadium in Baltimore is…located in Baltimore; not much more needs to be said. It is functional and easy to get to, but frankly, aside from the garish purple which abounds in it, it doesn't really reflect what little history or success the Ravens have achieved. You could replace all of the Ravens’ logos with those of the East Carolina University Pirates and visitors from out of town wouldn’t know the difference.
But Heinz Field is a pantheon of images and symbols of both the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh. Its two main wings and U shape configuration greet you as a welcomed "aht of tahn" guest as you dis-embark from an 1800’s style riverboat.
Make no mistake however; as home-like as Heinz Field is to the Steelers, opposing teams and their visiting fans bear the full brunt of Steeler Nation football. The steel overhangs at the top of the sideline bleachers reflect outward our fans’ cheers and cries of "Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go". Boos for blown calls by the referees or the punk-like antics of opposing players like the Redskins’ DeAngelo Hall rain down through the stands and onto the field in true Pittsburgh-like fashion; we’ll let you know without question our displeasure, but unlike places like Seattle or domed stadiums, we don’t audibly beat you senseless with our opinion. We let the Steelers do that.
Unlike its predecessor Three Rivers Stadium, which was a closed-in circle of cold and foreboding concrete, Heinz Field, with its prominently displayed steel superstructure paying homage to Pittsburgh’s industrial roots; its wings holding twin umbrellas atop its spiraling walkways like a gentleman sheltering his lady from the rain, and its see-through design mirroring the open and unembellished nature of the people of Pittsburgh says more about the character of the Rooney family and what they truly feel for their city and the people who have supported their business for generations than any billionaire’s name over a library or university building.
Heinz Field is the antithesis of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ billion dollar temple of self-importance. The Rooney’s have built an iconic and living memorial to the people and city that embraced their $2,500 purchase of a rag-tag collection of football outcasts and never gave up hope that someday it might make something of itself.
Because the Rooneys are a part of the fabric of the history and culture of Pittsburgh, and have been for generations; because the Rooneys never forgot their roots by thinking money or fame made them "better" than the people who paid their dimes and dollars to support the Steelers…
… Only because of such a relationship between the public and a private organization is such a thing as Heinz Field possible. If you are a member of Steeler Nation, and want to truly understand who and what the Steelers are, get thyself to Heinz Field. I promise you, it’s no trick, and an experience to which it is well worth treating yourself.