(Editor’s Note: This is the second part in a two-part series chronically the winner of the BTSC contest to give away two free tickets to the Steelers Preseason Week 1 game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you missed Part 1, click HERE.)
As I was waiting for the Gateway Clipper to embark past the confluence to deliver us to Heinz Field, I received a message from Derek Chadwick, the Behind The Steel Curtain contest winner of two seats to the Steelers’ preseason game against the Buccaneers on Friday night.
“Are you at your seat?”
Being his first trip to Heinz Field, Derek made sure he arrived at the stadium well before kickoff. With plenty of activities both outside the stadium, as well as in, I recommended getting to the game early to take advantage of all the Steelers have to offer for their fans. I was hoping Derek would get to check out the FedEx Great Hall in order to see the Lombardi trophies as well as the Hall of Honor. Derek did check those out, but he also managed to do even more.
One of the features the Steelers usually have available for each home game is a chance to meet a former Steeler. For this game, Derek and his wife, Melanie, were able to meet Hall of Fame Steeler Kevin Greene.
Not only did Greene take his typical picture with fans, he took out his own phone to grab a pic to send to Greg Lloyd. Whether or not he truly sent the message to Lloyd, it was nice for Greene to acknowledge the jersey of his former bookend.
Before getting to their seats, Derek and Melanie already had a full day of taking in as much of the Pittsburgh experience as they could. Leaving Canada in the very early morning, the couple took in the riverfront, Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36, Tequilla Cowboy, and a meal at Primanti Brothers.
As for the game itself, the introductions told the crowd how few of the regular players would be taking the field. Announcing the defense, Terrell Edmunds was the only starter from 2018 who would start the game. But the crowd was energized with the announcement of Devin Bush. After the first half, the Steelers led 13-10.
More importantly, I was able to have Derek come down to my lower-deck seats and watch the second half of the game with my daughter and me. We talked throughout halftime about what we saw in the first half as two youth-league teams were squaring off in the end zone right in front of us. We both concurred that Devin Bush and James Washington really stood out in stadium. We also noted how much the offense seemed to click with Mason Rudolph under center. Derek also confessed to me how he didn’t expect to win the contest because he was sure someone had already figured out the answer.
As we watched the second half, I hoped Derek and Melanie enjoyed the game as much as I did. Between watching the Steelers put up another 17 points, as well as me constantly putting on my Kylo Ren Steelers helmet in order to be noticed by the cameras to get my daughter on the jumbotron (which we were finally able to do), there was plenty to keep our attention throughout the final 30 minutes.
Until I checked my clock due to my daughter getting sleepy, I didn’t realize how long the final quarter was taking because I was enjoying our conversation and insight so much. Derek kept noting the desire to get to 30 points scored, a number I mentioned on my Steelers Stat Geek podcast. We agreed the Buccaneers should have kicked the extra point on their next to last touchdown, giving Tampa Bay an opportunity for the conversion for the win and not the tie.
As the stadium continued to empty out throughout the second half, both Derek and I noted our philosophy of staying to the very end of the game. With over eight hours of driving time between the two of us in order to attend the game, neither one of us was cutting our time short. When the clock finally expired and the game thankfully did not go to overtime, I took the chance to snap a picture of Derek and Melanie to help chronicle their journey.
As we walked up the steps and into the concourse, I shook hands with my new friend and we departed in different directions toward our various exits. As much as I enjoyed being able to give away two tickets to the game, it was even more special to meet up and watch the game with the winner.
With me returning to Maryland that night, and knowing Derek and Melanie would be returning to Windsor, Ontario the next day, it was a small reminder as to how large Steeler Nation reaches across the world. If it were not for the Steelers, there would have been no reason for Derek and I to ever meet. More importantly, Derek and Melanie played in important part of the memories my 11-year-old daughter and I were shaping.
“They were really nice,” my daughter told me as we headed toward the Steelers’ Sideline Store.
Yes they were.