It seems it’s very fashionable these days to talk about how miserable it is to go to Steelers games at Heinz Field (or any field, really).
The long lines. The fights. The price of parking. The price of a beer. The price of a ticket. The traffic getting in and out of the stadium.
These problems have existed forever, of course, but with home-entertainment technology being so awesome in the modern era, who wants to spend any money or time going to a game when you can get a pretty amazing experience at home?
I know this is how I almost always feel with regards to attending Steelers games. When folks ask me if I want to go, my answer is hardly ever “yes.”
It seems like more Steelers fans have been feeling that way the past few years, especially in 2021 with thousands of no-shows being a familiar sight during games at Heinz Field.
Heck, even the secondary ticket market, a market that almost always cleaned up in the past, was reportedly selling tickets for far-below face value for this past Monday night’s game between the Steelers and Bears at Heinz Field. And in my little market of secondary ticket sellers, I had a ticket available to me for the lowest price possible (nothing), and I still turned it down.
I gotta tell ya’, I wasn’t expecting much of a colorful atmosphere at Heinz Field on Monday, but I was pleasantly surprised to see and hear a seemingly full stadium sound as loud and as rockin’ as it had in a very long time.
Why was it? Was it because of the primetime kickoff? If so, that apparently wasn’t attractive enough to Steelers fans a few weeks earlier when the Seahawks came to Pittsburgh for a Sunday night affair. I’m not saying Heinz Field sounded quiet that night, but it clearly didn’t sound like it did on Monday. Was it the fact that the Bears, an organization with a national following, were the visiting team? I can see that. Just the night before, at the Arsenal Bowling Lanes, I witnessed several Bears fans knocking down some pins (and beers) while dressed in their favorite professional football team’s gear.
Maybe there were a lot of Bears fans in attendance. Although, it didn’t seem like many were making much noise on Monday.
It sounded like most of the noise was coming from the folks who like to wave that Terrible Towel.
Why the sudden rockin’ atmosphere from a fanbase that had seemingly been stuck in a malaise for going on three seasons? I know I felt the malaise. As I’ve said many times in 2021, I just haven't been feeling the same enthusiasm for the Steelers as I normally do—and my emotions have been trending in the wrong direction since around the time Pittsburgh fell to the Broncos on the weekend of Thanksgiving late in the 2018 campaign. The was the beginning of a collapse for the team to close out the year. Pittsburgh lost Ben Roethlisberger early in the following season, and even though the team and the fans fought and hoped hard, 2019 just didn’t feel the same without the big guy. Last season, well, there were no (or very few) fans at Heinz Field. That made for a sterile environment and an almost surreal feel to the season despite the team’s 11-0 start.
The Steelers collapsed at the end of the 2020 season, naturally, and that seemed to have a ripple effect in terms of the enthusiasm heading into the offseason. As for the 2021 regular season, whatever excitement was generated from that stunning road victory over the Bills in Week 1 was quickly stifled by the subsequent three-game slide—including back-to-back home losses to the Raiders and Bengals, respectively. Speaking of that Week 3 loss to Cincinnati, there were reportedly 10,000-plus no-shows for that game.
Why? The fans knew what was up with that team. Maybe they didn’t realize it intellectually, but they could feel it in their hearts and in their souls. I hate to play the Pittsburgh card, but I truly believe there’s something to be said for living in the same town as the professional sports team you root for. I’m not saying it makes you a better fan. I’m just saying you perhaps get a truer sense of what the team is made of and what the buzz surrounding it actually is.
When you’re following a team from afar, your excitement is always high because you’re constantly interacting with other like-minded fans. You’re hungry for news. You’re searching for information. But you don’t know about the signs in the windows, the Steelers-themed cakes at the bakeries and the level of excitement in the air.
To hammer my main point home even more: there hasn’t been much of any of that the past few seasons, and that could explain my overall lack of genuine excitement for these Pittsburgh Steelers.
But maybe that’s changing. Perhaps the fans are starting to sense a shift in this Steelers team, one that’s mostly been mediocre since the last days of Antonio Brown and the rest of the Killer B’s. Maybe they don’t necessarily know this intellectually, but they can feel it in their hearts and in their souls.
Perhaps that’s why Heinz Field was so loud on Monday Night Football.
I sure hope so, because there is nothing like a genuinely excited Steeler Nation.