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Tailgating around Heinz Field is unique, or shall we say ‘terrible’?

What is tailgating at Heinz Field all about? ‘The Terrible Tailgate’ encapsulates all that is good for the Steelers faithful.

Houston Texans v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When you think of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you think of many things. Super Bowls, a global fan base, the Terrible Towel, and...tailgating?

Yes, just like all 32 NFL teams, the Steelers are known for having some incredible tailgating around Heinz Field before game day. You can talk about all the different sections/parking lots in and around the Heinz Field area who have great, and very traditional, tailgating experiences for fans, but I wanted to help show you about some of the non-traditional tailgating happening every single time the Steelers play at home.

I reached out to Dan Theiss, one of the many who run “The Terrible Tailgate”. After having a conversation with Theiss, I asked if I could use his words to best describe the scene at this tailgate every game day. He obliged, so let him explain what makes this tailgate, and many tailgates like it, truly unique for the Steelers, and even visiting fans.

“Our tailgate, The Terrible Tailgate, has been going on since the 80’s. I’ve been part of it since the opening of Heinz Field…when my dad and brother let me in on the family season tickets. We take it pretty seriously. Each year, the six of us that run it have a preseason planning meeting. We plan the menu based off of each opponent.

“If that city has a signature meal, we try to do our best to honor it. Jambalaya for New Orleans, fried pork sandwiches for Indianapolis, cheesesteaks for Philadelphia, etc. If we can do it with our on-board grill and deep fryer, we’ll try it. The beer-battered Lake Erie walleye is a fan favorite. We always have plenty of beverages on hand as well. Hell, we have a Terrible Tailgate Hall of Fame, complete with a gold jacket! It’s all about the details and traditions.”

That sounds absolutely amazing by itself, but there is so much more to this than just the food. Theiss went on to talk about how everything from the music they listen to is thought out and planned.

“The music…a mix of old vs new-ish. Think B94 to DVE to 3WS (all Pittsburgh radio stations). And 45 minutes to go before we pack up…it’s time for the “Gameday Playlist.” And the crowd, which sometimes exceeds 50 people, knows it.”

The tailgate is now ready for the game. They are ready to cheer on the black and gold. They are all ready to help the Steelers win a home game. Now begins the march from the tailgate, to the Steelers mecca that is Heinz Field.

“The walk in is always fun. I like heading down the main lot. Usually still a lot going on. It’s not out of the norm to pick up an extra beverage or two from a friendly tailgater on your way past either.”

The ‘Terrible Tailgate’ isn’t just about food, music and fans. It’s about family. Even the parking lot lady is someone who is always a part of the scene, and unforgettable.

“Oh, and the parking lady…can’t forget her. She’s the best. An unofficial member of the tailgate. We’ve been in the same spot for years. Red 7A. Our regulars know the spot. It’s easy to find for first timers. Often, passers by stop for photos. People we see only eight times a year feel like family. And the opposing fans, they’re always welcome too! That’s a Steelers tailgate.

“If I had to sum up the tailgate scene in one sentence: It’s full of family that are friends, friends that are family, and a fanbase hungry to just have a good time.”

Are there other tailgates around Heinz Field which go all out and make game days special? Absolutely, but ‘The Terrible Tailgate’ encapsulates what makes the Steelers tailgating scene unique. So, if you are going to a Steelers game at Heinz Field, be sure to swing by Red 7A and check out this tailgate. You’ll be welcomed like family.