Pittsburgh Steelers Heinz Field Tour: The Best $10 You’ll Ever Spend
If you ever happen to find yourself in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a couple of spare hours, even if you’ve no real knowledge of the present day NFL juggernaut, go to Heinz Field and take a tour. Informative, interesting, and well organised, paying just ten dollars for the experience is an absolute bargain.
Heinz Field – home of the Steelers NFL team. (Photo: Erin McRitchie)
For a stadium which is only used by the Pittsburgh Steelers for eight days a year – unless, of course, they qualify for the play offs – Heinz Field is, quite simply, a fortress. The custom designed stadium is used frequently by the University of Pittsburgh football team, the Pitt Panthers, as well as playing host to ice hockey, soccer and concerts in the past as well.
The stadium was purpose built to replace the old Three Rivers Stadium – which, coincidentally, was not fully demolished until the construction on the new stadium was completed – and boasts a 68,400 capacity, which is a 9,400 increase on the old stadium’s 59,000 hold.
The turf itself in the stadium is heated to 62 degrees and there are approximately 40 miles of piping beneath the surface which are filled with anti-freeze to ensure that regardless of the weather conditions, the turf remains playable.
The turf is heated to ensure it remains playable at all times, in all weathers. (Photo: Erin McRitchie)
Regardless of the game played on said turf, the design of the stadium ensures that every person in the house has the perfect vantage point. The press box alone has the capacity to seat 155 journalists, all with their own work station, in a room which houses replay television screens as well – though they do not broadcast commentator sound, meaning the journalists truly have to pay attention to the action on the field and know their stuff when it comes to gameday.
Spanning the width of the stadium are the suites – contracts for which are usually held for between six and ten years. Though you better have a good amount of pennies saved up in the bank as the six seater suites start at around $40,000 a year whilst the largest option of 24 seater suites can be bought for over $185,000 a year.
Paying such large sums still won’t let you roam the stadium with drink in hand however, as each floor of the stadium has a separate liquor licence – most probably due to the sheer size of the structure – and so you cannot move between floors with your drink of choice. It seems even luxury has its boundaries.
The team history on show
As you walk in the main gated entrance, you enter into a vast expanse of space littered with Steelers history and pride. The ‘Great Hall’ is covered in banners of cherished players, cases housing prized trophies and walls covered in plaques of the franchise’s most memorable days.
The great hall ensures franchise history takes pride of place. (Photo: Erin McRitchie)
The franchise started in 1933 as the Pittsburgh Pirates Football Squad – making them the oldest franchise in the AFC – eventually evolving into the Pittsburgh Steelers we know today in 1940.
The presence of the Rooney family – owners of the franchise since its very conception – is made clear in small tokens throughout the stadium. A number of the suites hold pictures of the late Dan Rooney, or other signals of respect for the family that built the beloved Pittsburgh side.
The Steelers, currently, only have two numbers officially retired. (Photo: Erin McRitchie)
Other individuals who take centre stage in the team history on display is fan-favourite, title winning players the likes of Hines Ward (#86), Terry Bradshaw (#12), Jack Lambert (#58) and Jerome Bettis (#36). This is along with the wall display commemorating the careers of Ernie Stautner (#70) and Joe Greene (#75) – to date, the only two players to have their numbers officially retired by the Steelers.
Along with pictures of and information about these players, some of the individuals have donated momentos from their original Three Rivers Stadium lockers to allowed them to be put on display – completed with the original wooden lockers themselves. As lovely as this is, one player left his spare pair of teeth!
The existence of the lockers allows the old stadium to connect with the new. (Photo: Erin McRitchie)
The superstition and markers of respect
As previously shown, the Steelers is a franchise which places great prominence on its history and its beginnings. The colours is their well known logo represent coal, iron and scrap metal – the three ingredients it takes to form steel.
The logo is seen all over the stadium and has great significance placed upon it – so great that the carpet form of it in the locker room has never been walked upon. No player, coach, guest, team doctor, cleaner or any other individual has ever placed a foot upon the pristine logo – an action seen to give the logo the respect it deserves. It is taken to the extent that that section of carpet it hand cleaned!
The pristine section of carpet is never stepped on. (Photo: Erin McRitchie)
The locker room itself is an impressively large space – though it would have to be to house so many large men in football pads – which is meticulously well organised. The set up sees three walls of the room house the lockers, with the lockers themselves organised into a line-up of offence, defence then special teams players.
Another slight piece of superstition is the man of steel sign which is proudly displayed on the wall opposite the home locker room. The sign itself is made of steel left over from the construction of the stadium. It is said that the players all touch it before taking to the field – perhaps to remind them of the heritage which has allowed them to have a team to play for today.
The sign is touched by many players as they leave the locker room on gameday. (Photo: Erin McRitchie)
The tour itself
Obviously, no tour would be complete without a tour guide. When I attended the tour in late September this year, our group hit the jackpot, for our tour guide was Jan. As a guide, she was an endless fountain of knowledge, personable to speak to and clearly a long-time Steelers lover.
She really made the tour interactive and was only too happy to hear our questions, or discuss the facts we already knew of the Steelers as well as of other teams in the league.
And so, if you ever find yourself at a loose end, with a couple of hours to spare in Pennsylvania, and you’re anywhere near Heinz Field then don’t hesitate to head along. Even if you aren’t an avid NFL follower, just hearing the history of the franchise and walking around its grand house, is certainly an experience in itself.