Football Day in Pittsburgh – Game time!

Nov 17, 2008

It was a cold and snowy day – at some point before the game, we couldn’t see 10 yards in front of us. 

The hotel shuttle dropped us off in front of Heinz Field, near Gate C.  The Steelers were receiving the Chargers much later in the afternoon, but we wanted to go early to get a good feel for it all.
We were told the good bars were on the other side of the stadium, in front of Gate A so we headed over in that direction.

The Steel Nation is known to be rowdy.  Nothing compared to the Bills’ fans, but still.  Today however, their ardour was slowed down by the flurries. There was also some Chargers fans around – not a whole lot, but their baby blue jerseys were clashing with the sea of yellow and black, so they were easy to spot.

We walked around the stadium for a while, immersing ourselves in the pre-game ambiance that was slowly but surely building.  But the cold was getting the better of us – we had to warm up if we wanted to last the whole game.  After all, we were 3 hours before kick-off.  So we wandered down towards the promise land of sports bars which are supposed to be nearby. 

The first one we saw had a line-up.  We looked around and couldn’t really see anything else.  So we did line-up, trying to make it inside the Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36.  Bettis was traded from the Rams to the Steelers.  A strong running back, Bettis rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons in Pittsburgh.  A very popular figure, he decided to cash in by opening this “food-focused sports-themed restaurant.”

We had to get in.  But the line was not moving.  I noticed they had a patio, with a nice view of the Ohio river and of Heinz Field. I also noticed that we could get on the patio directly and therefore skip the line-up.  The patio was almost empty, and there was not a lot of customers for the two Bud Girls who were trying to sell their malt beverages.  We walked on and happily ordered to cold beers to warm us up.  And after buying the beer, Jerry and I snucked inside the bar from the patio – the doors weren’t locked. 

The place is great.  It is huge.  They have over 50 HD TVs with 12 different satellite systems, which makes it possible for them to show up to 12 different events at the same time!  The TVs are everywhere, and they clearly identify with logos which TV will broadcast what.  So you just need to find the TV you are looking for, and no need to ask the staff to switch any TVs. Everything is pre-determined. 

The place was really packed. As people were cheering for the different teams, Jerry and I enjoyed a couple of beers, and we chased them down with a couple rhum and cokes.  The bar itself is shaped like a football, and I counted 15 screens all around.  

The food menu looked interesting – the wings smelled fantastic – but we were still recovering from Primanti’s.  And a quick look at their Ultimate cheesy fries convinced us to wait for a bit.  

Their beer selection is grandiose: 36 beers on tap!  Have a look at their selection.  Now, after having a few drinks, one needs to head over to the washroom.  And let me tell you, it was not a pleasant scene.  Frankly, I have rarely seen something so disgusting – there was literally pee everywhere.  Of course there was – people were distracted.  In front of the urinal was a two-way mirror, permitting you to watch the games as you were taking care of business.  A great concept, but when put to the test of hundreds of drunken fans lining up for too long in an overcrowded bar, it failed.

We recovered from the bathroom experience with another beer, and then we left for the stadium.

Heinz Field was open in 2001, to replace the Three Rivers Stadium. The H.J. Heinz company, which is from Pittsburgh, bought the naming rights, and therefore the right to have Heinz Condiment Stations throughout the stadium.  However, don’t expect to see the 57 varieties on display.  Ketchup, mustard, relish, some pickled goodies, but that’s it.  Now, of course, 57 has never been based in reality and always been a marketing ploy. So who cares?

Heinz is taking full advantage of its exclusive presence, and you can see the famous logo everywhere. On top of the jumbotron, two giant Heinz ketchup bottles are located. And when the Steelers – or the University of Pittsburgh Panthers I assume – are getting into the “Red Zone”, the two ketchup bottles are celebrating the scoring opportunity by filling the jumbotron with virtual ketchup. Classy.

There are many more concessions at Heinz Field then at the Mellon Arena.  Obviously, they want to keep their fans fed and merry, as there are 47 concessions in total.  I got a little hungry, and althoug I was tempted to seek out the Primanti Brothers’ location, I decided against it and went looking for a Pennsylvania classic: a Philly Cheesesteak.  I stopped by a “Goal Line Stand” where they were grilling peppers and onions alongside strips of steak, serving everything sizzling, transfered into a fresh bun and topped with melted white cheese.  I was not disappointed.  It was very good, and the cold actually helped to hold everything together as the cheese cooled down before I got back to my seat.  I enjoyed it with an iced cold local brew – every brew was ice cold during the game, even if they would have tried to serve it warm.  There are 11 different types of concessions at Heinz Field, but I highly recommend you follow my lead.

You can have a look here at what you can find, and where.  As for the game, it was quite interesting considering the weather, and it was decided on the last play, a play that ended up costing gamblers tons of money.  And it was, in the end, an historic game – the first 11-10 game in the history of the NFL.


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