Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How to Be a Jet Fan In Pittsburgh -- 2016 Edition

This Sunday, the New York Jets, coming off a lousy game at home to the Seattle Seahawks, travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers, who just put a major hurtin' on the Kansas City Chiefs.

It's a bit odd that each New York football team, on that day, will be away to the most successful franchise in their respective conference: No team has won more NFL Championships than the Giants' opponents that day, the Green Bay Packers, with 13; and no team has won more Super Bowls than the Steelers. The Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, have, like the Steelers, won 8 AFC Championships, but in Super Bowls, it's Steelers 6, Patriots 4, Broncos 3.

Before You Go. Pittsburgh is at roughly the same latitude as New York City, so roughly the same weather can be expected. As always, check out the newspaper website (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) before you head out. They're predicting mid-60s for the afternoon, high 40s for night. Bring a jacket.

Pittsburgh is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to adjust your timepieces.

Tickets. The Steelers averaged 64,356 fans per home game last season. That ranked them 22nd out of 32 NFL teams, but it was about 98 percent of capacity. This is, after all, a football town in a football State. Presume that getting tickets will be hard.

Lower Level (100 sections) seats are $138 along the sidelines and $127 in the end zones. Upper Level (500 sections) seats are $113 and $96. If it helps, the West Stand gives you a view of downtown, whereas the East Stand doesn't.

Getting There. I'm not going to kid you here: There's only one way to do so, and that's by car. You do not want to fly, because you'll end up spending over a thousand bucks to go less than 400 miles, and Pittsburgh International Airport is out in Imperial, Pennsylvania, near Coraopolis and Aliquippa, so it's almost as close to West Virginia and Ohio as it is to downtown Pittsburgh.

The Amtrak schedule doesn't really work. The Pennsylvanian leaves Penn Station at 10:52 AM, and doesn't get to Pittsburgh's station of the same name until 8:05 PM, after the kickoff. And there's no overnight train that would leave at, say, 11 PM and arrive at 8 AM. And going back, the Pennsylvanian leaves at 7:30 AM and arrives back at 4:50 PM. At least it's cheap by Amtrak standards: $118 round-trip.

Greyhound isn't much better, but at least you have options. There are 14 buses a day between Port Authority Bus Terminal and Pittsburgh, but it's a bit expensive considering the distance, $166 round-trip (though advanced purchase can get it down to only $48). The Greyhound station is at 55 11th Street, across Liberty Avenue from the Amtrak station.

The only sensible way is by car – especially if there's more than one of you going and you can take turns driving. It's 373 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to downtown Pittsburgh, and 371 miles from MetLife Stadium to Heinz Field.

From the City, you'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take it to Exit 14, to Interstate 78. From elsewhere in New Jersey, taking Interstate 287 should get you to I-78.  Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation’s first superhighway, opening in 1940.

You'll be on it for another 3 hours – Pennsylvania is huge compared to a lot of Northeastern States. The political consultant James Carville, who got Bob Casey Sr., father of current U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr., elected Governor in 1986, says, "Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in the middle." He wasn’t kidding: Between Philly and Pitt, it is very, very rural, hence the nickname "Pennsyltucky." It certainly explains the State's love of football: The Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penn State and high school ball.

You'll take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Exit 57, the signs showing I-376 and U.S. 22 – the same Route 22 you might know from New Jersey, which I-78 was designed to replace – and the sign will say "Pittsburgh."
There will be several exits on I-376, the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, into the city of Pittsburgh. Most likely, if your hotel (which I hope you've reserved before you left) is downtown, you'll take Exit 71B, "Second Avenue."

From anywhere in New York City, allow 6½ hours for the actual driving, though from North Jersey you might need "only" 6. I recommend at least 2 rest stops, preferably after crossing over into Pennsylvania around Easton, and probably around either Harrisburg or Breezewood. So the whole thing, assuming nothing goes wrong, will probably take about 8 hours.

Once In the City. Pittsburgh has, by American standards, a long history. It was settled by the French as Fort Duquesne in 1717, and captured by the British in 1758, and renamed Fort Pitt, for Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder.

The General who captured it, John Forbes (for whom the Pirates' former park Forbes Field would be named), was a Scotsman, and he intended the town that grew around it to be named "Pittsburgh" -- pronounced "Pitts-burrah," like the Scottish capital Edinburgh. From 1891 to 1911, the H was dropped from the city's name, and this was reflected on the Pirates' uniforms, which sometimes read "PITTSBURG," as seen on the famous 1909 "T-206" baseball card of Honus Wagner. But the Germanic "Pittsburg" went back to the Scottish "Pittsburgh," while keeping the Germanic pronunciation. (There is, however, a town named Pittsburg, no H, in Kansas.)

With this long history, a great architectural diversity, and a dramatic skyline with lots of neat-looking skyscrapers, Pittsburgh looks like a much bigger city than it actually is. While the metropolitan area is home to 2.7 million people, the city proper has only 306,000, having lost over half its population since the nearby steel mills, coal mines, and other factories closed starting in the 1970s.

The reduction of blue-collar jobs led people to take comfort in their sports teams, especially in the 1970s. Either the Pirates or the Steelers made the Playoffs in every year of that decade, both of them did so in 4 of those 10 years, and the University of Pittsburgh (or just "Pitt," though they don't like that nickname at that school) had an undefeated National Championship season in 1976. The Pirates won 2 World Series in the decade, the Steelers 4 Super Bowls in 6 years.

Calendar year 1979, with spillover into January 1980, was an annus mirabilis, in which the "Steel Curtain" won Super Bowl XIII in January, the "Bucs" (or "Buccos," or "Lumber Company," or "Family") won the World Series in October, and the Steelers then went on to win Super Bowl XIV, with the Pirates' Willie Stargell and the Steelers' Terry Bradshaw being named Co-Sportsmen of the Year by Sports Illustrated and the city government advertising itself as the City of Champions.

(It was also at that time that, in order to ride the Pirates/Steelers bandwagon, the NHL's Penguins switched their colors from navy blue and yellow to black and gold, but it was several more years before they became a championship contender.)

While the loss of industry did mean a sharp, long-term decline, the financial, computer and health care industries opened new doors, and Pittsburgh is very much a now and tomorrow city. And they love their sports, having won 14 World Championships in 19 trips to their sports' finals (which gives them a .737 winning percentage in finals, the best of any city of at least 3 teams) -- and that doesn't count the 9 National Championships won by Pitt football, the Negro League Pennants won by the Homestead Grays (10) and the Pittsburgh Crawfords (4), or the 1968 ABA Championship won by the Pittsburgh Pipers.

Pittsburgh has numbered streets, moving east from Point State Park, where the Allegheny River to the north and the Monongahela River to the south rivers merge to become the Ohio River -- hence the name of the former Pittsburgh sports facility, Three Rivers Stadium. North-south streets start their numbers at the Monongahela, and increase going north.

There is a subway system in the city, and it's free within the downtown triangle. But outside that area, a one-zone ride is $2.50, and a two-zone ride is $3.75. A 75-cent surcharge is added during rush hour -- in other words, on your way into the Thursday and Friday night games, making the charge $3.25 instead of $2.50. These fares are the same for city buses, although they're not free within the downtown triangle.
The sales tax in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is 6 percent, and Allegheny County (including the City of Pittsburgh) pushes it to 7 percent. ZIP Codes for Pittsburgh start with the digits 15, and for the rest of Western Pennsylvania 16. The Area Code for the city is 412, and for the suburbs 724, with 878 overlaid for both. Pittsburgh does not have a "beltway." Duquesne Light Holdings is the city's electric company.

The old Pittsburgh Press, once the 2nd-largest newspaper in Pennsylvania behind the Philadelphia Inquirer, went out of business due to a strike in 1992, before the city's remaining daily, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, brought it back in online form in 2011. That strike gave Richard Mellon Scaife, the current head of the legendary Pittsburgh metals and banking family, a chance to turn a local suburban paper into the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, spouting his right-wing fanatic views. It may be that the P-G brought back the Press to give the city 2 liberals voices against the 1 nutjob voice.

The city's population was 88 percent white in 1950. By 2010, that had dropped to 65 percent. It's 26 percent black, 4.4 percent Asian, and, surprising me, only 2.3 percent Hispanic.

Going In. Having the working name of Art Rooney Field during construction, the new Steeler stadium's naming rights were bought by Pittsburgh corporate leader H.J. Heinz & Company, and so it opened in 2001 with the name Heinz Field.

From most of downtown, the complex that includes Heinz Field and the Pirates home of PNC Park is within a mile's walk, crossing the 6th Street Bridge, now the Roberto Clemente Bridge, over the Allegheny River, shortly before it joins with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River.

There are local buses (including the Number 14) that go from downtown to the ballpark. The subway/light rail system's Blue Line has now been extended to Allegheny Station, at Reedsdale & North Shore Drive, across from the northwest corner of the stadium.

The stadium is bounded on the north side by Reedsdale Street, on the east side by Art Rooney Avenue, on the south and west sides by North Shore Drive. The official address is 100 Art Rooney Avenue. (Three Rivers Stadium's address, famously, was 600 Stadium Circle.) There are several nearby parking garages, most of them charging only $5.00.
At the southwestern corner of the stadium, there's a West Ramp. At the southeastern corner, there's an East Ramp. Together, they form Gate A. Gate B is at the northeast corner, and Gate C is at the northwest corner. Don't ask me why, I didn't design the place.

The Steelers hosted the AFC Championship Game in the stadium's 1st season, 2001 (losing it to the New England Patriots, and again in 2004 (losing to the Pats again), 2008 (beating the Baltimore Ravens) and 2010 (beating the Jets).

The field is natural grass, and is aligned north-to-south. (Well, northwest-to-southeast, anyway.) The Steelers played on artificial turf at Three Rivers, but Heinz has always had the real thing. A 2007 ESPN.com article named Heinz Field the best stadium in the NFL, tied with Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

The Steelers groundshare with the University of Pittsburgh football team, as they did at Pitt Stadium in the 1960s. This past September 10, the renewal of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry, now labeled the Keystone Classic, set a stadium attendance record of 69,983. (Pitt won a thriller, 42-39.)

It also hosted the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, in which the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 3-1 to the Washington Capitals. This coming February, it will host an NHL Stadium Series game between Pennsylvania's teams, the Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers. In the Summer of 2014, it hosted a soccer game, in which defending English champions Manchester City beat Italian giants AC Milan 5-1.
If you've never been to Pittsburgh, but Heinz Field still looks familiar to you, you may have seen it in the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, where it stood in for the home of the fictional Gotham Rogues. They got a little cute for the game they filmed there: Steeler legend Hines Ward played the kick returner, real-life Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl played the opposing team's kicker, and in place of the Terrible Towel, they printed up and handed out thousands of "Rogue Rags."

UPDATE: On September 12, 2017, Thrillist had an article ranking all 31 NFL stadiums. Heinz Field came in 3rd, behind only Dallas (don't make me laugh) and Seattle (possibly):

No venue in the NFL better represents its city and team than Heinz. Its everyman, condiment-based moniker and 12,000-ton steel-reinforced construction is an ode to the “Stillers” and Pittsburgh’s smashmouth historical persona, while its aesthetic beauty and comfort embodies the modernity of both the city’s tech boom and the pass-happy offense...
The stadium has no artificial architectural noise enhancers, and its capacity of 68,400 ranks in the bottom half of NFL venues. No matter; the team’s current home sellout record (since 1972) is ensured in the raucous, towel-waving atmosphere. The sightlines -- 60 feet from the sideline to the first row, 25 feet in the end zones -- are superior.
UPDATE: On June 24, 2019, Scott Nordlund wrote an article on NFL stadiums for Moneywise, and he rated Heinz Field 5th: "It's got the ideal downtown Pittsburgh location, near the meeting point for the city's famed three rivers (Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio); the views are excellent no matter where you sit; and the food is top-notch.

Which is a nice segue into:

Food. Pittsburgh is a city of many ethnicities, and most of them love to eat food that really isn't good for you: Irish, Italian, Polish, Greek, and African-Americans with Soul Food and Barbecue. Yes, I did mean to capitalize those last two. They deserve it.

Aramark, the successor organization to Harry M. Stevens, runs the concessions at Heinz Field. They have Goal Line Stand stands all over, with hot dogs (some "super dogs"), cheesesteak sandwiches (wrong side of Pennsylvania, guys), pizza, nachos, pretzels, popcorn and candy. The legendary sandwichmaking Primanti Brothers have a stand outside Section 110.

They also have Benkovitz Seafood (fish sandwiches, fish & chips) at 106; Quaker Steak and Lube (including wings and fries) at 112 and 136; Red Zone Express (hot dogs, pretzels and nachos) at 119, 129 and 425; Grid Iron Grill (various ethnic sausages) at 122, 132, 509 and 532; Nacho Zone at 227, 241, 522 and 535; and First Down Fries (garlic fries, also "super dogs") at 442.

Pub 33 Bar and Grill is on the lower level, in the southeast corner, named for the number on Rolling Rock bottles, not for any Steelers player who wore Number 33 (or for Honus Wagner of the Pirates, for that matter). The number has many rumored sources: The Steelers having been founded in 1933,  Prohibition having been repealed that year, the alleged proper Fahrenheit temperature to keep beer, the 33 degrees of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Rolling Rock getting their brewing formula right on the 33rd try, 33 steps from their original brewery's floor to the brewmaster's office, and the 33 words in the beer's original pledge of quality that is still printed on the label of every bottle. In fact, the number 33 is from a racehorse that was owned by the brewery's owners, hence the racehorse pictured on the label -- but nobody seems to wonder about that picture!

Team History Displays. The Steelers have won 6 NFL Championships, all in the Super Bowl era; the former is not a record, but the latter is. They've won Super Bowls IX, X, XIII, XIV, XL and XLIII, making them World Champions for the seasons of 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 2005 and 2008. While there is no banner display in the field area, the 6 Vince Lombardi Trophies are on display in the Great Hall of Heinz Field..
A statue of the team's founding owner, Art Rooney, complete with his ever-present cigar and overcoat, is outside Gate A at the southwest entrance -- which, as you'll see here, used to be labeled Gate D.
Art was known as "The Chief." Byron White, an All-American in football and basketball at the University of Colorado, a Steelers running back in 1938, and a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1962 to 1993, said, "Art Rooney is the finest person I've ever known." Head groundskeeper Ralph Giampaolo recalled his meeting with the great sportscaster Curt Gowdy: "I'll never forget the way he introduced me: 'This is Ralph Giampaolo, a member of our organization.' Not, 'a member of our ground crew.' Not some rinky-dink bum. But 'a member of our organization.' As far as Gowdy knew, I was vice president of the team. Mr. Rooney made me feel 10 feet tall."

He truly loved sports, none more than football, but also horse racing, baseball and boxing. He won an amateur welterweight boxing championship in 1918 and nearly made the U.S. Olympic team in 1920. He played minor-league baseball and football in the 1920s. He founded the Steelers (named the Pirates after the baseball team until 1939) in 1933, at the same time that Bert Bell founded the Philadelphia Eagles, and this may have been the reason the Pennsylvania legislature finally lifted the legal ban on hosting sporting events in the State on Sunday.

Legend has it that he bought the Steeler franchise with $2,500 in winnings from a local horse track. While the price is correct, the legend is not: While he did have a tremendous day at the track, winning $160,000 (about $2.7 million in today's money), it was in 1936, after he was already the owner. And it wasn't at a local track, either, it was at Saratoga Race Course in Upstate New York.

But it did keep the team funded until 1941, at which point some machinations were necessary to save both Pennsylvania teams, resulting in Art selling his Steelers share, buying 70 percent of the Eagles, and Bell becoming Steelers owner. After World War II, things went back to normal: Art was able to sell the Eagles and buy the Steelers back, and Bell was named NFL Commissioner.

Art occasionally stepped in with a little cash to keep the Negro Leagues' Homestead Grays afloat, and used his influence to get Pittsburgh into the NHL for the 1967 expansion, resulting in the birth of the Penguins. He would eventually buy Yonkers Raceway outside New York and Liberty Bell Park in Northeast Philadelphia.

All that said, his love for football far surpassed his knowledge of it. He drafted Pittsburgh native Johnny Unitas in 1955, but coach Walt Kiesling, not one to throw the ball, cut him, and Art didn't step in to overrule Kiesling. Art would also have Len Dawson and Jack Kemp on the roster in the late 1950s, and let them go, and they became stars elsewhere. From 1933 until 1969, only once did the Steelers make the Playoffs, tying the Eagles for the Eastern Division title in 1947, and losing the Playoff even though they hosted it at Forbes Field. They fell just short of another Division title in 1963. In 1969, despite having drafted Joe Greene, they won only 1 game.

It was then that his sons asked him to let them make the personnel decisions, while Art Sr. would run the organization as a whole. Art Sr. relented, and, with Dan as the operating boss, Art Jr. as chief scout, and Tim, Pat and John also as directors, they hired Chuck Noll as head coach, made the key drafts, and built the team that dominated the 1970s. Art Sr. and Dan are, along with Tim and Wellington Mara of the Giants, the only father-son combination in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Art Sr. died in 1988, and Dan and his son Art II now run the team. Pat's son Tom Rooney is now a Republican Congressman from Florida. His brother Patrick Rooney Jr. is a State legislator there. Dan's brother Tim runs Yonkers Raceway, and his wife Kathleen is the daughter of Wellington Mara. Thus their daughters, actresses Kate Mara and Rooney Mara, are both great-granddaughters of the founders of the Steelers and the Giants. Kate has sung the National Anthem at both Steeler and Giant games, and has been present for each team's last 2 Super Bowl wins. (Although it is possible for the Steelers and the Giants to meet in the Super Bowl, they never have.)

When defensive tackle Ernie Stautner retired after the 1963 season, the Steelers retired his Number 70, but later announced that they wouldn't retire any more numbers. Officially, this remained true until 2014, when they retired Number 75 for another defensive tackle, perhaps the greatest in the history of the game, the man who personified their 1970s "Steel Curtain" defense: Mean Joe Greene. A display of these numbers, in the styles of the uniforms the Steelers had during their playing days, is on the stadium concourse.
There are several other numbers that the Steelers do not give out, making them "unofficially retired": 1, for 1980s kicker Gary Anderson; 12, for 1970s quarterback Terry Bradshaw; 32, for 1970s running back Franco Harris; 36, for 1990s-2000s running back Jerome Bettis; 43, for 2000s linebacker Troy Polamalu; 47, for 1970s cornerback Mel Blount; 52, for 1970s center Mike Webster; 58, for 1970s linebacker Jack Lambert; 59, for 1970s linebacker Jam Ham; 63, for 1990s center Dermontti Dawson; and 86, for 2000s receiver Hines Ward. However, both numbers of their 1970s Hall of Fame receivers, the 82 of John Stallworth and the 88 of Lynn Swann, are still given out.

Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame include:

* From the 1930s: Art Rooney, running back and head coach John McNally (a.k.a. Johnny Blood), and guard Walt Kiesling.

* From the 1940s: Art Rooney, Kiesling, co-owner Bert Bell and running back "Bullet Bill" Dudley.

* From the 1950s: Art Rooney, Stautner, cornerback Jack Butler.

* From the 1960s: Art Rooney, Stautner, quarterback Bobby Layne, running back John Henry Johnson.

* From the Super Bowl IX, X, XIII and XIV winners in 1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980: Art Rooney, Dan Rooney, Coach Chuck Noll, Blount, Bradshaw, Greene, Ham, Harris, Lambert, Stallworth, Swann, Webster.

* From the 1995 AFC Champions: Dan Rooney, Bettis, Dawson, linebacker Kevin Greene (no relation to Mean Joe), cornerback Rod Woodson.

* From the Super Bowl XL winners in 2006: Dan Rooney and Bettis (it was his last game, as he was retiring). Aside from Dan Rooney, no one associated with the Super Bowl XLIII winners of 2009 is in yet. Polamalu, who played in both XL and XLIII, will be eligible in 2020. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is still active, and thus ineligible.

* Myron Cope, who broadcast for the Steelers from 1970 to 2005, was given the Hall's Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, the broadcasters' equivalent to induction. As the man himself would say, "Yoi! And double yoi!"

Webster, Greene, Ham, Lambert, Blount and Woodson were named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary team in 1994. All of those, plus Layne, Bradshaw and Harris, were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. Bradshaw, Webster, Greene, Lambert, Ham, Blount and Woodson were named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010.

UPDATE: On August 29, 2017, the team announced the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Honor, to be displayed in the Great Hall at Heinz Field. It had 27 inaugural inductees: Art and Dan Rooney, McNally, Kiesling, Dudley, Stautner, Butler, Layne, Johnson, Noll, Blount, Bradshaw, Joe and Kevin Greene, Ham, Harris, Lambert, Stallworth, Swann, Webster, Bettis, Dawson, Woodson, 1960s running back and 1970s-to-2000s assistant coach Dick Hoak, 1970s linebacker L.C. Greenwood, and 1970s safety Donnie Shell.

So, every Steeler in the Pro Football Hall of Fame except for Bert Bell, plus Hoak, Greenwood and Shell, who are not yet in Canton. (Hoak won't make it unless they start electing longtime assistant coaches.)

The 2018 inductees were executives Art Rooney Jr. and Bill Nunn, early 1960s receiver Buddy Dial, 1970s running back Rocky Bleier, and 2000s guard Alan Faneca.

In spite of the Steelers' long history and many successes, they have had only 1 Heisman Trophy winner play for them, and he only played 1 season. Johnny Lattner won the Trophy in 1953, having quarterbacked Notre Dame to the National Championship. The Steelers made him a running back, and he gained over 1,000 all-purpose yards in 1954. But he was drafted, and, playing for an Air Force team, wrecked his knee, and never played again.

The Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL only lasted 1 season, 1984, and had exactly as many Heisman winners, 1: Mike Rozier, the running back who won it at Nebraska in 1983.

The Steelers' biggest rivalry is not with the cross-State Philadelphia Eagles, but with their fellow Midwest blue-collar guys, the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers lead, 70-58. But despite the Steelers' reputation as a glorious franchise and the Eagles' reputations as losers, the Eagles actually lead the series, 47-29-3.

(UPDATE: Through the 2018 season, the Steelers lead the Browns 75-58-1. The Browns haven't beaten them since October 12, 2014. But the Eagles have extended their lead over the Steelers to 48-29-3.)

Stuff. The Steelers Pro Shop is inside Gate B at the southeast corner of Heinz Field. The usual kinds of team gear can be found there, as well as black Steelers hard hats, Terrible Towels, Steely McBeam dolls, and other novelty items. These may include steel-beam hats.

You don't usually think of Pittsburgh as a great literary city. But there are some really good books about the Steelers. David Aretha and Abbey Mendelson wrote The Steelers Experience: A Year-by-Year Chronicle of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mendelson also wrote The Pittsburgh Steelers: The Official Team History, covering them from their 1933 founding until their loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV in 2011.

Gary M. Pomerantz focused on the Steel Curtain era, with Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now. Roy Blount Jr., then with Sports Illustrated, covered them in the 1973 season, and turned it into the book About Three Bricks Shy of a Load

Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne wrote The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Battle for America's Soul. It does a terrific job of telling the cultural histories of both Pittsburgh and Dallas, and the teams that played in those cities, including their meeting in Super Bowl X in 1976, up until their meeting in Super Bowl XIII in 1979. The problem is, the book ends with the postgame of that Super Bowl, and doesn't really explain who won "the battle for America's soul."

Indeed, while the Seventies Steelers are now regarded as one of the greatest football teams of all time, and the Seventies Cowboys are a level below them, looking at America from the Eighties onward, we have become much more like Dallas and the Cowboys (materialistic, self-indulgent, instant-gratification-seeking, drug-ridden, yet sanctimonious about religion) than we have like Pittsburgh and the Steelers (hard-working, patient, team-oriented, magnanimous in victory, appreciative of the people who got us there). Good book, but the lack of a true epilogue stops it from being a great book. But it is as good a look at the building of the Steeler dynasty (or the 1st 20 years of the Cowboys) that we are likely to get anytime soon.

Books by individual Steelers include Dan Rooney: My 75 Years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL, It's Only a Game by Terry Bradshaw, and The Bus: My Life In and Out of a Helmet by Jerome Bettis.

Videos about the Steelers include Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete History (released in 2005, just before they finally got that 5th Super Bowl win, their "One for the Thumb"), Pittsburgh Steelers: Behind the Steel Curtain, and the NFL's Greatest Games series that features the 1st 5 Super Bowl wins (but not the 6th, as it came out a few months too soon). There are separate DVDs for both Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranked the Pirates 24th -- in other words, the 7th most tolerable out of 30, saying, "In most cases, Pirates fans are a pretty all right bunch. Most of your more abrasive Yinzer types save the bulk of their wrath for Steelers season." (A "Yinzer" is a Pittsburgher, from their habit of saying the second-person-plural, which is "youse" in New York, as "yinz." They also tend to drop some consonants: "Downtown" becomes "Dowtow," and "South Side" becomes "Souside.")

The article is accurate about Pittsburghers' aggressiveness. At Pirates games, they're nearly always okay. At Pitt Panthers games, except against Penn State, they're nearly always okay. At Penguins games, except against the Philadelphia Flyers, they're usually okay. 

A Steeler game is a little different. Thrillist also did an article on "The Most Obnoxious Fans In the NFL," and ranked Steeler fans 6th, behind only New England, Oakland, Dallas, the Jets and Philly. (You, as a Jet fan, can decide for yourself whether being the 4th-most-obnoxious fan base is a plus or a minus.) And the article was not especially kind to the Steeler fan diaspora:

Despite winning the most Super Bowls of any team in league history, you still have a no-show problem at home games. Not because the team is subpar, but because your average season-ticket holder is 84 and stays home after dark or if there's a 10% chance of rain. Your beloved "Steeler Nation" is mostly made up of transplants living in the Sun Belt who are "total die-hards" but haven't been to a Steeler game in Pittsburgh since Three Rivers. That won't stop you from busting out the Pittsburgh-ese at the local Steeler bar, though, like you didn't skip town for the first warm-weather job that came around. The fact that you have the most Super Bowls helps shut down Cowboys, Giants, and Pats fans, so America is still grateful, pending this year's winner. Also, your fight song is by Styx.
UPDATE: From September 1 to 7, 2017, during the NFL National Anthem protest controversy,
FiveThirtyEight.com polled fans of the 32 NFL teams, to see where they leaned politically. Steeler fans were founded to be slightly more liberal than conservative, 0.3 percent more. This still puts them in the most conservative quartile of NFL fans.

Steeler fans do not like the Cincinnati Bengals. They do not like the Baltimore Ravens. They really, really, really do not like the Cleveland Browns. They should be fine with you as Jet fans, as long as you don't speak well of those teams.

And as long as you don't say anything unkind about, or do anything unkind to, a Terrible Towel. You may well find 65,000 of these things being waved around the stadium at various times.
Like this.

When the Steelers qualified for the 1975 Playoffs, after having won their 1st Super Bowl the season before, Larry Garrett, the sales manager at their radio station, WTAE, told broadcaster Myron Cope (whose real name was Myron Sidney Kopelman) that a Playoffs-connected "gimmick" might be good for ratings. Cope said, "I am not a gimmick guy. Never have been a gimmick guy." Garrett said it might be good leverage in his upcoming contract talks. Cope said, "I'm a gimmick guy!"
The guy and his gimmick

He was also a practical guy: He suggested that the gimmick be "lightweight and portable, and already owned by just about every fan," to be used the first time, before they had a chance to go out and buy their own.

Garrett suggested a towel. So yellow towels, 16 inches by 23 inches (still the standard size), with black lettering, in the same typeface as the Steeler logo, reading, "the terrible towel" (all lower-case letters) were printed up. So were black towels with yellow lettering, to avoid accusations of racism.

White and black fans alike preferred the yellow one, 30,000 of them waving the towels as the Steelers came onto the field for their Playoff game against the Baltimore Colts on December 27, 1975. Lots of people were worried that the towels would be a jinx if they lost. But they won, 28-10, and a legend was born.
Lynn Swann and John Stallworth with the original versions

Did I say, "legend"? How about "phenomenon"? Department stores all over Western Pennsylvania soon had a run on yellow dish towels. The Terrible Towel became as identified with the Steelers as their black & gold uniforms, the Steelmark logo, Bradshaw, the Steel Curtain defense, Art Rooney's cigar, and Cope's "Yoi!" exclamation of joy over the radio. It was the original sports-team gimmick, preceding the Cleveland Indians' "Hate the Yankees Hanky" by nearly 2 years, the Minnesota Twins' "Homer Hanky" by nearly 12 years, and the Atlanta Braves' foam Tomahawk by almost 16 years.

Cope's son Danny was autistic, and in 1996, he gave the legal rights to the Terrible Towel to Danny's school, the Allegheny Valley School in the Pittsburgh suburb of Coraopolis (actor Michael Keaton's hometown). Proceeds have raised over $2 million for the school. Cope died in 2008, at the age of 79, having been at the microphone for 38 seasons (at the time, the longest tenure any broadcaster had had with a single NFL team), 5 of which ended in Super Bowl wins.

Since 1998, the words "Myron Cope's Official" have been printed on every towel, although the original 1975-97 version is available on the Steelers' website. Occasionally, they are printed with special items, such as an anniversary logo or a Super Bowl logo, and have even been printed up as pink towels for Breast Cancer Awareness Day. At the 2014 home opener, a 54-by-90-foot Towel was printed up, much like banners or "tifo" at European soccer games, and it took 144 fans to hold it up.
The most common version

Steeler fans have taken their Towels everywhere: The Vatican, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Great Wall of China, Mount Everest, the South Pole. Soldiers have taken them to war zones. Pittsburgh-born rapper Wiz Khalifa put one in a video. Pittsburgh-born astronaut Mike Fincke took one to the International Space Station in 2009.
Making it the most "far out" piece of sports memorabilia ever.

Although the Rooney family is Republican, Dan Rooney gave a Towel to Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton when she campaigned in the 2008 Pennsylvania Primary. She won it, though she lost the nomination to Barack Obama. In the general election, Rooney gave Obama one, and his ticket-splitting support may have made the difference in Obama winning the State. Obama rewarded him by appointing him U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, a post into which he was sworn in by Obama's Secretary of State -- Hillary Clinton. He served for 3 years.

But do not mock the Towel, nor misuse it. There is a Curse of the Terrible Towel. No, I'm not kidding. During player introductions for the Steelers' 1994 Playoff game against the arch-rival Browns, Brentson Buckner came out waving one, and dropped it. The Browns' Earnest Byner stepped on it, saying, "We don't care about your towel! We're going to beat you this time!" They did not, and less than a year later, the original version of the Browns was moved to become the Ravens.

You would think that opponents would have learned from this, but some didn't. In 2005, T.J. Houshmandzadeh of the Bengals celebrated a touchdown by wiping his feet on one. The Bengals won, but the Steelers went on to beat them in the Playoffs, and the Bengals haven't won a Playoff game since -- including last season's disaster against the Steelers. They didn't even make the Playoffs again until 4 years later -- after Houshmandzadeh had left the team.
Sounds like a Steven Spielberg movie:
Indiana Jones and The Mistake of Houshmandzadeh.

In 2008, Derrick Mason of the Ravens stepped on a Towel. The Steelers swept their Divisional games against the Ravens, and then beat them in the AFC Championship Game. That same season, Jacksonville Jaguars mascot Jaxson de Ville celebrated a Jags touchdown against the Steelers by taking a Towel and scratching his armpits with it. The Steelers came from behind to win, and the Jags lost 8 of their last 11 games.

The same season, the Tennessee Titans beat the Steelers, and LenDale White and Keith Bulluck celebrated by stomping on a Towel, and they ended up as the top seed in the AFC Playoffs, but lost at home to the Ravens, who then lost to the Steelers. They ended up losing 8 straight games, including their 2009 season opener against the Steelers and a 59-0 loss to the New England Patriots. Head coach Jeff Fisher publicly apologized for the desecration of the Towel, bought a new one, had his players autograph it, and donated it to the Allegheny Valley School. Did that generous gesture remove the Curse? Apparently: The Titans won their next 5 games.

The same season, as the Arizona Cardinals prepared to play the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix hosted a pep rally at City Hall, invited Cards mascot Big Red to the stage, and handed him a Towel. Big Red proceeded to use the Towel to scratch his armpits and blow his nose (beak). The Steelers won.

After 4 such incidents in 1 season alone, you'd think people would've learned. Alas, in the closing minutes of a 2009 game in Detroit, the Steelers led by 8 points, but the Lions were marching down the field in the hope of a tying touchdown. Lions mascot Roary found a Towel, stepped on it, and ripped it apart with his teeth. Result: 3 straight sacks and a Steeler win. That same season, the Indianapolis Colts tried to pay tribute, issuing blue and white "Terrific Towels." It almost worked: They did reach Super Bowl XLIV, but lost to the New Orleans Saints.

In 2014, Jaxson de Ville struck again. During a game in Jacksonville with the Steelers, he held up a Towel with one hand and a sign reading "Towels Carry Ebola" with the other. Not only did the Steelers win the game, but the Jags lost 13 of their next 17. And just last month, as the Steelers opened the season against the Washington Redskins, Washington punter Tress Way tweeted a video of his mother burning a Terrible Towel in a voodoo cemetery. The Steelers won.  

Even other sports are not immune to the Curse. This past February 7, the Penguins were visiting the Florida Panthers, and trailed 2-0 with about 6 minutes left in regulation. Florida's mascot, Stanley C. Panther, blew his nose into a Terrible Towel. The Pens tied the game and won it in overtime. The Panthers have now lost 5 of their last 6 games against the Penguins.

So, if you don't want horrible things to happen to you, leave the Terrible Towel alone -- at the Jets' visit to Pittsburgh on Sunday, and at all times! The Jets have enough bad luck: Maybe being kind to the Terrible Towel will reverse it! (You'll notice that the Jets haven't been to the Super Bowl since it was invented, and that their last game at Shea Stadium, in 1983, was a loss to the Steelers.)

Terrible Towels usually cost $10. I once attended a sports memorabilia show at the Wildwoods Convention Center on the Jersey Shore, and saw them for sale. I bought 2, keeping 1, and sending the other to a friend who's a big Steeler fan.

So why, you may ask, do the Steelers have a logo on only one side of their helmets? The Steelmark logo was introduced in 1960, by U.S. Steel. The 4-pointed stars, a.k.a. "hypocycloids," are yellow, representing the claim that steel "lightens your work"; orange, representing the claim that steel "brightens your leisure"; and blue, representing the claim that steel "widens your world."

In 1962, helmet logos were still relatively new to the NFL (the Giants had added the "ny" logo only the year before), and Republic Steel -- ironically, based in Cleveland, home of the arch-rival Browns -- asked the Steelers to use the Steelmark, thinking it would be great product placement, especially with the growth of television coverage of football.

Art Rooney told equipment manager Jack Hart to put the logo only on the right side of the helmets, in case it didn't catch on. It did, as the Steelers went 9-5, their best record ever to that point. The next season, the Steelers switched from yellow to black helmets, to make the logo stand out more, and the American Iron and Steel Institute, owner of the logo, approved their request to change the word "Steel" in the logo to "Steelers" -- but Art still kept it only on the right side, so the left side remains plain black to this day.

Although actress and Rooney family member Kate Mara has sung "The Star-Spangled Banner" before some Steelers games, the team does not have a regular National Anthem singer, instead holding auditions.

The Steelers are 1 of 6 NFL teams that doesn't have cheerleaders. The others are the the Giants, the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Browns, the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.

In 2007, they introduced a mascot, Steely McBeam, a hard-hat-wearing steelworker, whose prominent chin has given rise to the suggestion that he was designed to look like former head coach Bill Cowher; and whose name has been jokingly called that of a porn star. Yeah, I wouldn't suggest that to his big foam face: I've seen a meme of Steely saying, "My mascot can kick your mascot's ass!" Though, if he ever decides to kick other mascots' asses, due to the Towel curse, he may start with Jaxson de Ville.
Cowher and McBeam. Decide for yourself.

The chant, "Here we go, Steelers, here we go!" (Clap, clap!) is heard about 100 times at every Steelers game. It is also heard at Pitt Panthers games. And at Pirate games. And at Penguin games. This overuse bothers some locals. But #HereWeGo has become the Steelers' official Twitter hashtag.

It also became the base of local singer Roger Wood's attempt at a fight song, "Here We Go." Local singer Jimmy Pol wrote "The Steelers Polka," a takeoff on "The Pennsylvania Polka." Since Heinz Field opened in 2001, the 1979 Styx song "Renegade" has become a Steeler anthem. Before a 2009 (2008 season) Playoff game, Styx sang it and the National Anthem, and the Steelers beat the San Diego Chargers.

Alas, the glory days of the 1970s are gone, and so are the days when ethnic groups saluted particular Steeler players. In 1972, Al Vento and Tony Stagno, owners of Vento's Pizza on Pittsburgh's East Side, founded "Franco's Italian Army," saluting Franco Harris, the half-black, half-Italian native of Mount Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey, who was having a great rookie season.

Ignoring the fact that the original group with that name was troops imported into Spain for its Civil War by fascist Generalissimo Francisco Franco, as a gift from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (and this was in 1936, and Franco was still alive and in power, so it wasn't in the best of taste), Vento and his family and friends set up camp at Three Rivers Stadium, wearing army helmets, waving the Italian tricolor, hanging a banner advertising their group, consuming bread, meat and Italian wine that they brought from the restaurant into the stadium, and cheering on the Steelers as a whole and Harris in particular.
They organized roadtrips for Steeler away games, and when they went to San Diego for the last regular-season game of the season, they mailed an invitation to Frank Sinatra, then the most famous living Italian-American, at his Palm Springs home, telling him that if he came to the Steelers' practice session outside San Diego, they would give him a helmet and induct him into the Army as an honorary General. (Only Al Vento himself officially held that rank within the group.) Although baseball and boxing were his favorite sports, Sinatra came, and the Army held up their end of the bargain.
Franco Harris and Frank Sinatra.
Did you think I was making it up?

When Harris scored the winning touchdown at the 1st official Playoff game in Steeler history a week later, on a play that became known as The Immaculate Reception, the Army became every bit the phenomenon that the Towel later became. Soon, again taking on the Mussolini aspect, they had a splinter group of black regulars at their restaurant: Mean Joe Greene's Ethiopian Brigade. Polish fans set up the Jack Ham Dobre Shunka Fan Club. ("Dobre Shunka" means "good ham.") And so on.

Today, the Ventos remain season-ticket holders, and Harris, who remained in Pittsburgh and became quite a successful businessman after retiring as a player, still goes to every home game. But it will never quite be the same.
A recent photo, taken outside the restaurant

After the Game. There are attractions near Heinz Field, but most of these are museums, such as the one dedicated to native Pittsburgher Andy Warhol, and will be closed after the games. (The next bridge over from the Clemente is the Andy Warhol Bridge. As far as I know, Warhol never painted a portrait of a Steeler, or was even interested in football.)

Between PNC Park and Heinz Field, across from where Three Rivers Stadium used to be, is Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, named for the Steeler legend and his uniform number. It's at 393 North Shore Drive.

South of downtown, across the Monongahela River on the South Shore – or, as they say in Pittsburghese, the Sou'side – is Station Square, an indoor and outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex. This is a popular gathering place, although, as New Yorkers, you'll be hopelessly outnumbered. You might be better off returning to your hotel and getting a bite or a drink there. When I first visited Pittsburgh in 2000 (I saw the Pirates hit 4 homers at Three Rivers but lose to the Cards thanks to a steroid-aided mammoth blast by Mark McGwire), there was a restaurant with a Pittsburgh Sports Hall of Fame at Station Square, but as far as I can tell it is no longer there.

I searched the Internet for bars in the Pittsburgh area that cater to New Yorkers. Usually, I can at least find something that welcomes Giant or Jet fans on their gamedays, but I guess the Steelers are so ingrained in Western Pennsylvania culture that establishing an outpost for "foreign fans" is anathema to them. (Anathema? Didn't Rocky Graziano knock him out in Buffalo? No, wait, that was Quinella.)

The closest I could come was a suggestion that Carson City Saloon, at 1401 E. Carson Street, was a
Jet fans' hangout. Number 48 or 51 bus from downtown. When I did my piece for the Pirates in 2013, I was told by a Pittsburgh native that the Brillo Box was owned by a New Yorker, but, not having been to Pittsburgh since, I cannot confirm this. And one source I found to back it up calls it a "hipster" place. If you want to take your chances, it's at 4104 Penn Avenue at Main Street. Number 88 bus from downtown

Vento's Pizza is still open. If you, as they say, show the proper respsect, a Jet fan's money is as good as anyone else's. 420 North Highland Avenue, next to a Home Depot, about 4 1/2 miles east of downtown. Bus 71B.

If you visit Pittsburgh during the European soccer season, which we are now in, the city's leading soccer bar is Piper's Pub, at 1828 East Carson Street. No matter what club you support, you can almost certainly find its game on TV there. Bus 48. Unless you're a Liverpool fan, in which case you may prefer their outpost in the Steel City (Pittsburgh, not Sheffield): Cain's Saloon, at 3239 W. Liberty Avenue, 4 miles down the South Side. Red Line to Dormont Junction.

Sidelights. Pittsburgh is a great American city, including being a great American sports city, well beyond what its size would suggest.

UPDATE: On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and Pittsburgh came in 10th, in the top 1/3rd. On November 30, 2018, they published a list of "America's 25 Most Fun Cities," and Pittsburgh came in 24th. 

In between Heinz Field and PNC Park, home of the Pirates since 2001, is the Fort Duquense Bridge. In between Heinz Field and the Bridge is Stage AE, a music venue built roughly where Three Rivers Stadium stood, as the home of both teams from 1970 to 2000.
Three Rivers, the center of the sports world in the 1970s

The 1st home of the Pirates, Recreation Park, was roughly on the site of Heinz Field. The Pirates played there from 1882 to 1890. Exposition Park, home of the Pirates from 1891 to 1909, was nearly on the site of PNC Park. This was also the site of the 1st football game played by an openly professional player. Yale University star William "Pudge" Heffelfinger was paid $500 (about $12,800 in today's money) to play for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, and scored the game's only points in a 4-0 Allegheny win. (Under the scoring system of the time, a touchdown was 4 points.)
Three Rivers, set up for football in its last years

There are historical markers in the complex for both Exposition Park (as one of the sites, along with the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, of the 1st World Series) and Recreation Park (as the site of the first professional football game -- though the first all-professional game was in 1895 in nearby Latrobe).

* Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street at 12th Street, a couple of minutes' walk from Union/Penn Station and Greyhound. It includes the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. (Senator Heinz, of the condiment-making family, was the 1st husband of Teresa Heinz Kerry, who nearly became First Lady in 2004.)

* Forbes Quadrangle, intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street. This set of buildings, part of the University of Pittsburgh campus, was the site of Forbes Field, home of the Pirates from 1909 to 1970, the Steelers from 1933 to 1963, and the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues from 1929 to 1950.
The Steelers never won a title there, and indeed only hosted 1 Playoff game, which they lost. But the Pirates won 3 World Series while playing there, and the Grays won 11 Pennants and the 1943, 1944 and 1948 Negro World Series.

Forbes Field was also the site of the 3rd of the 4 fights for the Heavyweight Championship of the World between Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott, on July 18, 1951. Walcott won, becoming, at the time, the oldest Heavyweight Champion ever: 37.

Included on the site is the last standing remnant of Forbes Field, part of the outfield wall, with ivy still growing on it. (Wrigley Field in Chicago wasn’t the only park with ivy on its outfield wall.) Where the wall stops, you'll see a little brick path, and eventually you'll come to a plaque that shows where the ball hit by Mazeroski crossed over the fence to win the Series. A historical marker honoring Barney Dreyfuss is nearby.

Home plate has been preserved, in Wesley W. Posvar Hall, named for the longtime UP Chancellor. An urban legend says that, if it was in its exact original location, it would now be in a ladies' restroom; this isn't quite the case, but it’s still at roughly the same spot.
If you've ever seen the picture of Mazeroski in mid-swing, you'll recognize the Carnegie Museum & Library in the background, and it is still there as well. If you've ever seen a picture of a Gothic-looking tower over the 3rd base stands, that’s the Cathedral of Learning, the centerpiece of UP (or "Pitt"), and it's still there as well. A portion of the wall, including the 406-foot marker that can be seen with the Mazeroski ball going over it, was moved to Three Rivers and now to PNC Park.
Pick up the Number 71 bus at 5th Avenue at Ross Street, and it will take you down 5th Avenue to Oakland Avenue. From there, it’s a 2-minute walk to the Quadrangle and Posvar Hall.
The remaining outfield wall, still with ivy on it

* Petersen Events Center. The home arena for Pitt basketball, it was built on the site of Pitt Stadium, where they played their football games from 1925 to 1999, and where the Steelers played part-time starting in 1958 and full-time starting in 1964 until 1969. Part-time from 1970 to 1999, and full-time in 2000, Pitt shared Three Rivers with the Steelers, and they've shared Heinz Field since 2001.

Pitt Stadium was home to such legends as Dr. Jock Sutherland (a dentist and football coach), Marshall "Biggie" Goldberg, Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, and, if you want to stretch the meaning of "legend," Dan Marino. If you're a Giants fan, this is where they played the Steelers on September 20, 1964, and Giant quarterback Y.A. Tittle got clobbered by the Steelers' John Baker, resulting in that famous picture of Tittle kneeling, with blood streaming down his bald head, providing a symbolic end to the Giants' glory days of Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and quarterbacks Charlie Conerly and Tittle.
Terrace Street and Sutherland Drive. From 1951 to 2002, before moving into Petersen, Pitt played basketball at Fitzgerald Field House. At 4,122 seats, it was very intimidating for visitors, but much too small for a major college basketball team, and most of their big-draw games had to be played at the Civic Arena. Building the Petersen Center allowed them a 12,508-seat on-campus arena. The old and new arenas are across Sutherland Drive from each other, a 5-minute walk from Forbes Quadrangle.

* Site of Greenlee Field. William Augustus "Gus" Greenlee was one of Pittsburgh's premier black businessmen -- but was both gangster and philanthropist. In 1932, he built Greenlee Field for the Negro League team he owned, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, named for another business he owned, the Crawford Grill.

Seating 7,500, it was the Craws' home from 1932 to 1938, when, for reasons beyond his control, he had to make changes that led to fans staying away, and he had to sell the team after the season, lasting 2 more years in other cities before folding. But, led by Hall-of-Famers Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson and James "Cool Papa" Bell, they won Pennants in 1935 and 1936.

Like Ebbets Field, it was on a Bedford Avenue. The Bedford Dwellings housing project is now on the site. 2501 Bedford Avenue, at Chauncey Drive (not Chauncey Street, like in Brooklyn), a mile and a half east of downtown. Bus 83.

* Site of Civic Arena, between Bedford Avenue, Fullerton Street, Centre Avenue and Washington Place. The official mailing address for "the Igloo" in its last few years was 66 Mario Lemieux Place. Built in 1961 for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, it had a retractable roof before additional seating made such retraction impossible. It hosted the American Hockey League's Pittsburgh Hornets from then until 1967, and then the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins until 2010. It was officially known as the Mellon Arena from 1999 to 2010, when the naming rights expired.

The Pittsburgh Pipers, later renamed the Condors, played there, and won the 1st ABA Championship in 1968, led by Brooklyn native Connie Hawkins, who was named to the ABA All-Time Team. Larry Holmes barely hung on to the Heavyweight Championship of the World there, getting off the canvas to knock Renaldo Snipes out on November 6, 1981.

The Beatles played there on September 14, 1964. Elvis Presley sang there on June 25 & 26, 1973 and December 31, 1976. It was demolished in 2011.
The new arena and the old one, briefly coexisting

* PPG Paints Arena. Originally the Consol Energy Center, the name of the Penguins' arena was changed today. Opening on August 18, 2010, for a concert by former Beatle Paul McCartney, it seats 18,087 for Penguins and other hockey games, including the 2013 NCAA Championships (a.k.a. the Frozen Four); and 19,000 for basketball, for college tournaments and, in the unlikely event the NBA returns to Pittsburgh, the pros.

The building and opening of this arena means that, for perhaps the first time in franchise history, the Penguins' long-term future in Pittsburgh is secure. 1001 5th Avenue.

Pittsburgh hasn't had anything resembling a major league basketball team since the Condors moved in 1973. The new version of the ABA is officially "semi-pro," and has a team called the Steel City Yellow Jackets, who began play in the 2014-15 season. They play on the campus of the Community College of Allegheny County, at a building called the "A Giving Heart Community Center." 808 Ridge Avenue, across (or, rather, under) the elevated highway from Heinz Field.

On May 12, 2014, the New York Times printed a story that shows NBA fandom by ZIP Code, according to Facebook likes. The PPG Paints Arena is 134 miles from Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Pittsburghers toss aside their NFL-bred hatred of Cleveland to support the Cavaliers (even with the return of LeBron James): They seem to divide their fandom up among 4 "cool teams": The Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. The Philadelphia 76ers, only 309 miles away? Forget it.

It's unlikely that Pittsburgh will ever seek out a new NBA team. If they did get one, the metro area would rank 21st in population among NBA markets.

* Roberto Clemente Museum. A fan group tried to buy Honus Wagner's house in nearby Carnegie and turn it into a museum, but this is the only museum devoted to a single Pittsburgh athlete, who was viewed as a supporting player on the 1960 title and the driving force behind the one in 1971, prior to his tragic death in a plane crash off Puerto Rico, trying to bring relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua on New Year's Eve 1972.

Clemente wasn't the 1st Hispanic player in the major leagues (white Cuban Charles "Chick" Pedroes played 2 games for the Cubs in 1902), nor was he the 1st black Hispanic player (Minnie Minoso debuted with the Chicago White Sox in 1949). But he was the 1st to really take hold in the public imagination, to the point where later Hispanic stars wore Number 21 in his honor, and there is a movement to have the number retired throughout baseball as was done for Jackie Robinson (but it is not likely to succeed). 3339 Penn Avenue at 34th Street. Bus 87 to Herron Avenue.

Pittsburgh has never hosted an NCAA Final Four. Duquesne University reached the 2nd Final Four (not that it was called that back then) in 1940, and Pitt did so in 1941. No Western Pennsylvania school has done so since.

In fact, Pittsburgh has never been a big basketball city: The Pittsburgh Ironmen played in the NBA's 1st season, 1946-47, and only that season, and are best known now for having had Press Maravich, father of Pistol Pete, play for them. The ABA's Pittsburgh Pipers, later the Pittsburgh Condors, won that league's 1st title in 1967-68, but that was it. (Connie Hawkins led that team, and was named to the ABA All-Time Team.) The most successful Pittsburgh basketball team may well have been the Pittsburgh Pisces in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.

* Duquesne Gardens. Pittsburgh's original sports arena opened in 1895, and had an unofficial limit of 8,000 spectators. It hosted minor-league hockey teams from the beginning until its closing in 1956, including the Hornets from 1936 to 1956. It hosted the Duquesne and Pitt basketball teams, and the Pittsburgh Ironmen in the NBA's 1st season, 1946-47.

Once bigger arenas like the old Madison Square Garden went up in the 1920s, seating more than twice as many people, the Duquesne Gardens was obsolete. Yet it hung on until 1956. 110 N. Craig Street, at 5th Avenue, near the Pitt campus. University housing is now on the site. Also accessible via the Number 71 bus.
Demolition beginning in 1956

The University of Pittsburgh is on the town's East Side. Penn State is 139 miles to the northeast in State College. West Virginia University, Pitt's other big rival, is 76 miles to the south in Morgantown. Greyhound provides service to State College, while Megabus does so to Morgantown.

* Highmark Stadium. As I said, Pittsburgh doesn't have a Major League Soccer team. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds play in the United Soccer League (USL), the 3rd tier of American soccer. Their home field is Highmark Stadium, and it seats a mere 3,500 fans, about the size of the average high school football stadium in New Jersey. But its placement on the south bank of the Monongahela, across from downtown, gives it a view every bit as good as the one from PNC Park. 510 W. Station Square Drive. Subway to Station Square.
No President has come from Pittsburgh, or from anywhere near it. The only President from Pennsylvania has been James Buchanan, and he was a lousy one, and he was from Lancaster, much closer to Philadelphia.

The most notable historic site in Pittsburgh is probably Point State Park, where the "three rivers" come together at the western edge of downtown. It includes the Fort Pitt Museum, telling the city's story from the days of New France Onward. 601 Commonwealth Place.

The U.S. Steel Tower, at 7th & Grant Avenues, is the tallest building in Pittsburgh, at 841 feet -- although there are 3 buildings in Philadelphia that surpass it for the title of tallest building in Pennsylvania. Built in 1970, it surpassed the 1932-built Gulf Tower, on the opposite corner from U.S. Steel.

There haven't been many TV shows set in Pittsburgh. They include My So-Called Life, Hope and Gloria, Queer as FolkMan with a Plan, the World War II-era period piece Remember WENN, and the new series This Is Us, which bounces around between 1980 and the present day.

Mr. Belvedere, starring Christopher Hewett as a butler to a family led by a sportswriter played by ballplayer-turned-broadcaster Bob Uecker, was set in nearby Beaver Falls, hometown of Jets legend Joe Namath, but it was filmed in Los Angeles. The most notable TV shows actually taped in Pittsburgh, at the PBS station WQED-Channel 13, were Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Fred Rogers was from Latrobe, and in spite of his show's success, he never moved the taping to New York or Hollywood. He notably had Steeler receiver Lynn Swann on his show, to show that even a big tough football player (or, at least, a graceful wide receiver) could love ballet (which explained how Swannie got such nice moves in the first place). A statue of Mr. Rogers, sponsored by TV Land, is near Heinz Field, as is one of Steeler founder-owner Art Rooney.

A lot of movies have been shot in Pittsburgh, due to its varied architecture. Many have had sports scenes. You may have seen the 1994 version of Angels in the Outfield, which involved the team then known as the California Angels. The original black-and-white version came out in 1951, and the downtrodden team they featured was the Pirates, and there's some nice shots of Forbes Field in it. Some nice shots of Janet Leigh, too. (Jamie Lee Curtis' mom -- no, unlike in some other films such as Psycho, Janet doesn't flash any skin in this one, but now you know why Tony Curtis married her, and where Jamie Lee inherited the goods.)

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh was a very silly, very Seventies movie, with Julius "Dr. J" Erving playing for the good guys and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing for the opposition. Sudden Death had Jean-Claude Van Damme trying to stop an assassination attempt at the Stanley Cup Finals. Both featured the old Civic Arena. Van Damme also filmed Timecop in Pittsburgh.

While most of The Dark Knight Rises was filmed in New York (with a few CGI bridges added to the skyline to create the atmosphere of the fictional Gotham City), and its 2 predecessors were filmed in Chicago, the football game scene was filmed at Heinz Field, with the fictional Gotham Rogues wearing Steeler black & gold. Don't worry, no actual stadiums were hurt during the filming of the bombing.

One of Tom Cruise's first big films was All the Right Moves, a high school football movie set in Pittsburgh. He returned to Pittsburgh to film Jack Reacher. A movie with more life in it, the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead, was filmed in Pittsburgh. Its sequel Dawn of the Dead was filmed at the Monroeville Mall in the eastern suburbs, and the concluding chapter Day of the Dead back in the city.

Gung Ho, with Michael Keaton, spoofed the decline of Pittsburgh industry. Flashdance, with Jennifer Beals, turned the declining Pittsburgh dream on its head. Boys On the Side seemed to wink at it. Groundhog Day starts in Pittsburgh before moving east to Punxsatawney. However, those aren't sports movies. (Although, with Jennifer Beals, Drew Barrymore and Andie MacDowell in them, there may be some heavy breathing.) PNC Park was used in the recent films She's Out of My League and Abduction.

In 1980, Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story became a CBS movie of the week, starring Robert Urich as the running back who played for the Steelers after being wounded in combat in Vietnam. The same year, Mean Joe Greene played himself in Hey Kid, Catch!, based on his famous Coca-Cola commercial.

But the greatest movie shot in Western Pennsylvania was the 1977 hockey classic Slap Shot. Nancy Dowd wrote it about her brother Ned's experience with the Johnstown Jets, who played at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. That arena, and minor-league arenas in New York State's Syracuse, Utica and Clinton, were used as filming locations, even though the film's Charlestown Chiefs were said to be in the Charlestown section of Boston. After the real Jets moved out, the replacement team was named the Johnstown Chiefs in honor of the crew led by player-coach Reggie Dunlop, played by Paul Newman.

The 4,000-seat arena, built in 1950, still stands, and is now home to a team called the Johnstown Tomahawks. 326 Napoleon Street in Johnstown, 67 miles east of Pittsburgh. It's a 15-minute walk from the Amtrak station, and the museum honoring the Johnstown Flood of 1889 is along the way.


Pittsburgh is a terrific city that loves its sports, and Heinz Field is one of the best of the new football stadiums. If you give your team your all, and respect the Steelers and their fans as opponents, you'll be all right. Just don't do anything to a Terrible Towel.

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