Since Gretz is a season-ticket holder, he’s going to take a look at the debauchery and insanity that takes place in the Heinz Field stands after every home game he attends.
It was a little weird walking over to Heinz Field on Sunday because we knew, win or lose, there wouldn’t be another home game until next season. Hard to believe how fast this season has come and gone. It seems like it was just last week that we went to the first preseason game, or watched Rashard Mendenhall bust off a 50-yard run in overtime to secure a Week 1 win against Atlanta. That said, we also knew that with a win there would be another epic celebration on the field, as well as two more weeks of fun waiting for the game Brian Billick once referred to as “Festivus Maximus.” That was all the incentive I needed to layer up on the clothes and spend nine hours in sub-zero wind chills.
Here’s a quick look at the aftermath on the bedroom floor. No, that’s not a weeks worth of dirty laundry, that’s what I relied on to stay warm: two pair of flannel pajama bottoms, jeans, two under armor cold gear shirts, a sweatshirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, an Antwaan Randle El jersey, a winter coat, two pair of socks, gloves, hat and a scarf.
For the most part it was a success, but by the end of the third quarter my feet started to feel like rocks. Was it worth it? In a word: Hell yes (okay, two words). If for only to see Rashard Mendenhall’s new twist to the victory formation (no matter how many times I watch it I keep asking myself: “did he really just do that?”), or watch as half of the Steelers ran around the field as time expired like hyperactive six-year olds with their arms extended.
On to the highlights…
– During pregame warmups the scoreboard camera found a picture of Myron Cope hanging from the stands and the stadium went crazy. Seeing as how Sunday would have been his 82nd birthday, the Steelers made sure to honor Myron during the game and played this video of him talking about the Terrible Towel.
– I honestly thought the crowd was louder during the Baltimore game the previous week, but Sunday certainly had its deafening moments. When William Gay picked up that loose ball and returned it for a touchdown I was pretty sure the stadium was going to come down.
This was the third AFC Championship game I’ve attended, with the first two being the 2004 game against the Patriots and the 2008 game against the Ravens. If you asked me to rank them the ’08 game would still be No. 1, while the ’04 game comes in a distant third. As hectic as the second half on Sunday was, it still doesn’t touch the Ravens game. That game was tight and close from start to finish, one of the most brutally physical football games I’ve ever watched, and Baltimore actually had the football with five minutes to play with a chance to win the game. As JJ pointed out during the latest Steelers Lounge Podcast, the Jets at no point had the football in the second half in a situation where they could take the lead.
Still, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t intense in the fourth quarter. After seeing another safety directly in front of us late in the game there was more than a little deja vu going on. Then New York made it 24-19 with three minutes to play and shit was about to hit the fan. My brother kept telling me the Steelers were in complete control, but for as calm as he tried to play it, I looked over at him before the third-and-six completion to Antonio Brown and you could tell he was just as nervous as anybody else.
– One of my favorite highlights of the night: Right before Shaun Suisham’s field goal made it 10-0, Heath Miller was blocking Jets linebacker David Harris and Miller completely destroyed him. He pushed him at least eight yards backwards and never quit or let up. It was like watching one of those national geographic specials where the Lion hunts down and mauls a small animal. The whole time this was going on the crowd was doing the “HEEEEEATH” chant as if he caught a pass.
– Another favorite highlight: Santonio Holmes catching a first down pass with his team down 24-3, then watching him extend his arm, drop the ball, and stand there for at least 10 seconds. Look. At. The. Scoreboard. Seriously, he’s an excellent player and a large part of Steelers history, but after hearing him throw his coaching staff under the bus following the game, and after watching him pull stunts like that when his team is down three touchdowns in a Conference Championship game, I don’t miss this guy. At all.
– Can’t say there were many problems in the stands in terms of fights or drunken chaos, at least not from where I was sitting. I do know they cut beer sales off earlier than normal, so that may have played a small role. Also in play: it was too damn cold to drink. Ton of Jets fans, and, again, didn’t see many issues (then again, I wasn’t sitting near that Fireman Ed douchebag). We did talk to a guy before kickoff that caught a bus at 3 a.m. and rode into town for the game. He commented on how he was in New England the previous week and that their fans were jerks, and that he had been treated very well so far in Pittsburgh. So that’s nice. That was also two hours before the festivities started, so I’m not sure how the rest of his night played out.
– My camera’s memory card ran out of space so I didn’t get many pictures or video of the post-game celebration, but I will say this: I have no idea what Mike Tomlin screamed with the trophy in his hands, but I do approve of the fact he treated it like a WWE event. And speaking of the trophy, what the hell did the NFL do to that thing? The new design is a rather large fail.
– Martina McBride sang the National Anthem, while actor/comedian Billy Gardell was on hand to start the weekly Terrible Towel waive. Also in attendance (and performing his song Black and Yellow): Pittsburgh’s own Wiz Khalifa. OK, I can’t lie, I had never heard of this guy until about three weeks ago even though he’s a local guy and apparently some sort of big deal. Whatever. My musical interests are still firmly planted in the Flaming Lips and The Ramones and I have no real interest in changing that.
– During the post-game celebration Hines Ward actually climbed into the stands, while a number of players went around the lower level high-fiving fans. Pretty cool thing to see.