The Steelers Lounge Visitors Guide To Heinz Field

After every Steelers home game I take a few minutes here at Steelers Lounge to write about all of the crazy and nonsensical things I see from section 522.

What I’ve never done is actually written about Heinz Field in general, so let’s consider this our official review and visitors guide for everything you need to know about the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

You know, just in case you are making a visit this season (or in a future season) for the first time. If you’re from Pittsburgh or have already been to Heinz Field you probably already know most of this, but since many of our readers don’t currently live in Pittsburgh, or perhaps haven’t had the opportunity to attend a game, this might be something that interests you.

Other than than its predecessor — that lovable, yet completely forgettable concrete cereal bowl known as Three Rivers Stadium — Heinz Field is the only NFL stadium that I’ve had the opportunity to visit so there really isn’t much for me to compare it to from a football standpoint. What I will say is that it is — by far — my least favorite of the three new sports venues in Pittsburgh (and the only reason I don’t place it lower than third is because I’ve never been to the Petersen Events Center, which houses University of Pittsburgh basketball). I’m not sure if that is the result of a poor design, poor development of said design, or the fact that NFL stadiums are not really built to be attractions, but whatever the reason the place is pretty bland.

It’s a football stadium, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

When you go to a baseball game there is a lot of empty space where nothing is happening in the game that you’re going to get up and walk around. Same goes for a hockey game to a certain point (two 18 minute intermissions), so it stands to reason that those venues will have more amenities to offer fans. Baseball stadiums in particular tend have a lot of charm and character, and people make pilgrimages just to see certain parks. Other than maybe Lambeau Field, I can’t think of a football stadium that offers that.

They’re not made to be pretty, they’re made to be efficient.

Unfortunately for Heinz Field, it’s not only not very pretty, it’s also not very efficient in some ways.

Sightlines and Seating

Other than the occasional fan that stands up (and depending on the game situation, that’s OK), there really isn’t anything in Heinz Field that is going to obstruct your view of the field. The worst thing you might run into is being really, really high if you happen to have seats in the upper deck along the sidelines.

You might have some problems viewing the video board if you’re seated in sections 504, 505, 541 and 540 of the upper deck in the open end, and sections 101-105 and 140-145 of the lower level at the same end of the field. If you’re seated in one of the upper sections at that end there are TV screens that hang down from the roof that will provide you replays, assuming you’re seated high enough.

If you’re seated in sections 518 through 527, which is the upper deck in the closed end of the field, you will be sitting on a bleacher. The bleachers have backs and cup holders (connected to the back of the bleacher in front of you) but it’s still a bleacher. These can become a hassle if it rains or snows or the weather is cold, and it makes it difficult to get in and out of your seat when the row is full. It also gets a little cramped at times, so if you’re sitting in one of these sections there is a very good chance your shoulder is going to touch the shoulder of the person next to you at some point throughout the game.

The bleacher section isn’t as steep as the upper deck on the sides and it doesn’t go anywhere near as high. If you’re sitting in the last row in the end zone you’re probably about as high as the halfway point of the upper deck on the side. Aside from the fact that you’re sitting on a bleacher, this section offers a pretty good view of the game. You have a nice view, the scoreboard is right in front of you, and you’re relatively close to the field even though you’re in the upper deck.

If you’re sitting in the end zone upper deck you also get to experience some of the crazy ass designs of Heinz Field. From what I understand, this section was a late addition to the design and it shows when you’re trying to get to it. If you enter the stadium through the main gate under the scoreboard you can take the escalators to your left or right all the way to the top. You then have to walk the entire length of the upper deck and then walk DOWN a ramp one level to the end zone.

If you don’t want do that, you can walk to the far end of the Great Hall (which is located to your right if you enter in the main gate) and follow a series of escalators to the end zone section (it is also possible to get to the side upper decks this way).

Leaving this section isn’t fun, either, as everything tends to bottleneck near the bottom levels. Good luck.

Food And Drinks

I can not say this enough: Do not eat at Heinz Field. I repeat: Do. No. Eat. At. Heinz. Field. I can’t recommend anything here because it is truly terrible, both in terms of quality and bang for your buck. This, of course, is true for just about every stadium or arena for every professional sports team in North America, but Heinz Field seems to be a notch below other stadiums that I’ve been to (mainly baseball stadiums and hockey arenas) when it comes to quality. It is terrible.

If you insist on eating here, the Great Hall probably offers your best options.

There’s a Benkovitz Seafood where you can get fish sandwiches, a Quaker Steak and Lube where you can get Chicken Wings, and a Primanti Brothers, but you’re limited to just two sandwich choices or french fries. If you insist on experiencing a Primanti Brothers sandwich while you’re in Pittsburgh, go to the original one in the Strip District where you have the full menu and will get a sandwich that’s made fresh right in front of you. If you want a fish sandwich, go to Wholey’s fish market (also in the strip). The Great Hall also has a Gyro stand and other concession stands that offer your basic stadium fare (hot dogs, nachos, etc.).

My recommendation for game day eating is to do it before you enter the stadium or after you leave it. There are no shortage of quality options downtown and on the North Side, ranging from chain restaurants to local watering hole type places.

Some of those options:

Jerome Bettis Grille 36 (really good, and pretty reasonably priced, but probably one of the tougher spots to get into on game day. They also have a men’s room that has a two-way mirror over the urinals so you can look out into the restaurant while you pay the rent. It’s wild).
Hyde Park steakhouse
The Beer Market (this is a relatively new place)
BZ Bar and Grill (also new)
The Tilted Kilt
Atria’s (PNC Park)
There’s a sandwich and bottle shop right next to Atria’s at PNC Park, but the name is escaping me at the moment
There’s at least four or five restaurants or bars in The Rivers Casino, which is right next to Heinz Field.

There are also several quality options downtown on Penn Avenue including Sharp Edge (a beer garden that offers hundreds of brews from across the globe), August Henry’s, and Meat and Potatoes (one of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh, both according to Pittsburgh’s food critics and me.).

And there are even more that I’m surely forgetting.

Any of these options, before or after the game, are better than what you will find at Heinz Field. Do yourself a favor and try them.

My personal choice (and something we’ve been doing for several years now) is to park downtown (more on this in a minute) and grab a gigantic slice of Pizza for $2 at Giovanni’s on 6th street just before the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

I haven’t purchased food of any kind at Heinz Field for at least four seasons as the quality has consistently gone down (in the early years it actually wasn’t terrible). The other problem is there is nowhere to actually sit down and eat the food you purchase, which is something else that has changed over the years. There used to be tables set up throughout the stadium and Great Hall, as well as a huge counter area in the Great Hall where fans could eat before heading to their seats. Over the years they have slowly eliminated just about all of them.

What Heinz Field does have is a pretty respectable selection of beer. You will pay for it (anywhere between $7.50 and $9 depending on what you want), but you have plenty of options.

In The Great Hall there is a little brew pub that has a pretty wide selection of more than 30 micro brews and craft beers, while there are several kiosks around the stadium that offer everything from Iron City and Coors Light, to Guinness and Shock Top

If you’re over on the North Side walking around, over by PNC Park, there are always places along the sideline by Atria’s that you can grab a beer for a couple of bucks before you make your way to the stadium.

If you’re not into beer, Heinz Field also offers Pepsi products. On a semi-related note, do you know what the Consol Energy sells as its soft drink? RC Cola. Seriously. RC Cola. No joke. Still amazes me.

Getting To Heinz Field

If you attempt to park on the North Side you, quite frankly, deserve everything that you get both in terms of getting there, getting out of there, and whatever it is they’re charging for a space anywhere near the stadium.

My advice: Park in any of the downtown garages for $5, walk across any of the bridges to the North Shore, and take a nice scenic walk to the stadium that allows you to take in all of the atmosphere that is game day in Pittsburgh. It’s a pretty decent walk (about a mile, depending on which garage you park in) so allow yourself about 20 minutes.

If walking isn’t your thing you can still park downtown and hop on The T, Pittsburgh’s Light Rail Transit system, at either the Steel Building, the Wood Street stop, or Gateway Center and ride it directly to Heinz Field for free.

Another option is to park at Station Square on Pittsburgh’s South Side and ride one of the Gateway Clipper boats over to the stadium (Station Square also opens up an entirely new selection of restaurants and bars for your pre-and post-game dining). The only drawback to this is it can lead to a pretty lengthy wait after the game. It is, however, a pretty unique way to get to the game and a very Pittsburgh thing to do. If you don’t mind a little bit of a wait after the game, it might be something to experience. Of course, if you park on the North Side you’re probably going to wait even longer, so if you want to ride the boat, I say go for it.

Other Stuff

* The men’s rooms do not have urinals. They have troughs.

* This isn’t the Roman Coliseum, and even though the Gladiators on the field are taking part in an event that is slowly leading to their ultimate demise while blood thirsty fans scream for more, the worst type of football fan (and these people are still the minority) is the drunk guy that thinks he can do whatever the hell he wants just because he is at a Steelers game. This usually involves picking a fight with somebody (and that somebody is usually another Steelers fan, not a fan of the opposing team — though that does happen as well) and declaring it OK because “I’m at a Steelers game, dammit.”

Don’t be that guy.

Yell, scream, cheer, and get into the game. But, again … don’t be that guy.

* There are a number of gift shops and a couple of Steelers Sidelines stores located throughout the stadium, including the Great Hall, the top of the first escalator in the at the far end of the Great Hall, and a couple in the upper decks, just in case you need a Terrible Towel or something.

The Great Hall itself is also something worth seeing, as it not only serves as the main concourse for the stadium, but also a museum of sorts that features old pictures, trophies, and other displays on Steelers history. The only problem is they usually have a band playing in there and it usually makes it difficult to carry on a conversation if you’re with somebody.

* Other than all of that, have fun. And you might even see Renegade once or twice. People really love that.

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  • Cols714

    I’m not sure where to put this as it doesn’t belong in this thread, however Bill Barnwell makes the case for the Steelers on Grantland, here.

  • Josh

    You didn’t mention that practically the entire sound system for the stadium is via speakers on the big scoreboard so if your seats are near that endzone be prepared to have one ear assaulted for there hours (we’re in 106).

    We park in the Science Center lot (and use the bathrooms at The Rivers) when we have a handicapped member of our group but otherwise park downtown. Walking across one of the bridges surrounded by other steelheads with the snow falling is great.

    I pick up some Nuts About Pittsburgh (salted) in the lot and grab a water inside. The men’s bathrooms always have a wait in the Great Hall during and after the game but if I head down right at halftime I’ll be back in my seat before the third quarter kicks off.

  • Randy Steele

    If you think the stadium is ugly now, wait until the extra seating gets built above the open end, closing off the view of the river. (Well, I guess I should say, “if” it gets built.)

    I know it’s good business to add those seats, and if I owned the Steelers I would do it, but as a live, in-the-flesh, game day fanboy, I’m dreading it. I need to be able to look at a nice chunk of good open space during a game when I’m in a crowd such as the ones Heinz Field attracts so I can breathe.

    One secret tip, which I hesitate to note because it’s surprisingly uncrowded there, is to hang out at the player’s parking lot after a day game, especially if they won the game.

    The lot is off Art Rooney Avenue, next to the east side entrance of the stadium.You will see lots of players heading toward their cars, many of whom will walk over and sign autographs for fans.

    After a win a couple years ago I high-fived Antonio Brown’s little boy, who was gleefully running up and down the line of Steelers’ fans, jumping for joy.

    Last year, while I was standing along the parking lot’s edge, wearing my Brett Keisel field jersey, none other than the big lumberjack himself in all his bearded glory walked over to me and thumped me on my chest. And then, without my asking, he popped out a black Sharpie and proceeded to autograph my jersey.

    I’ll never wash that jersey again.

    (Note: It’s not all wonderful. Now that he’s gone, I can tell you that Rashard Mendenhall acted like a bored, moody, grumpy little a-wipe to dozens of Steeler fans who had gathered there and were cheering him and yelling his name. He shuffled along, looking down at the ground, ignoring everybody and everything. I saw this happen twice, so I figure it was more than he was just having a bad day.)

  • Canadian Steeler

    Good read Gretz. I’ve gone to two games in the last 3 years, and this sums it up pretty well I think. Both times me and my Dad could only get hiiiiiiiiiiiiigh up sidelines seats, but the view was good enough, and you could see outside the stadium which was nice as both games were on pretty clear (and cold) nights.

    As an outsider, the trip to Primanti’s before the game, and the subsequent walk to the stadium was fantastic. Hard to not get excited walking with thousands of other fans towards the game. Also, Primanti’s was taking a while with my sandwich (not really a while, maybe 15 minutes) and gave me a second beer on the house for my troubles. Not bad.