View From 522: Welcome to the basement

Back in the early 2000s, when Heinz Field and PNC Park first opened, there used to be one day a year that the Steelers and Pirates would both play home games. The Pirates game was usually a meaningless one at the end of the season as the club played out the string in another lost season, while the Steelers game would be an even more meaningless preseason game against the Buffalo Bills or Washington Redskins.

Even so, I always wanted to do both games just because it seemed like going to two professional sporting events in the same day would be a semi-cool thing to do. On Sunday, I had the opportunity to do it. And I did. And as it turned out, both games meant something, and in an unexpected turn of events, it was actually the Pirates game that may have carried the most importance.

We already had tickets to the Steelers-Bears game on Sunday night, and when I noticed the Pirates were playing the Reds in a pivotal game in the National League playoff race on Sunday I texted my brother and told him we should do both games. He naturally agreed, and it was on.  We ended up sitting through two blowout losses — the Pirates by a margin of 11-3 and the Steelers, well, you already know how that one turned out and it leaves them in an 0-3 hole that is probably going to be impossible to get out of the way they seemingly keep digging themselves deeper.

It’s Week 4 of the NFL season and the Pirates are headed to the playoffs while the Steelers are not only winless, but find themselves behind the Cleveland Browns in the standings less than a week after the Browns promoted Brian Hoyer, their third string quarterback, to starter and traded their only NFL quality running back (all on the same day, no less).

These are strange times we’re living in, friends, and the locals don’t really know how to handle it.

I came into the season with no expectations, and after the 0-2 start I’ve become resigned to the fact that this is probably going to be a rough year and the playoffs are not in the Steelers’ immediate future. These things happen, and it’s not going to stop me from going to games and enjoying the afternoon and evening.

Others, however, have decided that they are going to lose their collective shit.

Take for example the two early 20-somethings (one girl, one guy) that were sitting a couple of rows in front of us on Sunday night. I don’t think either one was old enough to drink, as neither one consumed anything in the stadium, but they were pretty clearly trashed upon entering the stadium because no sober person acts the way they did. They spent the entire first half standing up and screaming at the fans in our section about how terrible they were because they refused to stand up and cheer as loud as they did. They were basically in a pissing contest to see who was the biggest fan, and in their world, standing up and screaming the loudest equated to being the best fan.

Others did not agree, and after a while people sitting directly behind them were getting pretty annoyed that they could not see the game. There are times when it as acceptable — and encouraged — to stand during a game. Key third or fourth downs. Big plays. Etc. These people made it their goal to stand the entire game, no matter what was happening, and were none too pleased when somebody pointed out that they were obstructing the views of many others.

Had my camera had any battery life in it this would have all made compelling video, so instead you’re just going to have to get the play-by-play as I remember it happening.

The guy — who looked like he went by the name Joey Meatballs — was so angry that he started challenging people to fights. When a guy in the row behind us told him to sit down because he didn’t pay to look at the back of his head, Joey Meatballs responded by screaming, “Do you need me to come up there and fight you?” They then exchanged verbal insults including “jag off” and “sit down and quit acting like a nut bag.”

The girl, who came into the game with a noticeable chip on her shoulder, seemed convinced that everything was going wrong for the Steelers because the fans weren’t standing up and cheering. Whenever the Steelers did make a big play and fans stood up and cheered she would sarcastically mock everyone by saying, “Oh, now you stand up and cheer. Why don’t you stand up and cheer when they’re not doing good?” I kid you not, she actually asked why people weren’t standing up and cheering when the team wasn’t playing well. This would become a running joke throughout the night. If fans would have stood up and cheered that turnover wouldn’t have happened. At one point, the Bears fan sitting directly in front of us told her she really needed to chill out because “it’s all hugs here tonight.”

What really sent things snowballing was when the Steelers scored their first touchdown and she was the only Steelers fan in the stadium that didn’t stand up and cheer. When everybody asked her why she didn’t stand up it turned into a comparison of how Seahawks fans cheer at games compared to Steeler fans.

When Joey Meatballs justified his behavior, including a threat to punch somebody in the face, by saying that he comes to five games a year in these seats I joined the conversation and said that I had been sitting in my seats for 13 years and had never seen him before. This was apparently a big mistake, because his girlfriend picked up an empty coffee cup (thankfully it was empty) and threw it at my face. Right. At. My. Face.

While that was annoying — and shocking — the thing that truly angered me that night (and still does two days later) was the lack of a response from security. In a crowd of 65,000 people you expect there to be a few morons, and that’s the type of thing a moron does. You expect security to take care of it and eliminate the moron. Upon telling stadium security about the situation, including the fact she threw something at me and that everybody in the section was tired of their act, they told me that they would “keep an eye on it” and that “you’re allowed to stand up between plays.”

Before every game the Steelers play this ridiculously bad video that talks about the code of conduct policy and the types of things you can’t do at a game. As I found out on Sunday night, it’s all a load of bullshit because stadium security is a waste of time. A few minutes later my brother decided to go down and issue a complaint, thinking that multiple complaints would get somebody to do something. They informed him to return to his seat as they were keeping an eye on things. Eventually security came up and issued a warning to them as everyone in the section pointed them out as the trouble-makers. When security warned them they proceeded to talk back to security and continue to talk about how they can do whatever they want because they paid for their tickets. All of this went down in the third quarter. By the fourth quarter security had finally seen enough and escorted them out.

So all of that happened.

I’ve said this many times before, but in all of my years going to Steeler games it never fails that it’s the Steeler fans that end up causing the problems. There were thousands of Bears fans in attendance on Sunday night — more visiting fans than I’ve ever seen at Heinz Field, outside of maybe the Cowboys and Giants — that took over the stadium by the end. There was not one issue with them from what I could see, including the guy in front of us (who was actually from Canada) and the person sitting next to me. And speaking of that guy, man. When he first arrived I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. First of all, he was an older gentlemen, I’m guessing at least in his 70s, and had to be 300 pounds. He could barely move and he somehow made it up to the seats. He was wearing neutral colors and took his seat next to me and instantly struck up a conversation by asking me how much a beer costs at the stadium. He quietly informed me was a Bears fan and that, thanks to his brother who lives in Pittsburgh, it was the very first NFL game he had ever attended and that he wanted to see the Bears defense score a couple of touchdowns. He couldn’t have been a nicer guy and I have to admit, I was kind of happy for him by the end of the night.

He was just one of many Bears fans in attendance on the night, and by the end of the game they had taken over most of the seating area behind their team’s bench as “Let’s go Bears” chants echoed throughout the stadium. In 13 years of attending games at Heinz Field I’ve never seen anything like it. For one night, Steelers fans found out what it’s like on the other side. It wasn’t much fun.

The positives on Sunday were that the Steelers moved the ball a little, managed to break the 20-point mark, nearly came back from a three-score deficit, and Antonio Brown had his first big game in who knows how long with two incredible touchdown grabs. The bad news is the offense turned the ball over five times, the defense forced none, and the Steelers still lost by 17 points.

It just seems like that type of season.

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  • Randy Steele

    Just wondering why you didn’t report these two a**wipes to security. I’ve seen Steeler fans thrown out of their seats at Heinz for much less.

    • dennisdoubleday

      Uh…he did.

      • Randy Steele

        I should have written “repeatedly report.” It’s been my experience that these types of incidents are taken care of quickly and efficiently, even in the highest sections of the stadium.

  • Rob D

    I’ve had more than one sporting event ruined by these kind of people. Two hockey games in particular were just brutal. Security people are often woefully undertrained and don’t know how to (a) defuse a situation and (b) make it clear what the consequences are for continued bad behaviour. Having worked in the bars for years as a bartender and eventually a manager, i worked with a lot of bouncers and learned, over time, what makes a good one. It’s not that different for a security person in a stadium environment, except the people are usually far When you leave people with the impression that they have to take matters into their own hands,,you have a brawl and people get hurt..usually the innocent!

    We are indeed learning what the other side feels like and although I am suffering along with everyone (my 11-5 prediction looks completely delusional at this point) I think it’s GOOD for the fan base to be a little humbled. We’ve had a long run of respectability since the Cowher years . Most of the younger fans haven’t known failure and they aren’t reacting very well at the say the very least. Another year of high draft picks wouldn’t hurt..I think our skill positions on offense are woeful for one thing. I wonder if the fans would survive ANOTHER bad year next year though? Would Tomlin? It’s a good question, I think.

    • David

      Rob, I’m trying to forget the 80′s and all the suffering I had with our team then, but I’m getting flashbacks due to this year’s team.

      But back then, it kind of made sense (a la: Bubby Brister, Mark Malone, David Woodley).

      • Rob D

        Yes..I still get the shakes when Bubby’s name comes up. I tried to make him into Johnny Unitas but he kept right on being Bubby. Tried similiar mind games with many other 80`s players. AT least Louis Lipps came through but then,during many broadcasts, you’d get the announcer saying, “can you imagine what this guy’s totals would be with a good team?” lol…

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    In January 2011, I went to Heinz for the Ravens and Jets playoff games. The Jets fans near us were good guys (as were the Jets fans at the Meadowlands in the sleet / snow game, by the way). By contrast, one of the Ravens fans was the biggest a-hole I’ve ever encountered.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Sign number 6489 that we’re spoiled as Steeler fans: since 2000, every team in the NFL had given up 40 points at he at least once. So we were the last franchise fan base in this millennium to have to endure such a debacle.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Ryan’s getting feisty…

    Ryan, I agree with almost all of this… my only quibble is that you call the offense “predictably awful.” It has certainly been awful but for different reasons each week: week one had no blocking at all and no production of any kind between the Redman’s first quarter red zone fumble and the garbage time TD; week two had at least mediocre pass blocking but almost no run blocking and a bit of a pulse in the passing game but virtually no running game; week three had some running game (with Dwyer showing some flashes) at least occassional blocking and a high-flying passing game, but Ben’s ball handling was like Weekend at Roman Gabriel’s.

    The pessimist would say that the offense has found different ways to suck each week. The optimist would say that the offense has made improvements every week (outside of turnovers). I’m not yet sure what the realist should say…

    • Intropy

      That interception sailed two feet over Cotchery’s shoulder before Wright got his hands on it. The mechanics of the throw were poor, and maybe Ben stared Cotchery down. But regardless the ball got where it needed to be for Cotchery to catch it, and it got there before Wright had a chance to make a play on the ball. That was not a difficult catch, and even a cursory attempt by Cotchery makes the interception unlikely. Put this one in the same bucket you use when a receiver falls down with the ball in the air leaving the DB with uncontested position.

      • ryan


        Interesting you say this because people seem to be split on where the blame lies on the play. On the podcast, Gretz wondered what the hell Cotch was doing. And I immediately blamed Ben for throwing off his back foot in what was, by Steelers terms, was a good pocket.

        Then again, if Ben does happen to be gun-shy at this point, would anybody blame him? The overall point is that Ben needs to play better. In other years, he either stands tall in the pocket, takes the hit (which I’m not advocating for), and completes the pass, or he takes the sack and avoids the turnover. This year, as we’ve seen, isn’t like the others.

        • Intropy

          I would blame him for being gun shy, but I would understand it. Remaining composed under constant pressure pressure is a talent just like being accurate is. If a quarterback was just plain inaccurate I would understand that, after all he’s still probably more accurate than all but a couple hundred other humans. But you still get blamed for you misses because they are your fault.

          I agree that Roethlisberger has been playing poorly compared to his normal bar. I was concerned after game two that were were seeing him turn into Philip Rivers. Game three didn’t make me feel any better on that score.

      • David

        When I saw that play, Ben had somebody about to nail him and he threw it too soon, and Cotchery had no chance b/c his back was still turned.

        So IMO, he should’ve taken the sack or threw it into the ground. Also, I disagree that Ben had time (respectfully so, as I don’t want to be banned from SL).

        • ryan

          Yep, people are split on just how well-formed said pocket was. In the image I used to illustrate that (ELSM linked to it above), Ben looks to be under pressure. But if you look at the play from the perspective of the sidelines, there’s at least two yards between Ben and the defender as the ball leaves his hand. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. So much went wrong with that play that it was doomed to fail.

    • ryan


      That’s a fair quibble, and honestly, while the offense has been awful, it hasn’t necessarily been predicable in that regard.

  • Randy Steele

    Shown here, British RAF flies emergency beer rations to Wembley Stadium for Steelers’ fans for upcoming game.

    • Rob D

      Thoughtful! Just don’t come to the game in a dirigible with German markings. That didn’t end well for me and my ooom-pa-pa band.

      • Eric

        I read these comments just as Pandora began playing “Flight of the Valkyries”….

        • ryan

          Ha! Out of curiosity, what Pandora channel is that, “Steelers 2014 Season Goin’ Down in Flames”?

        • Rob D


      • Randy Steele

        Speaking for Steelers Nation, Rob, I think it’s safe to say that you are always welcome to fly your dirigible to any Steelers’ game as long as your dirigible is filled with beer.

    • Sarah

      That’s a Spitfire! My Dad flew those for the RAF! Brilliant!

      • David

        You British? I never would have guessed.

        • Sarah Mott

          Hah! Indeed I am.
          And having gone across the pond numerous times, I fear Tomlin left it way too late in the week for the Steelers to adjust. The first couple days you are CRUSHED.

          Their best bet is to just stay on EST completely if possible, which means sleeping til at least noon.
          Though considering they were giving player presses this am, I guess Tomlin doesn’t care what I think.

          • David

            You are Sarah in Pittsburgh, who posts here regularly, right?

          • Sarah

            C’est moi baby!

          • David

            Pardon my British slang, but now you are our Steeler bird.

          • Sarah

            Hah! That I am.
            But really – I fear the Steelers will be struggling with fatigue and hope they find a way to maintain at least a semi-normal schedule. Tomlin seemed to give the 5-hr diff (the opposite way vs say Denver) little consideration.
            I hope that does’t come to bite us in the butt….or in British slane, ARSE.

  • David

    Cassel is starting for the Vikes Sunday. If we don’t get a turnover this game, then I’ll start thinking about the draft.

    BTW, I had a weird dream that we led the Vikes 24-10, they came back in the last 5 min, scored the “tying” TD with 0:00, and Troy blocked the PAT, and we won 24-23.

    Should I stop taking sedatives?

    • Eric

      Take more!