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.
Let’s start off by talking about NFL security, because dammit, that’s what the people want and what the people desire.
(That’s probably not what the people want, but it’s my column and it’s what I want to talk about.)
If you’re not aware section 522 of Heinz Field, as well as the rest of the 500 section in the North End Zone, is made up entirely of bleachers. Concave, metal bleachers that get cold in the winter, retain pools of water, and are not the most comfortable seats for a windy fall or winter afternoon. A seat cushion is often times useful for these types of days.
Sunday’s 23-10 win Steelers win over the Buffalo Bills was one of those days.
My mom was my guest for Sunday’s game, and because it was a cold, windy day she knew it was a seat cushion kind of day. The NFL’s new safety policy isn’t quite clear on the subject of seat cushions, and different people have told us different things. We’ve been told (by people from the Steelers and by reading the NFL’s rules) that certain seat cushions are OK, and certain seat cushions are not. We were under the assumption (based on what we read and were told) that just so the cushion did not have any pockets, zippers, or openings it would be OK, so we took a couple of cheap, foam, flat cushions for our ass space.
As it turned out, these were not OK.
At one of the three stops you have to go through to enter the stadium (no joke: You have to get through three stops to enter the stadium now — an initial security stop that has people telling you whether or not you can take a bag in, which is followed by the metal detector wanting, which is then followed by the actual turnstile and ticket takers) we were told by security that our seat cushions were not acceptable because they were not made out of foam.
Foam seat cushions are the only ones that are allowed according to security person No. 1 and his cohorts, as they lectured us on not taking the time to know the rules and understand what we can and can not bring in to the stadium (even though we took an extraordinary and irrational amount of time to try and figure out what the rules are). When I explained that different people have told us different things (a trend that will repeat itself) as to what we can bring in and that the policy is a damn joke, I was told to “take it up with the NFL.”
After giving up the seat cushions we made our way into the stadium and my mom, who at this point was at Defcon 2 on the rage scale, decided she was going to make a stop at the guest relations office.
And that’s where the NFL’s maze of circular logic led us right into a dead end of stupidity.
The folks in the guest relations office insisted that no seat cushions were allowed to be brought into the stadium, no matter what they are made of, because “you could sneak a gun or a bomb in it.” It’s worth pointing out that a stuffed animal, which could be a far greater transport for a weapon, is permissible.
And if you’re keeping score at home, that is two different people in two different places telling us two different things in the same stadium.
It was at this point that things started to get intense.
For those that were standing outside the door I imagine the thought going through their minds was something along the lines of, “Look at George giving it to T-bone.”
When it was explained that the security out front told us a completely different story and that the policy was stupid, one person in the guest relations office told us that we should “pray to Jesus” to get it fixed.
That was a real thing that was said by a real employee of an NFL franchise.
When my mom asked to speak to the head of Steelers security to get a real explanation as to what is allowed and why our pocketless, zipperless, pouchless seat cushions were not permitted, she was informed that Steeler security does not work on game days and that the security in the stadium is a contracted company, which seems like a completely bat shit crazy explanation (do you really expect me to believe Steeler security does not work on game days, when 60,000 people and everyone that is anyone in the Steelers organization are in the stadium?).
A phone call to the Steelers on Monday confirmed that it was, in fact, bull shit and that the head of security was there (he was the person that was spoken to on the phone).
It’s worth pointing out that we weren’t the only fans with a similar encounter. The folks sitting directly behind us told a similar story about confusion over the rules and what is permitted. The only difference is he ended up buying two foam seat cushions that were sold in the stadium for $8 a pop. When the head of security was asked over the phone if those cushions, which were purchased in the stadium, would be permitted to enter the stadium next week the answer was “no.”
That’s right. Something that was purchased in the stadium is not permitted to be brought into the stadium in future weeks. If that’s true, the NFL has one of the greatest money making schemes in the history of money making schemes taking place here.
I’ve had more issues in four games this season than I’ve had in the previous 11 years of attending games at Heinz Field, and it seems to be getting worse. Security and game day event staff are completely worthless and can’t even get their stories straight. I’ve already stopped purchasing any food in the stadium, and have now reached the point where I refuse to spend a dime in the stadium on anything (I can buy a beer for $3 outside the stadium at any local bar and get better quality food out of a garbage can).
Anyway, the moral of the story here is if you’re attending a game at Heinz Field and have bleacher seats on a cold, windy, or wet day don’t even think about bringing a seat cushion because you’re a criminal and seat cushions are bad.
But I’m going to keep going back, because I’m a brainwashed idiot.
Long live the NFL, those miserable bastards.
Hey, there was also a game on Sunday.
The announced attendance was just a hair more than 60,000, which was mildly surprising given that the 3-6 Bills were playing the 2-6 Steelers. I expected about 55,000 going in. Perhaps it would have been that had it not been for a rather large contingent of Bills fans. Seriously, they were everywhere and brought one of the largest road crowds that I’ve ever seen in Heinz Field, right up there with the Cowboys, Giants and the impressive group the Bears brought this season. While Bears fans were generally cool, Bills fans seemed to be the worst of them all (exception: The two guys that came on a bus trip sitting next to us. They tried to distance themselves from the guy in the row in front of us that came in with a beer can in each hand and screaming. They left at halftime).
Todd Haley is still as unpopular as ever in the stands, as is William Gay for some odd reason even though he’s playing rock solid football. And he was pretty awesome on Sunday.
Gay was involved in 11 tackles during Sunday’s game, and they limited Bills plays to the following yardage totals: 3, 3, -1, -1, 2, 20, 7, 6, 7, 4, 9. There were also several incomplete passes in his direction. The only negative play was that pass interference call in the first quarter on Buffalo’s field goal drive, and even that seemed borderline.
He just can’t shake the reputation he gained among Steeler fans during that 2009 season. Outside of that year he’s been a solid corner for the Steelers.
Speaking of solid, I feel as if I owe Jerricho Cotchery an apology. I crushed him a few times earlier this season but lately he’s been awesome for the Steelers, and was once again on Sunday as he hauled in yet another touchdown pass. He’s become Pittsburgh’s most reliable red zone target on offense. And for a team that stinks in the red zone, that’s impressive.
Speaking of reliable: What the hell has happened to Heath Miller lately? I never expected him to come back this season and play at the top of his game given his age and the injury he’s coming off of. But where did the hands go? He had the fumble against Baltimore and the drops have been coming at an alarming rate.
It was also alarming to see Jarvis Jones in a position we’ve rarely seen him in this season: Pressuring an opposing quarterback and actually sacking him.
Cameron Heyward also continued to impress and is quickly going from first-round disappointment, to solid contributor, to one of the best players on the defense and a guy that might be a long-term building block.
After spending the better part of the past month away from Heinz Field the Steelers are back at home next Sunday against the Detroit Lions. It’s sure to be … something.
And you can bet that I won’t be trying to sneak a seat cushion into the stadium.