FanHouse in the Stands: the View From 522 - Steelers vs. Texans
This season, FanHouse writers take their cameras to NFL stadiums to document what happens when you stop being polite and start getting real. Or something. We've cleverly titled it "FanHouse in the Stands."
Finally, preseason football is out of the way and meaningful games are taking place. On Sunday, the Steelers opened their season against the Houston Texans, and the last time the Texans were in town they managed only 47 yards of total offense and still won the game by three touchdowns (thanks a lot, Tommy Maddox).
On Sunday, things were different, and today we'll talk about what it was like high atop Heinz Field, while also discussing three different ways to wear a Troy Polamalu jersey, what in the heck Rex Grossman was doing at Heinz Field, and why I don't care about your fantasy football team. All of that and much, much more.
I'm not sure what it was, but something about Sunday's game just didn't have that "opening game excitement." It was more exciting than the preseason games, sure, but compared to other season openers it just felt like another random Sunday in the middle of the season. Perhaps it's because the Steelers have no long-standing rivalry with the Texans. Maybe it's because the game was over before the ball was even kicked off. Maybe I just didn't have enough beer. I don't know.
Last week, Stephanie Stradley laid out some fashion tips for wearing jerseys to an NFL game, while I explained the importance of not wearing pink dress shirts underneath sweater vests. Fortunately, none of that took place today, but, as always, the Heinz Field stands and the streets of Pittsburgh had some unique choices on game day.
Let's begin with a variety of ways to sport a Troy Polamalu jersey, and there are many. First, we have the traditional approach, as spotted on the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the walk over to the stadium. This guy, who has some wild and crazy hair, is wearing a current replica of the Steelers home uniform: black, gold lettering with white numbers, a very common selection. He gets bonus points for the cooler, which will likely be emptied within 15 minutes of this photo being snapped.
During the 2007 season, the Steelers celebrated their 75th anniversary, and the team looked back on its storied past in a number of ways, from naming an all-time team, to wearing "throwback" style uniforms during two games. While the team never actually wore these jersey's at any point in the past, they were designed to be a mixture of the teams uniforms in the 50's and 60's. Some fans thought they were ugly, while others thought enough of them to buy them. Personally, I like them. I'm not sure I'd like it to be the Steelers jersey every week, but it's not a bad look.
The College Jersey
A surprisingly popular choice, and a slightly different way to show support for your favorite player. Ben Roethlisberger's Miami of Ohio jersey can be spotted a few times, while I managed to catch a glimpse of somebody wearing a Hines Ward University of Georgia jersey on Sunday. Here we see a young man paying homage to Troy's days at the University of Southern California when he was destroying wide receivers and running backs in the Pac-10. I'm not sure I'd go this route, but it's definitely unique.
How To Ruin A Custom Jersey
If you're going to spend the money to put your name on the back of a custom jersey, at least have the common courtesy to use a number that wasn't worn by a pretty good to great player in your teams history. For example: If you happen to be a 49ers fan, and your last name is "jingleheimerschmidt" and you want to put "jingleheimerschmidt" on the back of a jersey, don't choose 16 or 80 as the numbers. Just a suggestion. The number 95, to Steelers fans, is usually associated with Greg Lloyd. A furious pass-rusher from the late-80's to early 90's who was, and still is, a menace to himself and everyone around him. The number 95, however, is not usually associated with "Leonard."
The Guy Wearing The Jersey That Doesn't Make Any Sense
Last week, Stephanie made mention of the choice that always has me scratching my head, and that would be the people that show up at the Steelers-Texans game wearing the Chicago Bears jersey. In the eight years I've been going to Heinz Field there has never, ever been a week where this guy didn't show up (not this particular guy, but a guy like him). If the Steelers are playing the Dolphins, you can bet your last dollar that there's going to be a guy walking around in a Rams jersey. On Sunday, 'that guy' happened to be wearing a Rex Grossman jersey. That's certainly unique, even if it doesn't make any sense. People at Bears games don't wear Rex Grossman jersey's, and sure enough, there's one at Heinz Field. For a Steelers-Texans game.
So unique, and borderline awesome, that it deserves to just simply be called, 'The Barry Foster.' We saw this guy as we were leaving, and it just needed to be captured. Foster played with the Steelers from 1990-1994, and was another in the Steelers' long line of huge, punishing power backs that could carry the ball 40 times a game and seemingly get stronger with each and every carry. His best season came in 1992 when he finished second in the NFL in rushing yards behind Emmit Smith. You might be surprised to know that he still holds the Steelers' single season rushing record and is still the only running back to gain over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in team history. That's right. Barry. Foster.
I Don't Care About Your Fantasy Football Team, So Please Stop Cheering For Owen Daniels
Fantasy football has changed the way people watch the NFL, and sometimes, it's not for the better. It's such a huge part of the NFL culture now that Heinz Field has added a "fantasy tracker" to the scoreboard in the South end zone, updating individual player performances around the league as often as out-of-town scores are shown.
I have nothing against fantasy football -- honestly, I used to play it quite a bit -- but this rule should always be considered: A (insert name of your favorite team here) win is always, ALWAYS better than a fantasy football loss. Always. I bring this up because the guy sitting in front of us today had a slightly annoying habit of cheering for Owen Daniels, even when the game had yet to become the blowout it eventually became. Keep in mind, of course, that Owen Daniels is a tight end for the Houston Texans, the team the Steelers were playing on the field
If he were wearing a Texans jersey and cheering for Owen Daniels because Owen Daniels plays for his favorite team, that's cool. No problem. But he wasn't. He was decked out in his Steelers gear... and cheering for a guy playing against them. Not going to work, buddy. The Steelers take priority over your fantasy team every time, and the people around you don't care how your fantasy team is doing, especially when it could be playing a role in the game taking place on the field right in front of us.
Hey, Kubiak, Just Throw The Stupid Flag!
Here's an example of the type of thing you see at the game, but miss on TV, and it's maddening. During the Texans' first drive, Houston went for it on a fourth-and-one near midfield. Quarterback Matt Schaub attempted to gain the yard on a quarterback keeper, right up the middle, and from our vantage point it looked like he ran into a brick wall and fell into the pile. The ref initially signaled first down, then, after looking at it again, decided to call for a measurement. This did not please Houston Head Coach Gary Kubiak, especially when the measurement showed that Schaub was actually short of the first down.
So, as is always the case with an NFL game, a change of possession results in a seemingly endless commercial break. During commercial breaks the fans quiet down, the players stand around, the coaches stand around, everybody stands around, and it seems like it goes on forever.
This time was slightly different. During the entire break, Kubiak is standing about 40 feet onto the field, waiving his red challenge flag around and screaming at the refs. He's clearly cheesed about the spot, and it's obvious to everyone that he's going to challenge it. So, why doesn't he? He's just yelling. He's pointing at the ball, pointing at the ref, pointing at his quarterback who is also pointing at the ball all while the ref keeps trying to point him back to the sidelines. Everybody is pointing, which is good, because this entire situation was pointless. Kubiak finally gives in and heads back to the bench area, but he's still clutching the flag and still pointing emphatically at the ball. And he still hasn't thrown the flag. So, we assume that maybe he's just become resigned to the fact he's not going to win and will put the flag in his pocket, saving it for later in the game, right? Wrong.
As the network comes back from commercial, the ref blows his whistle and signals for the play clock to start, the Steelers break the huddle, and THEN Kubiak decides to hurl the flag at the feet of the ref. Fans boo.
I'm not sure about this exactly, but I'm guessing there's a rule somewhere that says the coach has to wait for TV before he can throw his challenge flag, because, you know, that's great theater to watch a furious NFL coach throw a little red flag onto the field. Problem is, he could have thrown that stupid flag and the ref could have started reviewing the play during the five minute commercial break when everybody was standing around. With the the way the NFL, and all of the sports league for that matter, are constantly trying to think of ways to "speed up the game" you would think somebody would realize making the coach wait five minutes before he's able to challenge a play is a colossal waste of time.
Other Stuff And Random Pictures
It was a beautiful day, and a welcome change from the constant rain we sat through every week last season. Here is a shot of Heinz Field from downtown Pittsburgh, just prior to walking over the Allegheny river.
And here we have the tailgating scene from high atop the ramps leading to the upper deck.
Before the game, as is usually the case before the season opener, a military flyover took place just as the National Anthem -- performed by Charlie Daniels -- was ending. They're coming right for us.
Of course, the coolest part of it?
Yes. That's a Steelers logo.
Here, we have one of the gigantic Super Bowl trophies in the Great Hall (there's room for more, you know). This one represents Super Bowl XL.
Here is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Hines Ward warming up before the game.
Charlie Daniels singing at half time.
And, of course, the real view from 522.
The Steelers are on the road the next two weeks, and return home for a Monday night game on September 29th against division rival, the Baltimore Ravens, and we'll be there. Monday night games are always fun, games against Baltimore are always fun, and Monday night games against Baltimore are always double the fun.