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A Trip of a Lifetime from the UK to Pittsburgh

The seed was sewn a long time ago, back in the dark days for British fans when ‘American Football’ was rarely shown on television and naming NFL teams was as tricky as identifying obscure elements on the Periodic Table.
Football may have been like weird science across the pond back then but I vowed to support one of the first teams I saw on my first visit to the States as a teenager and the first footage I saw was a pre-game show of a Pittsburgh v Houston play-off …. easy choice!
Fast forward a generation and I have tickets with my son Joey to our first Steelers game. Heinz Field 8.20 p.m. with the Carolina Panthers in town. It was going to be an experience … and how!

We flew into Pittsburgh from London via Toronto and had time to sleep before game day: a trip down the strip district, Steelers’ merchandise, brunch at Pamela’s Diner, a walk through town and a drink at the Jerome Bettis Grille as the temperature dropped and the excitement rose.

Could it get any better?

Yes.

Joey had made contact with the Steeler Nation and Justin invited us to tailgate in Steeler style. Gathered in Lot 4 around a table displaying the largest sub known to man, we got the best intro to the hospitality that trademarks the global Steelers community. Connecticut, Florida, London and Pittsburgh were joined together in harmony to swap stories, beers, a drop of fiery Jack Daniels and a valiant but failed attempt to see off the sub. We didn’t know each other but we were instantly part of a black and gold family and the welcome was as heart-warming as the JD. Friends for life.

The ten-minute walk to the game was full of fun and anticipation plus a few nerves as a few of us had tickets on our phones rather than physical pieces of paper to clutch. But we got through and into the stunning stadium – the scale and organisation was impressive and beyond expectations.

The predictions were for a close encounter, maybe five points in favour of the Steelers. The Panthers were loaded and Cam Newton could easily take the shine off our first visit to Heinz Field. And it seemed that way as the visitors marched down the field for an opening drive score from Christian McCaffrey.

The towels waved and the deflation didn’t last long as the Steelers’ first play was a 75-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Breathtaking – right in front of our eyes. And there was more as a solid gold highlight reel wound out in front of us.

It was a memorable Steelers night as Defense and Offense excelled and racked up 52 points. We expected to return to the UK with some stories and great memories but couldn’t have dreamt of witnessing the highest Steelers’ points tally in Heinz Field history.

The fans around us were intrigued that we had travelled from the UK but quickly made us feel welcome….one was old enough to identify the pivotal Steelers-Oilers match-up that got me interested all those years ago. He also knew the score and a working knowledge of the touchdown sequences!

The Panthers game was electrifying and the total Steelers experience memorable; beyond anything we hoped for. We have lots of photos to cherish but the warmth and humour of the Steelers Nation community stands out and made the trip even more special.

We hooked up with Justin and Kristi on the last of our four days in Pittsburgh and they took us to Primanti’s on the south side and we all went onto the Penguins game to complete the trip but November 11 at Heinz Field will remain engraved in our minds.

It was our debut game and it only served to reinforce our loyalty to the Steelers and a resolve to return.
When we do, we will make straight for Lot 4 and the Steeler Nation tailgate. I highly recommend you do the same if you are heading for Heinz Field.

Thanks to Justin, Kristi, their family, and everyone at Steelers Nation.

It took us a long time to get to Pittsburgh but, man, was it worth it!

One Comment

  1. G Stryker

    December 4, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    Great meeting you and your son. Glad you had an excellent time. Cheers!!

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