Just to give you some background to my adventure; this time five years ago I was sat in a chemotherapy chair wondering if I would still be here the following Christmas, never mind five years down the line.
After seeing the Steelers at Wembley stadium in 2013 I made a vow I would see the Steelers in Pittsburgh by the time I was 50 years old. I never thought of how and when, but I knew I would go and here is my story of that wonderful USA trip to see the Steelers in San Francisco and Pittsburgh.
I sat with my wife and she gave me the news that the trip had been booked and I now had the task of getting the tickets for my games. After some thought I decided that Heinz field was the main event and Levi stadium the 2nd choice for a game. They were both in September which meant I could get two games within the timeframe.
Levi stadium is a very modern NFL one, but the thing that surprised me is the 49er fans don’t like it as it’s a 90-minute train ride from San Francisco (on the Caltrain). My wife and mother-in-law and I were joined on the train by loads of Steelers Nation including a gent with a Steelers nation Argentina flag so we had a great picture s taken.
After leaving the train we went to tailgate at the stadium. I searched for yinzer mob but couldn’t find them, sorry peeps.
Now that game will be remembered for me as Mason Rudolph’s starting debut. Even though we lost, I feel I saw the Steelers future with Mason. A great touchdown pass to JuJu silenced the 49ers fans beneath me while one completion and one 49ers fan even left due to me cheering on the fellas. Ha-ha.
After six wonderful days in California the main event and part of the journey arrived – PITTSBURGH here I come.
We arrived on Thursday and immediately took a photo at the airport with Franco Harris as you do. We were taken to our hotel Delta Plaza by a wonderful friendly person in the taxi so signs of things to come. She told us about the strip best food perogies and sandwiches and where to have them. My advice – get a taxi booked and chat to them because they give you so much info on things.
After a meal in Bob’s bar and grill around the corner from the hotel, the night was spent smiling and looking forward to Friday’s events as we were going to tour Heinz Field.
Friday morning. After a huge breakfast, away we go with a walk and sightseeing of Pittsburgh. Of course, I went the wrong way and doubled back to the PNC Park bridge next to the baseball park. We enjoyed a nice walk along the river towards Heinz Field.
At that point, I was becoming emotional. A shiver ran down my spine as because I realised that I had made it. The memories of all the difficult times with my treatments came back and now I saw this wonderful stadium in front of me. I managed between the tears to say, “I have done it. I’m home.”
The stadium tour is wonderful. It’s 90 mins long and involves a lot of walking. Cathie, our guide was awesome in her knowledge although I had to say this was the stadium that Bane blew up in the Dark Knight and the kids went “Wow, yeah it is!” Ha-ha.
Here’s a tip; go on a weekday not on game weekend as we had access to the changing rooms, but on the day before game day you don’t. My wife took a video of the one place you weren’t allowed to – that was the run for the Steelers at the start of a game. Not sure why but I’m glad my wife did. Very emotional for me as I touched the pitch and well, it all came out as you can imagine.
After a walk through the hall of honor and seeing the uniforms and replica Lombardi trophies, Cathie said the words I had waited to hear, “Over there is the merchandise store.”
THANK YOU CATHIE SEE YA!
And I’m off. Lynsey, my wife had the card and away I went. Hoodies, banners, socks, mugs, T-shirts, hats, terrible towels and jerseys. I was away and in heaven, Ha-ha. I collected so much stuff the staff asked if I can give her my pile and I would be ok at the till well. That was even better and enable me to buy more souvenirs.
Grand total $647
Then Lynsey reminds me about customs. Ha-ha. “Bring it on,” I replied. After been shown the free public transport, we headed back to the hotel and changed ready for the baseball that evening.
Hey, we must be good luck charms as the Pirates won with the last man of the 9th innings. They needed a home run to win and what ya know, he hit it! What a roar from the crowd and fireworks was so much better. Go along it was $22 a ticket and food and drinks were $6 each beer and in a huge can $12.
Saturday was the strip day and oh boy what a day it was just walking and chatting to everyone and going in the entire store was wonderful. I do recommend a walk down there. A fantastic place and for Steelers fan, this is the place for jerseys and merchandise and boy, you can get some amazing T-shirts. Ha-ha.
After food and rest, Sunday was more sight-seeing with a trip on a boat followed by a bus tour. Both highly recommended as you get to hear the history of Pittsburgh and the bus tour is well top class to do.
Monday – Gameday
The Steelers vs the Bengals and I had a decision to make. I had bought five jerseys had to decide which one to wear. Originally, it was going to be a Woodson 26, but this changed as I had bought another jersey so Shazier’s 50 was worn for the game.
Only one place to tailgate in Pittsburgh, YINZER MOB across from the PNC ball-park. A fantastic group and well, let’s just say I needed to sober up before I entered the stadium. A great party and people I will cherish as friends.
I went inside and did an FB live video. A big mistake. As I started to do it, well let’s just say emotional is an understatement. Yes, I do cry a lot. Ha-ha. A quick look at a stand that had game worn gear and helmets for sale. You can get a ball for $40 that’s been thrown by Mason while Big Ben’s jerseys, helmet and pants all game worn. But bring ya mortgage as it’s expensive.
The game was fantastic, and I got a wave from Kevin Greene who saw my Steeler Nation UK flag and was impressed. Everyone was really nice and chatty to me about wanted to know why I came and what a flag. Next time I go, I will be on that field Steelers Nation Unite, I promise you that
Afterwards it was a case of riding the transport and getting dehydrated again and buzzing from the night’s event. The next day a suitcase had to be bought as I needed one for my gear and I bought an AB color rush jersey in a shop for $20. Yep it has his name on it, but for that price, hah hey the memories yeah
Tuesday was saying goodbye and leaving my flag signed for the next Steelers Nation UK member to go to a game and a drive to the airport where Steelers shoes was bought
And I said farewell I didn’t say goodbye as I know I will be back in 2020.
Pittsburgh you found three people and they became such great fans of your city. My wife said next time I’m coming to a Steelers game with you. Now that’s how much you have done to her.
My words are here and all I can say is thank you Pittsburgh and San Francisco Steelers Nation.
Special thanks to Gordon and Andrew for the advice and Gordon for my flag and mug.