The patronizing chuckle from a Heinz Field usher as he gave us directions was my first indication of just how awful our seats were.
As my nephew and I settled into our Upper Level West seats in the double-letter section high above the end zone, we were happy just to be at a game inside of Heinz Field.
Downtown Pittsburgh, visible from our lofty position, vanished completely once the powdery atmosphere descended. The feathery chunks that fell from the sky infused the game with a fairytale quality.
When we talk about that game, we remember cheering in clothes soaked with melted snow for the Steelers as they kept their long-shot playoff hopes alive. But most of all, we remember cheering with the crowds for the Bus.
The engine driving the team stood covered in wet, freezing mud, and yet he had made it look easy.
We sat high above the rough frosted field, and we decided that there were no bad seats in Heinz Field.
The next season, my nephew and I returned to the West upper level, this time we were perched in the second to last row in our section. We sat at Reed's end of the field, the one that is open to the icy rivers.
Sitting in front of two drunk guys holding unwaveringly to their offensive strategy, we soon joined their chant: "Give it to Miller." We loved their plan, especially given that it was restated on every down.
Since that day we have heard their slurred words echo in our minds. Their highly unorthodox, ultra-conservative plan seems vaguely plausible because Heath Miller delivers.
Every down must equal the determination and beauty on display when No. 83 powers for a first down or into the end zone. Failing this, you may find yourself wishing that Miller had gotten the ball in the first place.
My most recent visit to a seat high up in the eaves of Heinz Field was the AFC Divisional game pitting the Steelers against the San Diego Chargers.
When my sister and I finished the hike to the summit and settled into our double letter seats, a rather robust fan who was pouring the contents of a pocket-size bottle of whiskey into his beer cup, got up to salute our arrival.
We replied to his greeting with a brief hello and then attempted to get seated and focus on the game. Suddenly, he clamoured to his feet, adjusted his shades, and began to vigorously wave his towel, and yell "Yeah! Hot chicks who understand football!!!"
My sister and I joke about bringing a Terrible Towel into the Carnegie or the Warhol Museum and waving it while looking at a great work on display, but we had never had it done for us.
Though the guy could not see or hear with any degree of accuracy, I feel that having a terrible towel waved for you in earnest is always an honor. It was as funny as it was unforgettable.
The happy fan left at half-time, and we were free to watch the 3rd quarter which included Roethlisberger drilling passes to convert a 3rd and 11 to Washington and a 3rd and 10, to the one and only Heath Miller. A seven yard TD on a play-action fake to Miller capped the drive.
The Steelers refusal to let the Chargers capitalize on a long return by Darren Sproles transfused the crowd with a mission. Watching a reversal of the circumstances that followed Maurice Jones Drew's return deep into Steeler territory during the Jacksonville vs. Pittsburgh Wild Card game of the 2007 season—Charger momentum was stopped in its tracks and the Steelers would roll through to the AFC Championship.
There was a lot to cheer about that evening.
Off in the distance beyond the stadium walls, I could see the hills blinking; but within the confines of the field, we were cheering for Willie Parker and his two TDs, and we were cheering for Ben.
It was clear that No. 7 was playing in top form, making good decisions, driving the team, converting critical 3rd downs, unlike his performance against the Titans game just a few weeks earlier. It was also clear that his nasty injury that occurred during the Browns game late in December would not slow him down in the slightest.
We all watched our quarterback silence his critics. Fans from the rafters to the sidelines that night knew that we had a team built to get us to Tampa.
Next month, I will be back up in the nose bleed seats to watch the rematch of Super Bowl XLIII in the first game of the 2009 pre-season.
An informal count of jerseys worn by random fans that I have seen during recent trips to Pittsburgh leads me to predict that I will be among throngs of linebacker fans.
An August evening awaits, not long off in the distance when we Steelers' fans can once again gather at Heinz Field, or around our screens, and watch our team, from seats good or otherwise, begin their quest for a repeat.
Whose turn is it to be the hero?
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