History of Tailgating in Pittsburgh
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Whether you love them or loathe them, the Steelers are bringing back a piece of history with their bumble bee-striped throwback jerseys modeled after the ones worn during the Steelers’ 1934 season. In celebration of the team’s 80th season anniversary, here’s a look at the history of tailgating in Pittsburgh, including past and present stadiums, the evolution of The Terrible Towel and the ultimate tailgating treats and eats.
Past and Present Stadiums
For 30 years, the iconic Three Rivers Stadium was home to the Steelers as well as the Pittsburgh Pirates. Originally constructed to replace the Steelers’ first home stadium, Forbes Field, which stood at 230 South Bouquet Street in Oakland, Three Rivers Stadium became the site of countless Steelers wins and memories, including the famous Immaculate Reception. The stadium closed on December 16, 2000 and was demolished months later during a controlled implosion that took place on February 11, 2001. This implosion totaled $5.1 million and required 4,800 pounds of explosives to take down the stadium.
On August 18, 2001, the Steelers current stadium, Heinz Field, opened for its first season just 80 feet away from where the Three Rivers Stadium once stood. The new stadium features more than 65,000 classic Pittsburgh “Steeler gold” seats, 129 luxury boxes with 1,500 seats and more than 400 food concessions that serve Pittsburghers’ favorite western Pennsylvania cuisine such as Quaker steak and lube wings, Primanti Brother’s sandwiches, roast beef, fish sandwiches, bratwurst and kielbasa.
Come game day, you’ll be hard pressed not to find yourself in a sea of Steelers support in this legendary tailgating town. Fans’ obsession with everything black and gold extends well past jerseys and face paint to demonstrations of Pittsburgh pride, including iconic Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope’s inception of the Terrible Towel. This towel has continued to fill the stands at the hands of Steelers fans since Cope first encouraged the black and yellow rally towel in 1975. What started as an attempt to create a gimmick that would catch the attention of sponsors quickly grew from an everyday household dish towel into the ultimate show of support for the Steelers. Now 37 years since The Terrible Towel’s first appearance at a December 27, 1975 playoff game against former Baltimore Colts (now known as the Indianapolis Colts), this must-have fan gear has expanded itself and its logo to the team’s line of Terrible Stuff, which includes clothing, hats and jewelry as well as pink towels for breast cancer awareness and Irish-inspired shamrock towels in honor of the city’s prevalent Irish population.
Tailgating Treats and Eats
In Pittsburgh, tailgate fare has evolved far beyond the basic hot dog and hamburger meals to include a cuisine exclusive to this great city. Among the most popular tailgating treats are sausage and sweet banana peppers piled high atop Mancini’s or Celone’s brand buns, chips and dip, Isaly’s chipped ham barbecue sandwiches, hot wings, pierogies, potatoes and sauerkraut and kielbasa. For dessert, famous Eat & Park Smiley Cookies mix on mountainous dessert trays with the city’s immigrant-inspired menu of sweets such as German tarts, Italian pastries and Polish cakes.
Whatever your tailgating treat of choice, wash it down with an ice cold beer and make sure you have plenty of it. Local favorites include Rolling Rock, IC Light and Yuengling. If you didn’t remember to pack the cooler full of booze or want to pre-game indoors before kickoff, gather your rowdiest Steelers fan friends and head to one of the many black and gold Steelers-themed bars that have grown in popularity not only in Pittsburgh but throughout the country. Check out Billy’s Black & Gold Bar, Jerome Bettis’ Grill 36 and McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon, some of which offer game-day parties and specials.
Check out Tailgate Fan to keep the party going at tailgatefan.cbslocal.com.
Jessica Wasik lives in Pittsburgh where she follows the Steelers at every stage of the game. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.