Steelers Nation makes a strong comeback at Heinz Field as home football season kicks off

Steelers Nation is back!

Burgers and kielbasa were sizzling on the grill, beers and cocktails were flowing freely and football fans clad in black and gold jerseys were preparing to enjoy a Sunday morning on the North Shore like they hadn’t done in nearly two years. The pandemic wiped out tailgating and large crowds at Heinz Field in 2020.

The Steelers host the Las Vegas Raiders in Game 2 of the season, Game 1 at home.

Before the parking lots opened at 8 a.m., some vehicles had already positioned themselves to capture their preferred tailgating point. Watt, Smith-Schuster, Heyward and Roethlisberger jerseys were plentiful, as well as Terrible Towels and the chants “Here we go Steelers.” Here we are!”

“We haven’t seen our Steelers friends in ages,” said Bruce D. Ibe of Squirrel Hill as he made margaritas in a North Shore parking lot. “We met so many great people chasing… it’s great to be back”

Ibe, who uses a gasoline blender to whip margaritas, said he’s been standing in the same spot since 1990.

O’Hara’s Jeff Stem woke up at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday and was the second in line to enter parking lot 7C outside Heinz Field at 7:50 a.m.

He drove the ambulance to last week’s game in Buffalo. It was his first appearance at a home game.

“Tailgating is part of the football experience,” Stem said. “It’s part of the atmosphere before the game. Absolutely it is.

His menu included pulled pork and macaroni and cheese. He and his family prepared the food on Saturday night, so they could enjoy the pre-game tailgate without cooking.

At 8 a.m., Ken Outly Jr. of Toledo, Ohio was chasing his son Kevin and his wife Sarah and his friend Ray Doriot without a car.

They were dropped off by Outly’s dad, Ken Outly Sr. They stood in a parking lot with two coolers of beer, sandwiches, and snacks. The elder Outly was planning to arrive later.

“We’ve been doing this for years,” said Outly Jr., from McKees Rocks. “Everyone knows where everyone’s place is. This is our place. We don’t need a hatchback car. We have everything we need here.

“We’re so happy to be back,” said Aubrey Cotton of Los Angeles, wearing Steelers overalls. “We have taken a trip to Pittsburgh once a season for the past 20 years.”

Cotton recalled the year they accidentally pulled into the parking lot of former Hall of Fame Steelers coach Chuck Noll.

“The coach said, ‘Hello, this is my place’, You don’t have to move. I can park next to you, ”Cotton said.

Noll took pictures with them.

“It was memorable,” said Cotton, who also knows the mother of former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. “Steelworkers are the best team and the best people. “

Derek and Anna Sakala trekked to Heinz Field from Orlando for Sunday’s game. Derek Sakala said his two grandfathers worked at steel mills in Pittsburgh.

“When I looked into our hotel room this morning and saw all the fans, I said, ‘these are our people’,” said Derek Sakala, wearing a full costume of the Steelers, including shoes with the team logo. “Last year was an anomaly with no fans in the stands and no tailgating. As soon as the program was released, we looked for tickets.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is the editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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