Average Steelers Fan
I’ve been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan since 1972. Before that, I was number one a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and did not really follow professional football. I was aware of the Steelers, but it was Joe Namath and his guarantee that the New York Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts that first made me cognizant of the NFL. I favored the Colts living in Maryland after all. My schoolmate Fred Hassen who I would listen to Pirate radio broadcasts with all the way in the Washington DC area was all in on the Jets.
Originally from Pittsburgh, I did have some hometown fondness for the Steelers, but they were losers. It was not until the season Franco Harris caught the immaculate reception for the Steelers first ever playoff victory that hooked me. Yet, the only Steelers regalia I owned in school was a Steelers ski cap with the big tassel. I did not own my first Terrible Towel until after the Steelers moved into Heinz Field.
Now, I’m just an average Steelers fan. I enjoy learning about the team that was just an afterthought in my youth. Still, there are still some things that bug me outside of not winning the Super Bowl every year. Here are just a few.
TRAINING CAMP – LATROBE VS. HEINZ FIELD
I have not attended training camp since 2019. Last year the pandemic forced the league to cancel training camps. The Steelers opened 13 practices to the public at Heinz Field in 2021. This year attendance required a ticket for entry, but it was free. I cannot give a firsthand comparison since I could not attend camp this year due to other obligations.
However, what I always enjoyed about Latrobe is the free and open parking for fans coming to Saint Vincent College. Many Steelers fans planned family vacations around Steeler’s training camp. It was not unusual for former Steelers players like Robin Cole available to meet fans and sign autographs among the many activities set up. It was fun overhearing a parent describing the exploits of former Steelers from the 1970’s, 1980’s or 1990’s to their children. A wonderful way to build a generational bond of fans through the decades. Then of course the opportunity to be up close and high five current Steelers players coming out for practice with the Steelers drum line setting the tempo.
I wish Art Rooney II could have made training camp happen in Latrobe this year. The team stated that the NFL did not approve of their plan, but I believe they could have done something. But I do appreciate that at least some practices available at Heinz Field but paying for parking and the limits on how many could attend due to the pandemic protocols is a downer. I hope the Steelers are back in Latrobe next year. Perhaps some players are put out having to stay in a college dorm for a few weeks. I believe it is a great team building exercise with an additional benefit of giving the fans a thrill.
COST OF ATTENDANCE
Attending a Steelers game in person can be expensive. In 2019, the Steelers ranked a reasonable 14th among the 32 NFL teams based on the average ticket cost according to a Business Insider article on what it costs to attend an NFL game. According to data collected by Seat Geek, the average ticket to attend a Steelers game in 2019 was $210.
A Biz Journal article reported a more conservative average price of $114.24 per ticket in 2020. But the same article noted the price increasing 93% since 2006 when the average price was $59.19.
That’s just the ticket for one person. Now, consider transportation including parking up to $48, souvenirs, and concessions that lighten the wallet. One beer and a pretzel are going to evaporate most of a twenty-dollar bill. Coming for overnight? If staying on the North Shore plan on playing at least $300 per night. But the light rail is often free on game days so that is an effective way to save some money.
A couple years ago, I calculated that a family of four earning the median family income in Pittsburgh would spend over one percent of their annual earnings to attend one game. That was using $80 per ticket along with the other costs.
A few years ago, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank lowered concession prices. I’d like to see Art Rooney II follow that lead. Maybe if ticket prices were lower more families might buy them instead of companies. Although the Steelers regularly sell out their home games, it is not unusual for several thousand seats to go empty during games.
I attended a couple games at Three Rivers Stadium but few. My career and financial choices prevented going to more. I remained on the waiting list for season tickets for years. When the Steelers renovated Heinz Field in 2007, I began attending games as a member of the Legends Club. A fantastic opportunity to meet former players prior to games and some great end zone seats.
I finally got season tickets following the stadium expansion in 2015. During this time, the Steelers transitioned from a team ticket office until today, my season tickets managed through Ticketmaster. I attend as many games as I can but sometimes must either transfer them or sell them.
Up to 2019, the Steelers had a person I could contact to resolve any issues with my season tickets. Unfortunately, Rebecca was not retained during the pandemic. Ticket holders restricted to communications through email to a general season ticket holders address. Onto 2021 and the human touch lost. It takes much longer to resolve issues through Ticketmaster. But hope it will change with time.
I sold several tickets this year due to my travel schedule. When I buy a ticket via Ticketmaster payment is immediately due. When I sell a ticket via Ticketmaster, my tickets are immediately transferred to the buyer. But Ticketmaster holds the money and says, “We pay in 7-10 days after the event happens.” So, I sold tickets in July, but Ticketmaster holds my money until December after the game played. I really don’t understand why I’m not paid immediately if the buyer has already paid. Ticketmaster does get 10% of the transaction as a seller’s fee that’s paid immediately.
I do not begrudge the owners making a profit and I fully understand players trying to maximize their earnings. But as a fan, as a friend recent said, “I’m a sardine in an ocean of whales.”
In most of the collective bargaining debates, fans side with the poor players over the greedy owners. As a fan who likes to attend games, I’m on the fan’s side. I’m willing to pay but would be happier if it were more affordable especially for folks with less than me. But I remain an average Steelers fan.
How about you, any rants outside the Steelers not being able to win a playoff game or Mike Tomlin’s clock management skills?
YOUR MUSIC SELECTION
I always like to offer a music selection. Of course, (I can’t get no) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones.