Of all the things to do in Pittsburgh, there is no experience more sought after than a Pittsburgh Steelers football game. This city bleeds black and gold, and when it is Pittsburgh football season, you'll know.
But not everyone can make it to the game as much as they'd like, and in fact it was only recently that we hit our first game at all!
To help those who are like us and are looking to get the most out of a game, this guide was born.
Why You Should Go to a Pittsburgh Steelers Game
We don't have to justify why you should go to a Pittsburgh Steelers football game. If you know anything about Pittsburgh at all, it is that Steelers football is a force to be reckoned with.
It is one of those things that brings everyone in the city together for one common goal, to cheer them on to a win.
We could talk about this being true for other sports teams (such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pirates, or even the Riverhounds), we can state with full confidence that Pittsburgh is still indeed a football town. If you don't believe this, all you have to do is attend a game and you'll understand.
So where in other sports guides we may give some convincing reasons as to why you should attend a game, we're not going to give you one here. It is Steelers football. That is really all you need.
Instead, we want to skip straight to the good stuff.
Where to Sit at Heinz Field for a Steelers Football Game
Heinz Field is an exceptional venue, and is naturally designed for the best views at more or less any angle. But since it is football we're talking about here, and Steelers football for that matter, price is probably going to be your biggest concern above all others.
To put things into perspective, in 2018 prices could be as low as $80 per ticket (plus tax and fees) for the last row of the 500 level on the end zone side (bleachers only!) and roughly $90 for standing room only. Yes, you're not getting a ticket for a game other than perhaps against the Browns for less than $100 all in.
Prices only shoot up from there.
If you want the 50 yard line in the 500 level, you're looking at upwards of $200 even for the nose bleeds. This is about the same as a front row seat in the 200 level at the end zone, so in this particular instance if you are able to splurge a bit you may be able to get a closer seat to the field by exchanging the 50 yard line with the end zone or even shifted at an angle slightly. (We did this at a Steelers season opener and enjoyed it immensely.)
If you want front row of the 100 level, right at field level, you're looking at $300 in the end zone and up to about $50 cheaper as you go back (keep in mind the 200 level is more or less an extension of the 100s, so you can get a good price drop there). As you get closer to the 50 yard line, front row shoots up to $700 or more with the back row of that section being $100-$200 cheaper in most cases. Again, go up to the 200 level (which is no real difference aside from being further back in row) and you may find more savings as well- but keep in mind on the sides these are club level seats and may not be as big of drop as in the end zone areas.
No matter how you break it down, price is extreme at Heinz Field. We personally like sections like 226 as they're offset from the end zone slightly but still have end zone pricing, and allow for good views the whole field down even if the opposing end is at a fair distance (it is still better than many of the 500 seats though!)
There are two other points we'd like you to keep in mind when booking tickets, and the first is that is the 200 level is uncovered until about row G or so and only the back few rows of the side 500 levels are covered as well (end zone 500 level is completely uncovered). So if you are wanting to stay out of the elements, staying further back and getting a cheaper ticket may be for you.
A secondary point to this is that for day games, especially those in September and October, the sun will be over the stadium until about 3pm or so. At this point only those on the west side of the stadium will receive shade (so people in the higher section numbers like 226, 236, 526, 536 etc). So if you are taking in a game on a particularly hot summer day you may not get any break at all if you sit on the wrong side. (Bonus, people on the shaded side get to see the city view as well.)
We could go on with this one for a while, but there is no way to get a cheap seat for a Steelers game. The best you can do is justify the spending to your needs, and if you are going to splurge, keep in mind the off-set end zone seats in the 200 level. To us, those are a great value if you have $200 or so laying around per ticket.
Parking at Heinz Field
Can we say something controversial and go with just don't do it?
Parking anywhere near Heinz Field offers fairly inflated pricing of $30-$50 per car being common. So unless you are looking to tailgate with your specific vehicle, you are best parking further away and walking in (this also helps avoid coming and going traffic as well).
We're not going to dive down into the lots that are paid here, as you can find numerous options anywhere between the stadium and PNC Park (and further in either direction).
For those who are willing to walk, there are a number of surface lots in downtown Pittsburgh operated by the city that offer $7-$8 night and weekend rates and availability can be monitored on the ParkPGH app on your way to the city. During our 1pm game, for example, ample street parking was still available in the North Side (especially in Allegheny Commons) at around 10:30am, but those fill up from there.
It is quite important to note that the roads near Heinz Field are completely restricted during game days. Meters are turned off and cars will be towed (we saw two within a few minutes of arriving). This includes during residential areas that are listed as permit only and game day fines are quite expensive (think $250 or more).
As such, we do not recommend parking in any neighborhood in the North Side, even if it is further out in the Mexican War Streets where the restrictions do not exist. This is just out of courtesy to the neighbors. In this case we recommend arriving early to find the prime spots
in Allegheny Commons that may only be a few hours on a meter at most or a downtown garage.
Food and Beverages at Heinz Field
Heinz Field has a number of food options ranging from conventional stadium fare like nachos and pizza to local favorites like Primanti Brothers. We'd argue that the food scene at Heinz Field isn't that great, but there are some options for barbecue and wings and prices tend to hover around the $9-$10 mark for most items.
Good, but not great.
For those who can arrive early, the North Shore is home to many great restaurants that we'd recommend eating at instead, including Burgatory, Southern Tier, and more. If you are up for a bit more of a walk, there are numerous restaurants on Western Avenue such as Bier's Pub or Nicky's Thai Kitchen and Federal Galley is always a delicious option about 15 or so minutes away.
Many food vendors set up around the tailgaters in the surface lots as well, so you would not go hungry by frequenting these as well. The team from Peppi's Subs was visible hawking subs on our last game, and their price point was not too bad either.
With regards to drinking, prices are pretty expensive inside the stadium. A standard water bottle is $4.75 in 2018, and a 1L is well over $6! As such, upgrading to a Gatorade ($5.50) or beer ($8-$10 for domestic, $10-$12 for craft) could be an alternative option. But while there are numerous craft beers available, we have to admit that aside from a few staples from Southern Tier there weren't too many exciting for us and we don't drink inside the stadium.
For those who can pre-game, Stage AE offers many good game day prices on 24 oz domestics at about $5 each and often has free live music and clean toilets as well. But if you're looking for a good craft beer, you can't go wrong with a beer or two at Southern Tier before entering the stadium.
Pre-Game and Post-Game Logistics
We've touched on tailgating in this article already, and it isn't uncommon to see people starting to party many hours before the game starts. As such, traffic around the North Shore gets busy early regardless of if it is a morning or evening game and cars will be backed up for quite some time (so get in early and go somewhere to eat or tailgate).
The gates to the stadium itself open about two hours before kickoff, and the lines can get quite long such that we recommend entering the stadium sooner rather than later (going in right when they open we passed through with no line at all).
Heinz Field has a pretty strict bag policy and only allows purses in that are about 4″ in length. We saw many women being turned away but the pre-screener security guards did a good job stopping people before they got all the way to the gate. Clear bags are allowed to be brought in much like at other stadiums, and at our gate a security guard was even handing them out (although this cannot be guaranteed). More on the bag policy can be found here.
If you are going to drink or eat anything in the stadium, or have to use the restroom, we recommend getting all that taken care of before kick off as well. Even though this may be a “during” game logistic, you may have 20 minute waits for those lines during the game but hardly any before- so planning here is key.
Leaving has the same issues as arriving with massive lines to get to the highways, for the T, and so on. Those who park further away may be able to escape this rush; however, as there is always a large crowd that will leave just before the final seconds it is hard to avoid all the same. So if you didn't get there early to have a meal, perhaps staying around to enjoy one after!
In any event, the pre and post-game logistics at Heinz Field is a lesson in patience all the same. Thankfully, the stadium is in a great area and there are numerous things to keep you busy if you are able to allocate additional time on either end. You won't regret that decision!
Hotels Near Heinz Field
There are a number of Pittsburgh hotels located in the North Shore near the stadium and a short walk away in downtown.
On the North Shore there are a number of options including SpringHill Suites, Holiday Inn North Shore, Residence Inn, and Hyatt Place. These are all going to be 10 minute or less walks from the stadium and are great options for those who want to be close; however, we do not recommend arriving or departing from these hotels on game day due to the local traffic.
Downtown the Renaissance Hotel is a higher end hotel that is just steps away from the North Shore across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and the Embassy Suites is one of our preferred hotels as it has premium city views in most rooms. If you are looking at staying a bit further out, the Hampton Inn Downtown has free parking and is a 30-45 minute walk from the stadium or a short ride on the T which is free to the stadium from downtown proper.
Another alternative is the Sheraton Station Square which has premium river view rooms that are arguably the best in the city. Visitors to this hotel can hop on the Gateway Clipper for a game day shuttle at about $12 round trip or pay a nominal fee to take the T over as well (fees for the T begin at the Station Square stop, sadly).
No matter what you pick, be prepared for inflated pricing as hotels are at significant premiums for Steelers home games!
Overall, a Pittsburgh Steelers football game is something you have to experience to understand. The energy in the stadium is intense, and the passion we have for this team is unparalleled.
So we have to ask, when is your next game?