A student experiences Steeler game socially distanced

Written By Geena Provenzano

On Oct. 11 the Pittsburgh Steelers were finally able to host fans at Heinz Field. 5,500 season ticket holders were randomly selected to determine who would attend. Somehow, I was lucky enough to be one of the 5,500.

When I told people I was going to the game, most of them were skeptical. They couldn’t understand why I would willingly put myself in a situation where I could get sick. But I felt very safe during the game. Honestly, I felt safer in Heinz Field than in Giant Eagle. I never came within six feet of someone, and everyone seemed cooperative about wearing masks.

I noticed the difference before we even got into the stadium. The parking lots usually filled with rowdy tailgates were empty. I wasn’t pushed through a crowd of thousands all eager to get inside. It really hit me when we made it into the Great Hall. Normally, you walk into a sea of black and gold with fans already waving their terrible towels. There is usually a band playing, and you’ll hear “Black and Yellow” at least once. On this day, it was lifeless and silent. You could only stay in the area if you were ordering food.

As season ticket holders, our seats are typically in section 504. This involves making the long journey up the escalators, admiring the view of downtown along the way and being asked to take a photo of someone in front of it. Because there were less fans, our section was closed and we were seated elsewhere. We didn’t get to make that long journey to our seats. I was surprised by how much I missed it.

That day I found myself on the 40-yard line in the first row. Once I sat down, I looked around and saw nothing but yellow seats. It felt like we were just early and would be joined by everyone soon. But no one came, except two people at the opposite end and four a few rows above.

I thought I would love this new situation, sitting front row with nearly the entire section to ourselves. I definitely did, but I couldn’t ignore the sense of intimacy that was missing. You really do become familiar with the people you sit next to—week after week and even year after year. You experience every emotion together. Laughing at angry commentary like, “How do you overthrow a guy that’s 6’7”?” Hugging, even crying after Joe Haden intercepts Tom Brady in week 15. It’s sad to think we may never experience this again.

I heard at the first game they played “Renegade” despite having no fans. My dad hates when they play “Renegade.” He’s convinced that every time they play it something bad happens. He even texted me at one point and said “They must have played it.” But they never played it, and I was slightly disappointed. However, the defense sealed the game with Joe Haden’s stop that set up the missed field goal and an interception by Steven Nelson minutes later. So maybe, my dad is right.

Watching a game from Heinz Field wasn’t the only first we experienced that day. We also met rookie Chase Claypool for the first time. He did not disappoint and was vital in the Steelers 38-29 win over the Eagles. Claypool’s four touchdowns broke records, and he was named AFC player of the week with 11 receptions for 110 yards.

I am blessed and truly grateful that I got to be one of the 5,500 who were part of this experience. And I look forward to the day I can be one of the 70,000.