You roll past the beleaguered steel mills that haven’t been in production in more than a decade.
And suddenly, over a hill, Pittsburgh pops up in front: the three converging rivers, the yellow bridges, Heinz Field.
That’s when it hits you. You’re in enemy territory.
There’s just something about this place draped in yellow and black. It’s got a dreary atmosphere, a feel that this is purely a business trip. You come to Pittsburgh with one thing in mind: leave with a win.
Here’s the thing about working and traveling with the team. When you’re with the team, you’re treated like the team.
So today, when the caravan of Ravens buses crosses the bridge to the stadium on the water, I’ll be welcomed by scads of “waving” Steelers fans.
As Head Coach John Harbaugh said with a grin on Wednesday, “It’s not going to be real nice, probably.”
Fans everywhere flick off our busses. But it’s not like they do here in Pittsburgh.
But as Suggs also said, “That’s what we want.”
The players mostly ignore the fans. Sometimes they laugh at an especially riled up one. I’ve heard a player or two mutter something about being eager to beat them.
Last night, I went into the lion’s den – wearing a purple Ravens shirt with a Ravens jacket overtop, unzipped just far enough to expose the large birdie head across my chest.
But to my utter shock, I hardly got even a funny look from Steelers fans all night and I don’t know why.
Is it because it was Saturday night, with a full 24 hours until kickoff? Is it because this game doesn’t exactly feel the same without Big Ben? Is it because the Ravens are in first place and have won their past two regular-season games here?
So at the encouragement of some co-workers, I decided to push the boundaries and poked fun at a guy’s bumble bee jersey.
About 10 minutes later, his brother told me I was lucky he didn’t “knock my teeth down my throat.”
Ahhhh, feels good to be back.