With the Monday Night Football debacle behind them, the Pittsburgh Steelers have turned their attention to the field at Heinz Field. In what appears to be a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances for the Steelers and the National Football League, the field at the stadium has taken center stage. Between over use of the previous playing surface, a hastily executed turf installation, an unseasonably heavy rain storm, and a leaky tarp combined to delay the start of the game and to delay the start of any scoring.
Over the weekend and all within 17-hours, Heinz Field hosted 4-regional high school games and the NCAA University of Pittsburgh – South Florida game, after which new turf was installed on Saturday through Sunday. The previous field was deteriorating and, with 3-more home games, the organization was convinced it would not hold up.
With little turn around time available before the Miami game, the new turf was laid down directly on top of the old turf. And while it was reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the teams’ turf manager was unconcerned about the seams in the turf becoming a hazard or the new field shifting, the weather took a turn for the worse before the game.
Because the new grass was laid over the old, drainage was compromised resulting in the horrendous conditions. While the tarp covered the field, it apparently leaked at its seams flowing under the tarp and sitting on top of the poorly draining field. The tarp was removed from the field at 7:30 for the 8:30 start, and the field was reduced to flowing rivers and mud holes.
The game had to be delayed for close to 30-minutes while the field crews worked to get the field close to game shape – The field was cleared at 8 PM due to lightning strikes, and with the tarp off the field, all of the white field markings were wiped out; the field crew began rechalking the field after 15 minutes, but the damage was done.
Each 4-foot by 25-foot strip of sod weighs 1900-lbs and grounds crews were left to lift up these strips and throw down drying agent in an attempt to mitigate the poor drainage conditions.
Despite the pounding the field took during the game, the Steelers have no current plans to replace the new sod this season. The Rooney family, the owners of the Steelers franchise, have thusfar refused to consider artificial turf for the new stadium after having played on the artificial turf of Three Rivers Stadium for the better part of 30 years. Since Heinz Field opened, the turf has been replaced at least 5 times – in 2002 alone, it was replaced 3 times. However, according to the Post-Gazette, the team is actively looking at artificial surfaces for possible installation for next season.
“New Turf Causes a Monday Night mess in Pittsburgh,” athleticturf.net
“Steelers weighing field options following a Monday night mess,” USA Today
“Heinz Field: Here’s Mud in your eye,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Turf topper: Heinz Field surface sporting new temporary sod,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette