Heinz Field turf again catching heat
By Scott Brown
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Grumbling and questions about the turf at Heinz Field has become a November ritual, yet the Steelers have no intention of making significant changes to their home playing surface.
And they probably won't be pressured by the NFL to do so despite renewed criticism -- and James Harrison's admission that he had to leave Sunday's game briefly because of the field conditions.
"The middle of the field is nothing but a sand pit," the Steelers outside linebacker said, "so when I hit the ground it just all went into my eyes."
A week after kicker Jeff Reed cited moving turf as the reason he missed a 26-yard field goal, perhaps hastening his exit from the Steelers, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly took a more pointed shot at the weathered playing surface.
"They got big divots like we are playing golf out there," Kelly said after the Raiders were beaten, 35-3. "My shoe came off one time because my foot was stuck in the ground. You got professional groundskeepers here?"
The answer to that question is "yes." And they will be busy re-sodding the field after five games are played starting Friday with the "Backyard Brawl" and ending late Saturday night after the last of four WPIAL championship contests is decided.
That is standard procedure, a Steelers spokesman said Monday, and something that had been planned well in advance of the latest scrutiny field has received.
The grounds crew will have two weeks to get the re-sodded field ready. The Steelers don't play at home until Dec. 12 and Pitt finishes its season at Cincinnati.
The Steelers have resisted making significant changes. Any change would likely require switching from natural grass -- the turf is a mixture of four types of Kentucky Bluegrass -- to an artificial surface.
The field is not popular with players, who rated it the NFL's worst natural playing surface in a 2008 survey.
According to multiple reports, the New England Patriots and Raiders complained to the NFL about the Heinz Field surface. But no official complaint has been submitted to the league's game operations department, spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email.
Aiello said the league is monitoring conditions at Heinz Field. But, he added, the league typically does that with any grass surface that receives "heavy traffic" such as what will take place this weekend, "to assist clubs and ensure the quality of the field."
Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, on play-calling in the wake of constant flux on the offensive line, particularly in-game injuries:
"You can't change what your game plan is, you just expect the next guy to step up and play, and it gets taxing after awhile when it happens every damn week."
Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior, on Troy Polamalu's play (interception, tackle for loss, two passes defensed) in the 35-3 win over the Raiders:
"I don't know if he free-lanced more, but I think he's one of the most competitive guys on the team. And (the 39-26 loss to the Patriots) gave us a lot of motivation to show that we're not that type of team."
Polamalu, on the NFL's crackdown on dangerous hits:
"When I'm playing, I'm not thinking of a fine when I'm lining up a hit."
Steelers wideout Mike Wallace, who is on pace for a 1,214-yard receiving season, which would be the eighth-best in team history:
"I always set the bar real high. There are crazy numbers that I think about. "
THREE TO WATCH
Former seventh-round draft pick has emerged as the Bills' top target; has three games with at least 137 receiving yards
Hopewell High and Penn State graduate is among the NFL leaders in tackles with 88
Returns to Buffalo as the protector of Ben Roethlisberger's blind side; started eight games for the Bills last season, but they let him leave as an unrestricted free agent.
BY THE NUMBERS
7 -- Steelers wins against the Bills in the teams' last eight meetings
26 -- Active NFL players that have suited up for at least 200 games, including Steelers linebacker James Farrior
39 -- Career games that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has posted a passer rating of at least 100
163.5 -- Rushing yards the Bills are yielding per game, the most in the NFL
245.1 -- Passing yards Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has averaged in eight games
with Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El
Coming out of college as a star quarterback, how much convincing did it take for you to switch to wide receiver?
"My whole dream growing up was to play professional ball, whether it was football, basketball or baseball. I got drafted to play baseball, and when that didn't happen, I wasn't going to miss my second opportunity for any reason and I didn't want it to be, 'Oh, he's too short,' so I declared myself a wide receiver. I got to the (NFL) combine and they wanted to see me as a quarterback."
Do you think you could have been a successful quarterback in this league?
"No question. I have the arm strength, I know I can read coverages and I can lead my team. You can have all the qualities when it comes to throwing and even running, but if you don't have the leadership, you can't do it, and I know I have it."
When was the last time Thanksgiving wasn't also a work day for you?
"That's just how it's been, go to work and come home and enjoy your family. But you've got to be thankful because we've got Christmas off this year."
Scott Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org