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Notre Dame Road Stadium Tour: Heinz Field

<strong>Heinz Field: Home to a lot of football.</strong><em></em>
Heinz Field: Home to a lot of football.

Typically around this time of year you will start to see some in-depth previews of upcoming opponents for the 2011 football season. Those will come in due time of course, but we wanted to do something a little different to kick off our SB Nation residency.

We give you the

2011 Notre Dame Road
Stadium Tour!

This will be a six-part series taking a look at the stadiums the Fighting Irish will be playing at this year away from the confines of South Bend, Indiana.

It will essentially be a smorgasbord of random facts, historical notes, and other pertinent information collected together in what I hope is a neat little preseason preview that you typically don’t see out there in the college football world.

We’ll cover the Big House at Michigan, Ross-Ade Stadium at Purdue, BB&T Field at Wake Forest, Fed Ex Field for the Maryland game, and Stanford Stadium.

But up first now is the home of the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Opened: September, 2001

Capacity: 65,050

Surface: Desso GrassMaster

  • The Stadium’s naming rights are owned by the H.J. Heinz Company, makers of delicious ketchup, condiments and other foods, with their national headquarters based right in Pittsburgh since 1869.
  • Sports Illustrated named Heinz Field the second best stadium in the NFL behind Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.
  • Pitt’s 31-0 victory over EastTennesseeState on September 1, 2001 was the first official game played in the stadium. The Steelers first regular season game in the new stadium was postponed due to the attacks of September 11th.
  • Heinz Field hosted the 2011 NHL Winter Classic between the Penguins and the Washington Capitals. The 3-1 Washington victory was the highest rated NHL game since 1996, and the highest rated regular season game since 1975.
  • Kentucky Bluegrass was originally installed in 2001, with the field switching to the synthetic enhanced Desso GrassMaster in 2003.
  • The field is known for its notoriously poor turf with a 2008 NFL player poll rating Heinz Field as the NFL’s worst out of the league’s 18 natural surfaces.
  • The Steelers have sold out every home game since 1972, meaning the Steelers have never played in front of less than a full capacity crowd inside their new stadium. The Panthers...not so much.
  • Pitt has sold out only one game since 2006. That game was Notre Dame’s last visit to Heinz Field in 2009.
  • Attendance has spiked since the 2008 season as the Panthers have gone 27-12 over the past three years. In 2010, the average home game attendance at Heinz Field was 52,165 (80.2% capacity). In 2007, that average was a paltry 33,314 (51.2%).
  • Notre Dame is 2-1 all-time at Heinz Field against Pitt, with the lone loss being the last meeting in 2009 (27-22), a game that ended with a very controversial incomplete pass fumble by Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
  • In its program’s infancy Pitt (then called the Western University of Pennsylvania) played their home games at RecreationPark (originally called UnionPark) in the late 19th Century. This stadium, also home to the city’s MLB team the Pirates, was also the site of the first professional football game in American history.
  • In 1900, Pitt moved along with the Pirates to ExpositionPark, and then again the two teams moved to the famous Forbes Field in 1909.
  • In 1925, Pittsburgh finished construction on their new private home aptly called Pitt Stadium where they would play until 1999. The Steelers would also use this stadium as their home from 1958 until 1969.
  • The last game at Pitt Stadium was a 37-27 defeat of Notre Dame on November 13, 1999.
  • Once the new Three Rivers Stadium was built for the Steelers, Pitt would occasionally play some nationally televised home games in the new NFL stadium. After the demolition of Pitt Stadium in 1999, the Panthers played their home games at Three Rivers for the 2000 season before moving with the Steelers to the new Heinz Field.
  • To begin the series, the Irish played Pitt three out of four years starting in 1909. Notre Dame would go 2-0-1 in these games, all of which were played at Forbes Field.
  • The teams wouldn’t meet again until 1930 at the five-year old Pitt Stadium, where the Irish defeated the Panthers 35-19 in Knute Rockne’s last season as coach of Notre Dame.
  • My research doesn’t indicate how many games Pitt played against Notre Dame at Three Rivers, but the Irish were 21-9-0 on the road against the Panthers during their residency at Pitt Stadium (If all of the games were played there, which I doubt is the case).
  • Elmer Layden was 0-2 against Pitt on the road, being shutout in both games.
  • Frank Leahy turned things around against Pitt, blasting the Panthers for a 4-0 record in western Pennsylvania. Notre Dame outscored Pitt in those games 154-6.
  • Ara Parseghian was 6-0 on the road against Pitt, having the Irish ranked in the top 10 in every single contest.

In 1975, Panther running back Tony Dorsett rushed for a program record 303 yards in a 34-20 upset of #9 Notre Dame inside Pitt Stadium. Dorsett's career day still stands as the most yards ever rushed for by a single player in a game against the Fighting Irish.

In 1982, the two team's played arguably the greatest game inside Pitt Stadium in series history:

Notre Dame vs. #1 Pittsburgh - 1982 (via RocketShark)

  • The then unranked and 5-1-1 Irish upset #1 and undefeated Pitt 31-16, with junior quarterback Dan Marino at the height of his college powers.

Lou Holtz would lose his first road game against Pitt in 1987, but went on to win the next three away from home in the series, ending his Irish career with a 3-1 mark away from Notre Dame against the Panthers.

  • Pitt has been ranked in each of the last three meetings in which they’ve hosted Notre Dame, while the Irish have not been ranked heading into a game on the road against the Panthers since 1992. Both streaks will likely come to an end this year.

What are some of your favorite moments from an Irish road game against Pitt?