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Steelers seem to need a crying towel over stadium

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

It's time to demolish that dump.

Many people will have difficulty accepting that fact. Heinz Field has provided countless thrilling moments over the years. But it's time to begin thinking about replacing the Steelers' ancient, functionally obsolete and undersized home with a modern facility.

Or so the team likely will contend in the near future.

The Steelers' stadium justifiably was praised as functional and unremarkable when it opened in 2001. But that was so long ago the National Security Agency hadn't yet begun clandestinely compiling everyone's phone records — or so we've been told.

Times have changed. People no longer have any reasonable expectation of privacy and the standards for functional and unremarkable are considerably higher. They have risen so much that if it were possible to lug a 65,000-seat stadium in front of a TV camera, Heinz Field could be appraised on PBS' “Antiques Roadshow.”

That fact was hammered home over the weekend, when the Philadelphia Eagles unveiled plans for a privately financed, $125 million upgrade of Lincoln Financial Field — a stadium that debuted two years after Heinz Field. The Steelers have to be as green as the Eagles' uniforms with envy.

The Steelers already were unhappy with their home, as evidenced by their December lawsuit against the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority. The team wants the agency to pay the bulk of a proposed $40 million, 3,000-seat expansion.

(The stadium is inadequately sized because Steelers officials were distracted when they were asked about their preferred capacity during the design phase. They apparently were concentrating on more important details, such as making sure the scoreboard would spew faux ketchup.)

Steelers President Art Rooney II undoubtedly is aware that since the ketchup first flowed, nine new NFL stadiums have opened and another was gutted and rebuilt. At least four other teams will debut new or renovated facilities in the next several years, and facilities younger than Heinz are getting substantial makeovers.

Heinz Field soon will be as suitable to the Rooneys as a studio apartment is to a family of five.

Expect the Steelers to claim that a new stadium — and the new revenue it would generate — is necessary to keep the franchise competitive. Hey, that argument was successful in getting Heinz Field built.

“Do you want us to be like the Green Bay Packers, who play in a stadium that opened the same year Jack Parr became host of “The Tonight Show?” Art Rooney II might say. “Why, the Packers haven't won a Super Bowl since ... uh ... they defeated us in 2011.”

Heinz Field is on its last legs, but don't expect the Steelers to take the lead in paying for its replacement. The franchise, worth a mere $1.1 billion according to Forbes, is so strapped that it's gone to court attempting to force the public to pay most of the tab to expand its home.

Pity the poor Steelers. Too bad Terrible Towels aren't legal tender.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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