Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Turf Wars

The disgraceful playing surface at Heinz Field has been an issue ever since the place was built.

And it’s about to get worse.

Although both the Steelers and Pitt Panthers will play in North Jersey this weekend, the WPIAL playoffs at Heinz Field begin at 10:30 a.m. next Friday, Nov. 23 (day after Thanksgiving). On Saturday, Nov. 24, Pitt hosts South Florida at Heinz Field.

Then, on Monday night, Nov. 26, the Steelers stage a homecoming of sorts for Joey Porter and Woodland Hills High School’s Jason Taylor in a slugfest with the Miami Dolphins.

So, Heinz Field will have an action-packed schedule over Thanksgiving weekend, including the WPIAL football championships, with all their marching bands, to be followed by Pitt and Steelers games. The field should in great shape by Monday night.

This is a real concern.

Last February, the Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette reported results of a poll of 1,498 players who rated Heinz Field as the worst playing field in the National Football League.

Last season, it was an issue, too.

As the estimable Christmas Ape notes over at the excellent D.C. Steelers Nation:

“This is all to say nothing of Willie Parker having to miss a practice the last two weeks, including today, because of an inflamed knee. Willie has proved that he can last the rigors of a full season, but any problems with a knee are a huge red flag. Parker rushed fine on Sunday, but I can't imagine having to cut on the divotastic turf of Heinz Field was helping matters much.”

Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls can’t help but wonder how many injuries the Heinz Field turf has caused, or at least aggravated. As Mike Tomlin says, football is “a game of attrition” — just ask Dwight Freeney and the Indianapolis Colts — and now, the Steelers list Andre Frazier and Lamarr Woodley, both of whom are backup linebackers who play on special teams, as doubtful for Sunday’s game with the Jets because of hamstring and groin ailments.

Watching them slip and slide last Sunday in futile pursuit of Cleveland Josh Cribbs makes us wonder if they sustained those injuries because of the playing surface at Heinz Field.

Just sayin'.