Among the hidden indicators that suggest the Steelers 2016 season could be something special: A low-mileage travel schedule that would be the envy of a regional salesman.
Consider that in eight trips away from Heinz Field, the furthest west the Steelers will travel is Indianapolis; south, Miami; north: Buffalo. And they won’t even leave the state for their easternmost trip, to Philadelphia. They do not leave the Eastern Time Zone the entire season.
It's accepted fact that Steeler Nation is omnipresent. But make no mistake, Pittsburghers themselves plan vacations and weekend getaways around seeing their team across America. And with seven away games in easy driving distance and another a short flight away, maybe even a few road trips are possible this season.
Here's a quick-hitter guide of stuff to see and do, along with Steelers bars of note in those respective cities.
Skinny: Opening the season on a Monday night is tricky, but D.C. is close enough that you could drive or fly back early Tuesday morning and still be at work before lunch.
Eat: An international city with a ridiculous food scene, there is something for any taste, but we’ll give the nod to Bar Civita in Woodley Park, a well-reviewed Italian bistro by Pittsburgh-native chef Liam LaCivita.
Drink: There are 538 members of Congress, but 555 beers at ChurchKey — 5 on cask, 50 drafts and 500 bottles.
See: The 15th anniversary of 9/11 is that Sunday; take some time to reflect on it at the Newseum’s permanent exhibit dedicated to the events of that day.
Steelers bar: The Ugly Mug, Capitol Hill.
Skinny: The city of brotherly love is notoriously anything but to visiting fans. Keep your head on a swivel, but mention it’s been 15,000-plus days since the Flyers won the Cup, and six is more than zero when it comes to Super Bowls.
Eat: Skip the Pat's/Geno's cheesesteak carnival rivalry and head to John's Roast Pork in South Philly where the natives go. If you can get a reservation, get Israeli fare from Squirrel Hill native Michael Solomonov's Zahav, regarded as one of the top restaurants in the country.
Drink: Philly has a killer beer scene, and you can try 30 of its best at the 156-year-old McGillin’s Olde Ale House, the oldest bar in the city and a veritable museum of Philadelphia history.
See: American history abounds here, but tour the 186-year-old Eastern State Penitentiary — the first in the world. Al Capone did a stretch here and Steve Buscemi narrates the audio tour. Steelers bar: Fox & Hound, Center City.
Skinny: Hands down the best bet on the 2016 slate for a true “vacation” trip.
Eat: Although it’s among the most dynamic food cities in the country, the pick here are two classics: Versailles for Cuban (not French!) food and Joe’s Stone Crab.
Drink: A cocktail town if ever there was one, hit the Broken Shaker and Sweet Liberty in Mi- ami Beach.
See: Sunshine. Lots of it. The beach. Any beach will do. You’re a Pittsburgher, it’s October and like they say on Game of Thrones, winter is coming.
Skinny: Proving that rivalries don’t respect records, even with seemingly their entire team on IR, the Ravens still got 40 percent of their 5 wins in 2015 vs. the Steelers, a pair of games by a field goal (of course).
Eat: Have a classic Baltimore seafood spread at the Loch Bar, with a patio that overlooks the Inner Harbor.
Drink: Max’s on Broadway has 140 — 140! — beers on tap, and nearby, The Horse You Came In On Saloon is a year older than the United States, its first incarnation opening in 1775.
See: Museums — Babe Ruth Birthplace, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, Edgar Allan Poe House, Geppi’s Entertainment (pop culture).
Steelers bar: Todd Conner’s, Fells Point.
Skinny: Cleveland finally got a championship, so any sympathy for the sorry state of the Browns is gone. Root hard and loud.
Eat: A $3 bratwurst sandwich from Frank’s in the West Side Market or a $52 full Roasted Pig’s Head at the Greenhouse Tavern, Downtown.
Drink: Do the West Side beer crawl at Great Lakes Brewery, McNulty’s Bier Markt, Market City Brewing, Platform Beer Co. and Nanobrew.
See: Hall of Fames — Rock’N’Roll in Downtown Cleveland, Pro Football in Canton on the drive up.
Skinny: Keep in mind that this game is Thanksgiving night. Pack your gravy.
Eat: Though St. Elmo’s is an iconic American steakhouse, do not leave without having the shrimp cocktail with the horsey sauce so hot it will make your head feel like a whistling tea kettle.
Drink: Opened in 1850, the Slippery Noodle is the oldest continually operating bar in the state of Indiana and among the top blues venues in the nation.
See: Two great sports shrines — the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and the “Hoosiers” gym in Knightstown, Ind., on the drive in.
Steelers bar: Nickel Plate Bar & Grill, Fishers.
Skinny: Admittedly, visiting balmy Buffalo in mid-December sounds like the losing end of a bet.
Eat: Make it a wing pilgrimage. The Buffalo wing was invented at the Anchor Bar, although Duff’s might be considered the consensus best in town, with Gabriel’s Gate, Dinosaur BBQ and this author’s favorite, Bar Bill in suburban East Aurora, close behind.
Drink: Eddie Brady’s Tavern is a quintessential Irish pub; Mr. Goodbar for craft beer.
See: In an election year in which political cynicism is at an all-time high, visit the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site where the rough ridin’ trust buster was sworn in.
Skinny: Given the behavior of this team and its fans during the Steelers playoff win there in January, the knee-jerk suggestion is stay home. But if you must …
Eat: Anything other than Cincinnati chili, which is dumb. Another good Rust Belt food city, the gourmet hot dogs at the Senate Bar sound like a blast.
Drink: A great beer town, the Over-the-Rhine district has a number of breweries including Taft’s Ale House, named for the portly 27th president (a Queen City native son) and housed in a gorgeous old church, not unlike our Church Brew Works — the two have engaged in friendly wagers over games in the past.
See: The beautiful John A. Roebling suspension bridge, in your rear-view mirror, hopefully with an AFC North title in tow.
Steelers bar: Martino’s on Vine, Short Vine.
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