Forty-five years ago this week, if you stood about where Heinz Field’s north endzone seats are and looked toward Downtown Pittsburgh, you would have had a striking view.
In the foreground, a crane operator placed the last of 65 “C” frames.
Behind it, you could see U.S. Steel’s headquarters, rising to dominate the city skyline like no building before or since.
A symbolic juxtaposition, and it was thoroughly Pittsburgh.
The parts for those steel frames were manufactured at the vaunted Homestead Works. They were shipped down the river to Neville Island, where the Pittsburgh Des-Moines Steel Company’s assembly shop put the frames together.
They were forty-seven feet high.
They were 43 tons each.
And they were sent on barges — 400 tons at a time — from Neville Island up the Ohio River to the North Side construction site.
(And they came down in a heap in 2001, along with the concrete that ended up in places like Leetsdale and the Braddock Dam.)
Construction often ran behind schedule, and there were few Pirates and Steeler fans who truly loved Three Rivers Stadium’s design during its 30-year existence.
But if you look back at the era and what went into its making, it’s difficult not to pause at the work that made Pittsburgh’s finest steel and concrete donut.