On this day 20 years ago, Pittsburgh said farewell to Three Rivers Stadium
Updated: Jul 16, 2021
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
On this day 20 years ago, Three Rivers Stadium was imploded. On the morning of Feb. 11, 2001, Pittsburghers watched from across the river at Point State Park and Mount Washington as 30 years of memories and history came crashing down.
Three Rivers Stadium opened on July 16, 1970, when the Pirates fell to the Reds 3-2, and the last game at the stadium was on Dec. 16, 2000, with the Steelers beating Washinton 24-3.
The first Steelers game at Three Rivers Stadium occurred on Aug. 26, 1970, which was a preseason game against the Giants that the Steelers won 21-6. The Steelers' first regular-season game at Three Rivers Stadium was a few weeks later on Sept. 20, a 19-7 loss to the Oilers.
The most famous play made at Three Rivers Stadium was the "Immaculate Reception" on Dec. 23, 1972. The Steelers trailed the Raiders 7–6 and were facing fourth-and-10 on their own 40-yard line with 22 seconds remaining in the game and no timeouts. On the play, quarterback Terry Bradshaw faced pressure and threw the ball to the Raiders' 35-yard line, toward halfback John "Frenchy" Fuqua, who collided with Raiders safety Jack Tatum just as the ball arrived. Tatum's hit knocked Fuqua to the ground and sent the ball sailing backward several yards, and halfback Franco Harris, who was initially blocking on the play, scooped up the sailing ball just before it would have hit the ground and ran for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 13-7 lead after Roy Gerela's extra point with five seconds remaining and ultimately the franchise's first playoff win. The Immaculate Reception was voted as the Greatest Moment in NFL History on Feb. 2, 2020.
There's a monument outside of Heinz Field of the exact spot where Harris made the catch at Three Rivers Stadium in the Immaculate Reception game.
Three Rivers Stadium was similar in design to other stadiums built in the 1960s and 1970s, which were designed as multi-purpose facilities to maximize efficiency. Due to the lack of creativity with how the stadiums were designed, they were known as "cookie-cutter" or "concrete doughnut" ballparks.
The Steelers won 13 home playoff games at Three Rivers Stadium and 14 Steelers Hall of Famers played at the stadium, along with two Hall of Fame coaches in Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher. Three Rivers Stadium was home to 14 AFC Central Division champion Steelers teams and the Steelers won 17 Monday Night Football games at the old stadium on the North Shore.
Since Three Rivers Stadium had a multi-purpose design, bands including Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and The Who hosted concerts at the venue. On Aug. 11, 1985, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band hosted the largest concert in Pittsburgh history, when they performed in front of 65,935 fans.