Grass won't be greener (or new)

Dan Rooney defends Steelers' disliked turf

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- The Steelers have no plans to change their grass field despite its poor showing in a survey of NFL players, Dan Rooney said yesterday.

"You're looking for beauty rather than practicality," said Rooney, the team chairman. "We have the best field as far as traction that you can have. You didn't see anybody slip, or very few slips during the year."

That wasn't how the players saw it when they rated Heinz Field the worst of the 18 current grass fields in the league.

The Steelers installed a grass surface when they opened Heinz Field in 2001, and have resurfaced it many times. In 2003, they installed DD GrassMaster, which contains grass with some synthetic fibers that helps anchor it. They resurfaced the field again in 2005 with DD GrassMaster.

Rooney said they have no plans to change it.

"Not at this time, nope," Rooney said.

He disputed the survey, which includes a majority of his own players saying Heinz Field has a poor surface.

"Our field is fine. I have no complaints about our field, and we've looked into it."

The Steelers have considered artificial turf, such as the FieldTurf they have on the surface of their UPMC indoor facility.

"We could do that, but we'd lose something," Rooney said. "We would lose the basic thing as far as our players playing on regular grass, having a good, safe field, things like that."

The Steelers and Pitt share Heinz Field, which also is the site for five high school championship games each year. An occasional concert is held there.

"It receives a lot of wear and tear, but it's been OK," Rooney said.

Rooney also said he took no meaning from NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw's comments Thursday congratulating him because he "walked the walk" when he hired a minority head coach, Mike Tomlin.

"Gene's a good friend of mine. I am very proud of the Steelers' handling [of] minorities from the beginning. We had a minority on our very first team, 1933. We had the first coach in Lowell Perry [1957]. We had the first coordinator in Tony Dungy [1984]. I'm extremely proud."


Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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