The NFL Playoff Bandwagon-Fan Guide to Drinking Away Sorrow
With the Steelers knocked out, there’s still a viable two-step solution: adopt a team and cop a brew.
Double Wide Grill photo by Laura Petrilla
Let me open with the hope that your football hangover isn’t too terrible. Sadly, it seems that despite the best efforts of a motley crew of half-injured, seldom-started Steelers, the grind of the 2011 NFL season did not leave our boys in black and gold with enough steam to make another Super Bowl run. With key pieces of the lineup sidelined to start the tilt with Denver and more falling on nearly every play, to say nothing of a clearly crippled Roethlisberger, most halfway decent NFL teams would likely have been able to best Pittsburgh on Sunday night. Even at that, the Broncos only barely edged out the remnants of this Steelers team.
Oh, and some people think that Denver’s quarterback—you know, whatshisname—had something to do with it.
In any case, while the NFL season has bid farewell to Hines, Troy and the like, it somehow will manage to continue for several more weeks. Believe it or not, they do keep playing these games even after the Steelers are knocked out, and eight teams remain in the postseason. And lest you find some other way to amuse yourself over the next few weekends, I’d suggest finding a bandwagon. Quickly.
It’s a delicate decision around here, though. There are some teams we just don’t support, no matter what. The Patriots come to mind. And the Ravens, obviously. Can’t get behind Green Bay—they’re plenty likable, but we’re all sporting open wounds from last year’s Super Bowl.
And anyone who turns around and supports Denver from here on out will be deported from Steeler Nation.
Still, that leaves four teams that a self-respecting Yinzer can grudgingly rally behind for the rest of the playoffs. And for each, an appropriate bar for your restrained rooting. There’s plenty of football left to play, so enjoy it while you can. Soon, there will be nothing but the cold, desperate embrace of baseball season.
New Orleans Saints – Sharp Edge
Getting on board with Drew Brees and company may be the most palatable option to a Steelers fan. There’s never really been much of a Saints-Steelers rivalry, and who can hate on New Orleans? While I would love to recommend a full-out Cajun place for you to check out the Saints, Pittsburgh has a sad lack of restaurants with the flavors of the Big Easy. (NOLA on the Square is an excellent exception, but it’s not a great place to watch a football game.) So I’ll pick Sharp Edge Bistro on Penn. They know their way around some mussels, the Cajun Bites get the flavor right, and on an unrelated note, they still have Full Pint Festivus on tap.
(922 Penn Ave, Downtown. 412/338-2437, sharpedgebeer.com)
Houston Texans – Double Wide Grill
Feels a bit odd to root for a team from Texas, but we do love an underdog. This is the first playoff berth for the Texans, and they were kind enough to bounce the bungling Bengals out of the first round. Plus, a Texans Super Bowl in a year when the Cowboys didn’t make the playoffs is a perfect nightmare scenario for Jerry Jones. Double Wide Grill was the first good bar I thought of when I racked my brain for a Texas-ish bar, and if nothing else, you can get a meal sizable enough to make the Lone Star State proud. Plus, it sports a great beer list, especially for hop-heads.
(2339 E Carson St, South Side. 412/390-1111, doublewidegrill.com)
New York Giants – Harris Grill
The Giants have held a special place in my heart since they ruined the Patriots’ perfect season, so I have no problem rooting for them. (Eli Manning getting name-dropped in Nicki Minaj’s lethal diss track “Roman’s Revenge” helps, too.) When I think about drinking in New York, I think big ridiculous cocktails; after all, every alcoholic beverage in the five boroughs costs about $19, so you might as well get your money’s worth. Shadyside’s Harris Grill is a fine spot for big ridiculous cocktails; they’re world-class in terms of quality while well below the Big Apple in terms of price.
(5747 Ellsworth Ave, Shadyside. 412/362-5273, harrisgrill.com)
San Francisco 49ers – Hough’s
Finally, we arrive at the long-suffering 49ers. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season, San Francisco hasn’t seen playoff action in nearly a decade after an unmatched string of dominance in the 1980’s. Despite handing the Steelers a tough loss this season, I could get behind them from here on out; there’s the potential for an explosive game against New Orleans this weekend, quite possibly with an even more brutal matchup with Green Bay waiting in the wings. Why Hough’s? Because people are always telling me to give more love to Hough’s. I’m going to post a full review soon, I promise.
(563 Greenfield Ave, Greenfield. 412/586-5944, houghspgh.com)