The Steelers have played just one regular season game at FedEx Field in that stadium’s history. It didn’t go all that well.
Pittsburgh dominated that Monday night game. The Redskins had to go to a silent snap count because of the noise made by visiting fans. And the most lasting visuals featured invading fans in black jerseys waving Terrible Towels.
“When I looked at the stands after the game … there was a lot of [bleeping] black,” said Casey Rabach, who guessed the crowd was 40 percent Pittsburgh fans.
“I’m like are those yellow towels for us or for them?” Santana Moss said. “I really scratched my head about it, because I’ve never seen it done, especially at FedEx, to have someone come into our home and almost have more fans than we did.”
“I’m disappointed,” Fred Smoot said. “FedEx has never had that many other teams’ fans. I don’t know, it kind of shocked me when I seen all those terrible towels. I know Pittsburgh ain’t but a couple miles away from here, but we’ve got to keep them out of our place. I’m not disappointed on the fans, but somebody let ’em in there. It wasn’t me and I know it wasn’t Dan, so SOMEBODY let ’em in there.”
“In 39 years of watching the Redskins play football in this area — at RFK Stadium and since 1997 in Landover — I’d never seen the team’s field taken over by visiting fans as it was that night,” wrote The Post’s George Solomon.
Washington also played the Steelers in 2000, 2004 and 2012, but each of those games was in Pittsburgh. The schedule this season brings the Steelers back to Raljon, and on another Monday night home opener, a game likely to draw a massive television audience.
This, at the very least, raises the possibility of more bad visuals. And so the Redskins came up with a plan. They’ll be passing out burgundy towels Monday night — sponsored, of course, by FedEx, CSN and Coca-Cola. The team didn’t provide a number for the giveaway, but a recent note said that “fans are encouraged to arrive early to receive their” towels, asking fans to “wave it with pride.”
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) September 7, 2016
Mix those burgundy towels with the terrible variety, of course, and you’ll have a nice approximation of Washington’s team colors, which should provide more pleasing visuals. At least one fan actually suggested this in the comments section after I wrote about the 2008 fiasco.
“The fact that they have those yellow towels and swing them around make it look like there are more people than there are,” that person wrote. “I hard heard that this was anticipated and that the skins might hand out maroon towels to counter, but I guess that didn’t happen.”
Part of this, to be sure, was about the Steelers fans. They do this takeover thing in many stadiums — especially for primetime games. Pittsburgh is an easy drive from Washington, and many Western Pennsylvania expats live in the D.C. area. Still, that game seemed to symbolize Washington’s iffy home-field advantage in the StubHub era, something reinforced during last year’s home opener when there seemed to be an inordinate number of Dolphins fans at FedEx Field. And every time a large contingent of visiting fans shows up, people refer back to that 2008 Steelers game.
In a 2009 preseason game against the Steelers, the Redskins actually did hand out white towels. That wasn’t quite as powerful. The team also handed out towels at its last home game: white You Like That towels for the playoff meeting with the Packers.
The recent letter to fans — signed by team president Bruce Allen — detailed other changes this season. It called the past eight months “one of the most active off-seasons in recent Redskins history,” and said the team has “invested in a number of improvements that will make your game day experience even better.”
The letter said there will be “improved traffic light synchronization at all local intersections and new paving and line markings at the intersection of Route 202 and Brightseat Rd,” part of a major intersection upgrade in the stadium area. The letter also said the team’s tailgating Red Zone lot will have beer and wine vendors and food trucks this season; that there is a new fan code of conduct known as “Redskins, Respect, and Responsibility,” along with more visible security positions and more guest services staffers; and that post-game news conferences will now be shown live on the FedEx Field video boards.