Taylor no fan of Steelers' muck-like conditions at Heinz Field

Updated: January 1, 2008, 8:12 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Fred Taylor isn't worried as much about the Pittsburgh Steelers' home-field advantage as he is their bad field.

Taylor, the Jaguars' star running back, chided the Steelers on Tuesday for their substandard grass field. He also suggested they spend $1 million on artificial turf to improve one of the NFL's worst playing surfaces.

[+] EnlargeHines Ward
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, fileHines Ward and his Steelers teammates don't seem to mind the field conditions at Heinz Field.

The Jaguars play an AFC wild-card game in Pittsburgh on Saturday night, their second visit there in less than a month.

"That field is terrible," Taylor said in a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters. "That's a lawsuit pending. That's ridiculous."

Taylor's comments were unexpected only because he ran for 147 yards and the winning touchdown on that snow-covered, mushy field during Jacksonville's 29-22 victory in Pittsburgh on Dec. 16.

Also, the Jaguars pride themselves on being a Pittsburgh-like team that wins with the run and a strong defense. Pittsburgh running back Willie Parker calls them "the Steelers of the South."

Taylor, a 10,000-yard career rusher, has 381 yards rushing in his last two games in Pittsburgh, although his 234 yards there in 2000 came on Three Rivers Stadium's artificial turf.

Despite frequent complaints from visiting players about the slippery and often grass-bare field since Heinz Field opened in 2001, the Steelers have stayed with grass mostly because their players often plead with owner Dan Rooney to keep it.

The Steelers put down a new layer of sod after four high school games and a Pitt game were played at the stadium in a span of 30 hours Nov. 23-24. However, monsoon-like rains created ankle-deep water and muck for the Steelers' 3-0 win over Miami on Nov. 26.

An NFL operations official stayed in Pittsburgh the following week to monitor the conditions, and the field held up for the Steelers' 24-10 victory over Cincinnati on Dec. 2 despite more rain.

Snow fell and strong winds blew throughout the Jacksonville game two weeks later, yet the Jaguars outgained the Steelers 421-217 and outrushed them 224-115. The Jaguars were the only visiting team to beat the Steelers in Heinz Field this season.

No matter, Taylor wants to see artificial turf the next time he travels to Pittsburgh.

"I prefer grass, but these cold-weather teams, late in the season, they allow high schools to play on their field and they allow colleges to play on their field," said Taylor, ninth in the league with 1,202 yards rushing. "It just goes completely bad. So I think a million-dollar investment won't hurt their pockets."

The weather may not be the factor for this game it was in the Steelers' last three home games. The early forecast calls for an unseasonably mild daytime high of 49, cloudy skies and no precipitation.

Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio doesn't share Taylor's dislike of Heinz Field, perhaps because the Jaguars have won their last two games there. They won 23-17 in 2005, when the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl.

"It's a better field now than it has been," Del Rio said. "Usually at this time of the year, with all the play it gets, it's really worn. All in all, it's a good, solid field."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin seemed pleased to hear of Taylor's comments, if only because they suggest the field might prove a distraction to the Jaguars.

"Sure it is [an advantage], if he feels that way," Tomlin said. "I don't know anybody on our team that hates our field."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press