Thrills galore on the Steel Curtain

It's safe to say there was a 'Yinz-plosion' in the Pittsburgh area today when two local icons combined for an epic way to celebrate football and summer fun all at once.

The Steelers and Kennywood Park teamed up for the addition of Steelers Country to the iconic amusement park, and the first segment opened on Friday with current and former Steelers' players taking the first ride on the Steel Curtain roller coaster.

"If you are looking for thrills, a good time, this is the gut punch you need," said Cam Heyward. "I wasn't nervous. You start going up that first hill and see the Monongahela (River)…it's just excitement you have to experience. It's a lot of fun. I can't wait until my son is a little older and I can take him on it. It's a lot of fun."

Heyward took the first official 'Steelers' ride on the coaster along with teammate Matt Feiler, as well as Steelers alumni John Banaszak, Chris Hoke, Mike Wagner and Craig Wolfley.

It was a full-out black and gold celebration, with Terrible Towels waving, the Steeline performing, Steely McBeam helping to get things going and of course, Renegade blaring in the background.

The Steel Curtain boasts a North American record-breaking nine inversions, a world record 197-foot high loop and a maximum height of 220-feet, making it the tallest coaster in Pennsylvania. Designed by S&S Worldwide, it has a total of 4,000 feet of track and reaches a speed a 75 miles per hour.

And the best part about it…it's black and gold and the football cars are adorned with jersey stripes and Steelers logos.

"It's a real thrill," said Nick Paradise, director of public relations and social media for Kennywood Park. "It's something that most of our leadership team and the team in general are all Pittsburghers. To see it come together, it's special. We are working with the Pittsburgh Steelers. We have a roller coaster and area themed to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's been a unique and special experience for all. 

"Our fans are so passionate about the park. There are a lot of similarities in how people approach the Steelers and the sports team and Kennywood Park. There is a real bond."

There was another bond at Kennywood on Friday. That would be the one between anyone riding the Steel Curtain and the safety bars the players could hold on to for the thrilling ride.

"That is not football right there," said Heyward, who said he held on the whole time. "I am feeling my breakfast in my chest right now. I should have rode the Jack Rabbit first and worked my way up.

"That was a lot of fun. I think I shed a tear at the top. My stomach is finally coming back down.

For those who plan on riding the Steel Curtain when it officially opens on July 13, be ready for the ride of a lifetime.

"They can expect an exhilarating, really fun ride," said Paradise. "Something that is going to be intense, but they will want to ride again. When you are talking about nine inversions and going upside down 200 feet in the air, a coaster like this is not going to be for everybody. The goal here is to create not just a thrilling experience, but a quality experience that people won't just ride it once to say they rode it and not ride it anymore. We want it to be smooth, enjoyable and comfortable so they want to ride it repeatedly."