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Steelers Opponent Rips Acrisure Stadium Surface: ‘What’s All This Sand?’

Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals criticized the sand-filled grass playing surface of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium.

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Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sept. 26, 2021. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is not a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers playing surface at Acrisure Stadium.

Appearing in an episode of Pardon My Take on Monday, Burrow was asked about the playing surface in Washington, where he suffered a major knee injury in 2020. He said he doesn’t like the filler the team used to maintain the grass late into the season (Burrow was injured on Nov. 22), and said the Steelers do the same thing in Pittsburgh.

“I got hurt on that (Commanders) field,” Burrow said. “That has been the site of a lot of major injuries. … I remember the grass being great.”

“The grass is great, but sometimes they do this thing where they just spray kitty litter down on it,” one of the hosts replied. “They spray paint the kitty litter green.”

That’s when Burrow made the connection to Acrisure Stadium.

“Yeah, they do that in Pittsburgh because sometimes Pitt, the college team in Pittsburgh, plays on Saturday, and we get there on Sunday, like what’s all this sand? I guess it’s kitty litter? I hope not,” Burrow said.

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Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith rushes Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on Nov. 20, 2022. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Steelers playing surface has been controversial over the years, but also one of the least injury-prone fields in the entire NFL.

The surface at then-Heinz Field became notorious when a punt plugged itself into the muddy field during a game against the Miami Dolphins in 2007. That game was played during a downpour, just after new turf had been laid over the field, resulting in a quagmire that not only ensnared a Miami punt, but both offenses in what became a 3-0 Dolphins victory.

Since then, the Steelers have gotten better at figuring out how and when to install new grass surfaces, and the playing surface has been one of the most injury free in the entire league.

A study by sports statisticians Zach Binney and Ron Yurko of CMU found that from 2012-16, the Pittsburgh playing surface had the third-lowest rate of ACL injuries. Ironically, the playing surface in Washington was identified as the safest, with the fewest ACL injuries in the league during the study span.

Turf fields are much more commonly cited in relationship to knee injuries, with the turf surface at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey notorious for causing injuries, even over multiple iterations of the playing surface there.

Steelers tackle Zach Banner was one of three players lost to an ACL injury in the first two weeks of the 2020 season at MetLife. Despite that turf being new in 2020, it was replaced already last offseason.

An NFLPA survey earlier this offseason revealed that 92% of NFL players would prefer to play on a grass field, compared to turf, and that most of the 2% that prefer turf are kickers.

“Turf has stayed relatively consistent at an injury rate over the last decade,” NFLPA president JC Tretter said. “Grass this year has its highest injury rate over the last decade, but it was still lower than the injury rate on turf. So, the worst performing year on grass is still better than turf this year.”

The Steelers have been steadfast in keeping a grass playing field because of the reduced injury rate and overwhelming player preference, even though things like weekends where both Pitt and the Steelers play and the annual WPIAL football championship games certainly take a toll on the quality of the grass.

That doesn’t mean that everyone around the NFL thinks like Burrow, though.

In a 2023 anonymous player survey by The Athletic, Acrisure Stadium was voted the sixth-favorite league venue by players. MetLife Stadium and FedEx Field were rated as the worst, and the latter for more reason than just the playing surface.

“Almost everything about (FedEx) is below the standard of what an NFL stadium should be,” one player said. “The place is just a dump,” said another.

So it appears that while Burrow’s low opinion of Commanders Field (FedEx relinquished its naming rights for this season) is universal, his opinion of Acrisure Stadium goes against the grain.

Maybe it’s just the presence of T.J. Watt that really irks him.

RELATED: Joe Burrow Gives T.J. Watt a Ringing Endorsement