This is Us: A Love Letter to Pittsburgh

This is Us: A Love Letter to Pittsburgh

The hit show is written like a perfect love letter to Pittsburgh, and we think that's pretty great. *Spoilers Ahead*

The smash NBC drama This is Us focuses on a family spanning several generations, while paying homage to the city of Pittsburgh. Creator Dan Fogelman grew up in the city until age seven and his love for Pittsburgh shines through the delicate fabric of the show in more ways than one. 

With the show ending in May, we reflect on all of the ways Pittsburgh has remained at the heart of the six-season drama through flashbacks, nostalgia and iconic sports moments.

The Terrible Towel

Who can forget that very first scene when Jack Pearson, played by Milo Ventimiglia, was wearing nothing but a Terrible Towel, a famous Pittsburgh item known to rally the city’s football fans. This was just the first sign of the fictional family’s undying love for the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

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Wow what a huge win for the @steelers! So honored that I got to be a small part of it by leading the Terrible Towel wave. #findaway #herewego

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The Big Three

Also in the pilot episode, viewers learn the nickname of the central set of siblings: the big three. This of course is a nod to the amount of Super Bowls the Pittsburgh Steelers had won at the time of the siblings’ births in 1980.

The Big Three’s Conception

Two of the big three’s members were most definitely Super Bowl babies as it is revealed that they were conceived on the night of the 1979 Super Bowl, a Steelers win. In fact, that evening their parents, Jack and Rebecca, were celebrating at Froggy’s Bar, a popular downtown establishment which closed its doors in 2003. 

Bethel Park 

By the end of the first episode it is clear that the Pearsons lived in Pittsburgh, but later on in the season we learn exactly where they grew up. First mentioned by 10-year old Randall, the family lives in the Bethel Park suburb, just seven miles south of downtown Pittsburgh.

Schenley Park

On a quest to find his birth parents, a young Randall traveled to the nearby Schenley Park in hopes of meeting his birth mother, which unfortunately was not the case. 

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Couldn’t not pull over and run across the hillside to catch the tail end of this beaut. 💓 this town. #pittsburgh #sunset

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Kevin’s Pitt Interview

One of the siblings, Kevin, grew into a star football player and was even entertaining the thought of playing for the University of Pittsburgh, when a recruiter came to his house for dinner in the late 1990s.

The Fire

The devastating house fire that shattered the family’s lives also had some historical significance as it was on the night of the 1998 Super Bowl. Alas, the Pittsburgh Steelers were not a part of this game and perhaps that is where the bad luck of the night began.

Three Rivers Stadium

Looking for some alone time, busy parents Jack and Rebecca went on a date that ended with them in the parking lot of the glorious Three Rivers Stadium, formerly located on the north side of the city. 

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Have you ever been to a Steelers game at Three Rivers Stadium??? #shalieve #businessisboomin #steelers4life #steelernation #steelersnews @ab @steelers @juju @_tjwatt42

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The Night Jack & Rebecca Meet 

In the third season premiere it was finally revealed how the characters of Jack and Rebecca met, which coincidentally was also the night of the Immaculate Reception. This well-known football play occurred on Dec. 23, 1972, when the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Oakland Raiders at the aforementioned Three Rivers Stadium. The ball bounced off one of the players and as it fell Steelers player Franco Harris grabbed it, scoring the winning touchdown. 

Many people believe that this was a turning point for the Steelers who went one to win four Super Bowls in the years that followed. Alas, the morning after the game was not as spectacular for Jack, who immediately hit a roadblock in his new relationship with Rebecca. But as the show’s writers reminded viewers: sometimes the ball has to bounce off the wrong guy a few times before it gets in the hands of the right one, and what is more Pittsburgh than that?

Buccos Baseball

The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't the only sports team in town featured in the show. The season three episode “Songbird Road: Part Two” flashes back to 1992 as a young Kevin waits in line to meet John Smiley, who led the NL in wins and was named an all-star for the Buccos in 1991. Donning an amazing vintage Pirates jacket, Kevin shows a softer side in these scenes when it's revealed he is telling Smiley spots that he might like to visit in the Steel City.

A Familiar Neighbor

The season five episode “Brotherly Love” features multiple flashbacks to the set of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” at WQED-TV’s studios. While Mister Rogers is only seen out of focus in his red sweater, the meticulously-recreated King Friday's Castle sets the stage for highlight of the episode when a young Randall converses with Daniel Tiger about, what else, make-believe.

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The Place for Smiles

Even in the final season, the Pearsons never stray far from their Pittsburgh roots. The beloved Eat'n Park restaurant chain was referenced throughout season six's “Every Version of You,” with Randall and Rebecca taking a nostalgic trip to their past featuring the place for smiles. Their iconic Smiley Cookies also show up later in the episode as Randall slips one (encased in the bakery paper they're still served in today) into Rebecca's backpack.

With only a few episodes remaining, are there any Pittsburgh surprises left in store for the Pearsons? Tune in and see if you can be the first to spy a Primanti Bros. sandwich, cameo from a legendary Pittsburgher or iconic location from the city.