Checking in from Candlestick Park

SAN FRANCISCO -- Among the sights, sounds and smells encountered upon arriving at Candlestick Park for the San Francisco 49ers' Monday night matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

  • Early tailgaters on the scene. Most fans had not yet arrived, but two women had set up an elaborate tailgating scene outside the stadium near the will-call windows. Others were setting up elsewhere around the stadium. Traffic was not yet bad, but that is now changing.

  • Wand time. NFL security protocols implemented this season require ticket takers to check visitors with electronic security wands.

  • Police dogs. Two were leading their masters through the press box a few minutes ago.

  • "SportsCenter" set. The three-man desk is set up at about the 22-yard line on the 49ers' sideline. Those seats are empty, but technicians are around. Someone in a suit just walked by and snapped a photo on his phone.

  • That pregame aroma. The smell of popcorn permeates the dining area serving coaches, radio teams and the press box in general.

  • Cheerleaders warming up. Football players routinely wear short sleeves in frigid climes. Cheerleaders, not so much. The 49ers' contingent wore no jackets for warm-ups. It's December, but this is California. Skies are clear and temperatures are in the 50s. Check back in the second half, though. This place tends to feel colder than the mercury reads, especially when the wind picks up off the nearby water.

  • No players yet. Buses were parked outside team hotels when I was leaving for the stadium. Home teams stay in hotels the night before games. In this case, the 49ers' and Steelers' hotels were across the street from one another. Lots of fans wearing jerseys representing both teams were seen milling around the area over the past few days.

I'm hoping to make a run out to the parking lot for a while before kickoff. We're also planning an in-game chat for those interested in joining the conversation. Should be a memorable night.