Pittsburgh Steelers: Top 10 Games Played at Heinz Field

Matthew AaronContributor IIIMay 21, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers: Top 10 Games Played at Heinz Field

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    Three Rivers Stadium was the home to the Pittsburgh Steelers for over three decades. It was the site of the Immaculate Reception and hosted seven AFC Championship games.

    The Steelers were an impressive 182-72 at Three Rivers. Thousands of people had lifelong memories there, but all good things must come to an end.

    Enter Heinz Field.

    Nearly $300 million later, the Pittsburgh Steelers had their exclusive home. The franchise picked up right where they left off with Three Rivers Stadium in terms of winning.

    It feels like Heinz Field opened up yesterday, but the stadium is now a decade old. There have been many incredible moments already, but this list will take note of the best 10 games the Pittsburgh Steelers have played at home since 2001.

    Nobody likes to think about dreadful memories; therefore, this list consists of only Steelers victories.

    Honorable Mention: Steelers defeating the Jets 20-17 in the 2004 playoffs. A nail-biting game that ended in overtime.

10. Steelers vs. Cowboys: Dec. 7, 2008

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    Travis Kirschke running down Tony Romo, forcing him to throw left handedGregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The history between these two storied franchises goes without saying. It dates back to the 1970s when they battled for two Lombardi Trophies against each other.

    A 20-year generation gap was slimmed in the 1995 season when they met again in the Super Bowl. In 2008, the teams met again in another classic, albeit not under Super Bowl lights.

    It was still a magnificent game in Heinz Field. There is nothing more intense than "Renegade" by Styx, blasting through the speakers to spark a fourth-quarter comeback. Trailing 13-3 in the final quarter, the Steelers scored 17 unanswered points to shock Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys.

    The game winning touchdown came from the veteran Deshea Townsend, when he intercepted Romo’s pass and galloped 25 yards to the end zone.

    Any time the Steelers win, it feels good. But it feels even better when they defeat a team like the Cowboys in such an emphatic, comeback manner.

    Steelers 20, Cowboys 13

9. Steelers vs. Bengals: Oct. 7, 2001

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    Kordell Stewart and the Pittsburgh Steelers won their first game ever at Heinz FieldTom Pidgeon/Getty Images

    Due to the tragic and unfortunate events that occurred on 9-11-2001, the first scheduled regular season game at Heinz Field was cancelled.

    Steelers fans had to wait until Week 5 of its new stadium’s inaugural season to fill the bright yellow seats for the first time. AFC North rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, strolled into town with Jon Kitna at quarterback and Corey Dillon handling the running duties.

    They proved to be no match for the dynamic duo of Kordell Stewart and Jerome Bettis, who led the Steelers to an impressive 16-7 victory.

    With the catastrophic events just a few weeks prior, there was an extra togetherness in the stadium that day. It was a great start to the Steelers new home.

    It was also the first time the Terrible Towels were swayed in sequence at Heinz Field in a meaningful game.

    Steelers 16, Bengals 7

8. Steelers vs. Chargers: 2008 Season, Times Two

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    Troy Polamalu returning an interception up field against Philip Rivers and the ChargersGregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Nov. 16, 2008

    Week 11, the Pittsburgh Steelers look to gain sole possession of first place in the AFC North. A nationally televised 4 o’clock start had the towels waving even more intensely than usual.

    Troy Polamalu opened the game with an implausible interception in snowy Pittsburgh. Philip Rivers and the Chargers would respond with a touchdown drive in the first quarter.

    After a five-point second-quarter for the Steelers, behind a James Harrison safety, these two teams would play a close game throughout.

    Late in the fourth quarter, the Steelers trailed 10-8. Ben Roethlisberger would naturally stay calm, cool and collected, leading the Steelers on a six-minute fourth-quarter drive.

    With 11 seconds remaining, Jeff Reed would split the uprights to give the Steelers the first 11-10 final score in NFL history.

    That is, of course, because Troy Polamalu’s return with no time on the clock was overturned. Plenty of gamblers were upset, but it was a party in and out of Heinz Field.

    Steelers 11, Chargers 10

     

    Jan. 9, 2009

    Two months later, Heinz Field hosted the rematch. This time, there was much more on the line, one step closer to the grand daddy of them all.

    Flurries, again, speckled the invigorating winter air. Rivers and the San Diego Chargers had revenge on their mind. They would jump out to a 7-0 lead early in a game that saw considerably more points than expected.

    Santonio Holmes would answer with an electric punt return in the first quarter. The Steelers found their groove from that point on, specifically behind "Fast" Willie Parker, who netted 146 yards on the ground. The home team would not let the foot off the pedal and go on to defeat the Chargers by 11.

    Confident and some say arrogant Philip Rivers finished 0-2 in Heinz Field that season, learning how intense a football crowd can be in Pittsburgh. The Steelers were lights out against the Chargers during the 2008 season.

    Steelers 35, Chargers 24

7. Steelers Defeat Two Undefeated Teams in Back-to-Back Games at Home in 2004

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    Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward celebrating a touchdown against the EaglesHarry How/Getty Images

    Steelers vs Patriots: Oct. 31, 2004

    In Week 8 of the 2004 season, an undefeated team came into Heinz Field to take on an undefeated rookie quarterback. Something had to give. The rookie Ben Roethlisberger would outperform Tom Brady.

    The Steelers would score 21 first-quarter points on their way to routing a team that previously won a NFL record 21 straight games. No tricks or treats for Bill Belichick on this particular Halloween.

    (Yes, the Pats got their revenge at Heinz Field in the 2005 playoffs, but nobody wants to recall that game, therefore it is not on this list.)

    Steelers 34, Patriots 20

     

    Steelers vs. Eagles: Nov. 7, 2004

    After defeating the unstoppable force at home, could the Steelers overwhelm the immovable object? They welcomed in the 7-0 Philadelphia Eagles and a team that outmuscled their opponents up to this point.

    Flawless rookie Roethlisberger and future Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis combined to easily win against their cross-state rival.

    A defensive masterpiece by the Steelers held Donovan McNabb to 109 passing yards and the Eagles to three points total.

    It was a two-week party down the North Shore. Two weeks in which the NFL saw two teams that were previously 13-0 combined go 0-2.

    It was also a two-week period in which the nation officially took notice of the 21-year-old quarterback, Big Ben Roethlisberger.

    Steelers 27, Eagles 3

6. Steelers vs. Jets: Jan. 23, 2011

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    Antonio Brown celebarting after catching the clinching ball for a first down. Pittsburgh is going back to the Super BowlGregory Shamus/Getty Images

    When Bart Scott told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio that he “can’t wait” to get to Pittsburgh after defeating the New England Patriots, it’s certain he did not expect to get a beatdown in the ‘Burgh. Rex Ryan prides himself on coaching a stout defense, but in a blink of an eye, the Steelers were up 24-0.

    Much credit is deserved to the New York Jets, who did not fold in the second half. In fact, they would fight the bitter cold and the aggressive Steelers defense to make it a game late. They would score 19 unanswered points, but it would not be enough.

    Chants of “Pittsburgh is going to the Super Bowl” stimulated the Pittsburgh air yet again and Rex Ryan was silenced inside Heinz Field that evening. Well, at least for a little while.

    Head Coach Mike Tomlin improved to 2-0 at home in AFC Championship games. That record sings a much different tune than his predecessor.

    Steelers 24, Jets 19

5. Steelers vs. Bears: Dec. 11, 2005

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    Jerome Bettis running over Brian Urlacher on his way to finding the endzoneEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    The 2005 season culminated with the Steelers becoming world champions. Week 14 was unquestionably the turning point of the season. Riding an uncharacteristic three-game losing streak, the Steelers welcomed the 9-3 Bears into town.

    The weather was frightful and air travel was at a minimum. Perfect conditions to ride the bus and that is exactly what the Steelers did in the second half. Proving that he still had some tread on his tires, Jerome Bettis would rush for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns at the tender age of 33 years young.

    The lasting image of the game certainly was when Bettis plowed over Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher on his way to paydirt.

    This win would spark a four-game win streak to end the regular season, clinch the sixth seed and proceed to become the first sixth seed to win it all.

    If they had to do all over again, Steeler nation would want just as much wind, mud and snow along with having the faith that Jerome would not need the tow truck just yet.

    Steelers 21, Bears 9

4. Steelers vs. Browns: Jan. 5, 2003

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    Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala scoring the winning touchdown against the BrownsDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

    In terms of NFL playoff history, this is often a forgotten game. A game that featured an incredible comeback that is overshadowed by an even larger comeback on the same day. The 49ers overcame a 24-point deficit on their way to a 39-38 victory in a game that ended in controversial fashion.

    The Steelers and Browns high-scoring affair might be brushed to the side by your average NFL fan, but it certainly will never be forgotten in Pittsburgh.

    Bill Cowher, behind demons of losing at home in the playoffs so often before had his team walking into the locker room at halftime trailing 17-7.

    The NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, Tommy Maddox, was ready to live up to his name. The entire team never gave in, even when the Browns increased their lead to 17 points in the third quarter.

    The Browns could not establish a run game the entire game which prevented them from running the clock out. Tommy Gun took advantage of the drawn-out game, scoring 15 points in the final 10 minutes of the game to take the lead.

    The Browns had their heads in Oakland, thinking they already won. The Steelers had their heads in the game, preventing the Browns from winning their first playoff game since rejoining the league. They have still yet to win a playoff game.

    Tommy Maddox played behind John Elway early in his career. For that one day in Pittsburgh, Tommy Gun gave the Heinz Field faithful a glimpse of what Denver fans watched for 15 years.

    “The Drive” still haunts the city of Cleveland, but they also remember “The Comeback.” The day in which their archrival deflated the Browns franchise. Since that amazing day in Heinz, Cleveland has only averaged 5 wins per season with zero playoff appearances.

    Steelers 36, Browns 33

3. Steelers vs. Ravens: Jan. 15, 2011

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    James Harrison with one of his three sacks on Joe Flacco in the AFC Divisional RoundNick Laham/Getty Images

    After a historic battle two years prior, the Ravens and Steelers met in the playoffs for the sequel. This time in the divisional round. The physicality was guaranteed and did not disappoint. The quirkiness, turnovers and momentum shifts helped this battle play out like a Hollywood movie.

    The first act of this war movie had the Steelers biggest antagonist counter Pittsburgh’s opening touchdown drive with 21 unanswered points. Heinz Field sounded more like PNC Park as the second quarter came to an end.

    In yet another twist, Ravens’ running back Ray Rice coughed up the ball early in the third quarter. It was only his first fumble in over 400 attempts. The Steelers capitalized and cut the deficit in half.

    Later in the third, similar to recent games against Baltimore, Dick LeBeau’s defense forced a Joe Flacco mistake. Ryan Clark, who played an extraordinary game that evening, intercepted Flacco’s overthrow. Minutes later, the game was tied and astonished looks filled the away team’s sideline.

    The game was far from over and the teams entered the fourth quarter, nearing the climax of this epic battle. Tied at 24 with 2:06 left, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers faced a third-and-19.

    Rookie Antonio Brown, who was in Coach Mike Tomlin’s doghouse much of the season, ran down a perfect bomb from his quarterback, barely holding onto it as he scampered out of bounds at the two-yard line. The game was truly playing out like a movie.

    After Rashard Mendenhall finished off the drive with a touchdown run, the Ravens had one last chance. One last chance for the villain to finally end up on top.

    Fourth-and-18 on the Steelers 44, it looked to be impossible. That certainly was not the case as Joe Flacco fired a bullet into the chest of TJ Houshmandzadeh, who ran a perfect 20-yard curl route.

    Houshmandzadeh sat on his route, did not come back to the ball and dropped the potential first down. The game was over.

    Another furious playoff comeback at home and the Steelers biggest adversary would crawl out of Heinz Field disappointed again. Like many Hollywood sequels, the result was not much different than the prior acts.

    Steelers 31, Ravens 24

2. Steelers vs. Packers: Dec. 20, 2009

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    Mike Wallace celebrating with the fans after his game winning catchJared Wickerham/Getty Images

    “I don’t believe it. If I did see it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it.”

    Words of Pittsburgh Steelers color analyst Tunch Ilkin who saw the game end the exact same way it started, with a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass to Mike Wallace.

    The temperature was predictable for Pittsburgh in December, below freezing. The game itself was anything but predictable and the only thing cold about the quarterbacks this day was the ice water in their veins.

    The Steelers scored on the first play of scrimmage when Roethlisberger found Wallace on a 60-yard streak pattern. It took less than five minutes for Aaron Rodgers to answer and tie the game. A common theme in this heavyweight battle as Rodgers also erased deficits of 14-7, 21-14, 27-21 and 30-28.

    The last lead the Packers had occurred after the Steelers gambled their season by trying an onside kick with 3:58 left in the game while holding onto a two point advantage. Ike Taylor, cornerback of the Steelers, recovered the ball, but was a yard and a half short of it being a legal touch.

    Aaron Rodgers found James Jones for a 24-yard connection 1:52 later to give the Packers their second lead of the game. Rodgers would throw three touchdowns in the game.

    In resilient fashion, the Steelers would march the ball 86 yards in a little over two minutes. The Pittsburgh faithful exploded when Roethlisberger found Wallace toe-tapping on the left sideline in the end zone. All zeros on the game clock.

    The black and gold quarterback would become the first Steelers gunslinger to amass 500 yards in the air in one game. None were more important than the final 19.

    Ilkin certainly could not believe it, but Steelers play by play man Bill Hillgrove put this game in a historical perspective. He concluded the broadcast with these words…

    “I’m telling you, this is the best regular season game I’ve ever witnessed in this great venue!”

    Steelers 37, Packers 36

1. Steelers vs. Ravens: Jan. 18, 2009

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    Former Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward smiling his way back to the Super Bowl after defeating the RavensStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    No. 43 clinches the Steelers berth to Super Bowl 43.

    Fourth quarter, Steelers holding onto a slim 16-14 advantage and the Ravens have the ball facing a crucial third down. Flacco in the shotgun, throws to his right and Troy Polamalu reads the rookie’s eyes perfectly, intercepting the pass. He caps it off by finding pay dirt.

    The ovation and detonation of Heinz Field when the leather ball hit Troy’s hands is something that cannot be justified with words. This game, this play and the spine-chilling reaction from the 65,350 strong in Heinz Field is what sports is all about.

    It was a game that featured two bitter rivals that engaged in such a physical clash that the previous generation of players had to be taken back in time watching it. Ben Roethlisberger, obviously a seasoned pro in 2008, played well enough to win.

    Joe Flacco, his first year in the NFL, did not, throwing three interceptions and 141 yards total. The Ravens played with unbelievable grittiness and determination, refusing to go away. It took a potential Hall of Famer to make a Hall of Fame play to finally silence Baltimore.

    Nightmares of 2001 and 2004 home AFC Championship games were finally over. The Pittsburgh Steelers were marching to Super Bowl 43 behind Steeler nation, many of who shook the foundation of Heinz Field that day.

    As Heinz Field enters its second decade of existence, it is almost guaranteed that these two teams will play in a few more historic battles.

    Steelers 23, Ravens 14