Pittsburgh Steelers: Top 25 Most Memorable Games at Heinz Field
Ten years ago, Pittsburgh opened up a new football stadium which would allow them to generate enough revenue to compete in the NFL. The Steelers kept their promise, spending millions on their own players as well as others, and their strategy paid off.
Heinz Field, the Steelers home since 2001, has been a great success for the team.
The Steelers have never had a losing record at Heinz Field, going 58-21 as well as one memorable tie. While it may not have the mystique that Three Rivers Stadium had, the Steelers have also been very successful in the postseason at home with a 7-3 record.
Pittsburgh exercised some playoff demons winning their first AFC Championship game at home since defeating the Indianapolis Colts at Three Rivers in 1996.
In fact, Pittsburgh has hosted four AFC Championship games in the Heinz Field era and has won the past two.
Many fans still have nostalgic feelings about Three Rivers Stadium. The 1970’s era with the “Steel Curtain” defense and Hall of Fame players. The “Blitzburgh” defense of the mid-1990’s. The crowd noise.
Heinz Field may not have the history, yet, but it has had its fair share of great players, outstanding plays, memorable games, and yes, it can get pretty loud too.
Who can forget the beginning at Heinz Field being postponed due to the events of September 11th?
Heinz Field was suppose to be the stadium that Kordell Stewart built. Instead it was the one that saw his Steelers career end.
Myron Cope called his final game here and was honored with the famous Terrible Towel waves.
Ben Roethlisberger began his illustrious career at Heinz Field while no one could stop Jerome Bettis on his farewell tour, not even Brian Urlacher.
Heinz Field may be the only stadium where the field surface is talked about as much as the games. Understandable, a ball did get lodged into the swamp on one particularly rainy evening.
A place that made the song “Renegade” famous and one where their star receiver, Hines Ward, hits just as hard as their famed linebackers, with a smile on his face of course.
Football games have been played here at the pro, college and high school level. So has a professional hockey game in a “classic” match.
Millions of fans have filled the sea of gold seats with black and gold jerseys. Sometimes they have left angry. Other times sad and depressed.
It was the stadium that made you never want to listen Soak Up the Sun again and one where everyone sang in unison, “Here we go Steelers, here we go. Pittsburgh’s going to the Super Bowl!”
But there have been more great memories than bad ones. Memories that have brought joy and happiness to players, coaches and fans. Memories that left you slapping fives and giving hugs to complete strangers.
Heinz Field is a special place that has only begun to provide memories for a generation of Steelers fans and there are many more to come.
In honor of a decade at Heinz Field, here is a list of the top 25 most memorable games played at the stadium.
The 2011 Winter Classic is a non-football event held at Heinz Field that deserves to be mentioned on this list. It matched the Pittsburgh Penguins against rival Washington Capitals.
The fourth Winter Classic was headlined by the Sidney Crosby versus Alexander Ovechkin matchup but had the additional build up with HBO’s 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic.
Originally scheduled for 1:00 p.m., the Winter Classic was moved to an 8:00 p.m. faceoff due to weather. Playing under the lights only added to the spectacle.
Heinz Field was a classic setting for this event, and that is exactly what the Winter Classic was, an event. It felt bigger than a regular season game.
The festive atmosphere was highlighted by the record crowd of 68,111 Penguins and Capitals fans, often times sitting in alternating sections giving Heinz Field a blue and red striped look.
The Penguins would fall 3-1, but fans were treated to an Evgeni Malkin goal and a great night of hockey.
Oct. 29, 2001 vs. Titans 34-7: Monday Night Domination
Pittsburgh embarrassed their AFC Central rivals Tennessee Titans in front of a national audience.
Plaxico Burress had an outstanding game with 151 yards on six catches, and Kordell Stewart had 232 passing yards and a touchdown to Ward.
Though the win was against a struggling Titans team, Tennessee had historically given the Steelers problems, and this was an entertaining win for all in attendance.
Oct. 21, 2002 vs. Colts 28-10 – Steelers Dominate Manning on Monday Night
Any time that you get to watch your team knock Peyton Manning around is memorable, and this game was no exception.
Tommy Maddox helped lead the Steelers to a 21-3 halftime lead and did not look back.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s defense held Manning in check. Despite his 304 passing yards, he only had one touchdown but was sacked twice and threw three interceptions.
It was an impressive win for the national Monday night audience.
Another note about this game was that Terry Bradshaw returned to the field in Pittsburgh for the first time in 20 years and was honored by the Steelers.
Oct. 26, 2003 vs. Rams 33-21 – Lost 1,000th Game in Franchise History
On the surface the Steelers and Rams matchup in 2003 seems like an ordinary out of conference game. It was a cool, rainy October day, and the Steelers were in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
But this game carried on more importance. It was the 1,000th game in Pittsburgh Steelers history. They were the seventh NFL team to reach this many games and the first from the AFC.
Despite the excitement for the historical event, Pittsburgh native Marc Bulger threw for 375 yards and one touchdown en route to a 33-21 win.
While Pittsburgh lost this game, it was a milestone in one of the most storied franchises in the NFL.
Oct. 26, 2008 vs. Giants 21-14 – Harrison Snaps the Game Away
The Steelers-Giants game in 2008 is just one of many memorable games in Heinz Field that season.
Even though the Steelers lost this game it was memorable for one reason, it showed us the importance of long snappers.
Pittsburgh long snapper, Greg Warren, tore his ACL leaving the Steelers without a true long snapper as a backup. James Harrison was the designated backup at the position.
Trailing 14-12 in the fourth quarter, New York forced a punt leaving Harrison to snap the ball. He proceeded to snap it over the punters head out of the end zone resulting in the game-tying safety.
New York would receive the free kick and drive down to score the game-winning touchdown.
Not a happy moment, but a memorable one.
Sept. 10, 2009 vs. Titans 13-10 – Steelers Overtime Opener
The center of the NFL world was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the 2009 NFL opener. The Steelers were coming off of their sixth Super Bowl championship and their former AFC Central division rivals Tenneessee Titans were in town.
Santonio Holmes caught the Steelers only touchdown of the game and Jeff Reed made a 33-yard field goal in overtime to give Pittsburgh a season opening win.
But it was not the win that made this game memorable. Late in the first quarter Kerry Collins put up a bomb to Kenny Britt and Troy Polamalu stepped in front of Britt, leaped and made a spectacular one-handed interception.
What made the play even more impressive is that Britt pushed off on the play. It was one of the most memorable plays of the 2009 season and in Heinz Field’s history.
25. Jan. 5, 2008 vs. Jaguars 31-29 – Tomlin Loses First Playoff Game
The fourth-seeded Steelers who struggled along the defensive line all season without Aaron Smith had trouble stopping David Garrard and Jacksonville’s ground attack.
Jacksonville rushed for 135 yards, and the Jaguars’ defense gave Ben Roethlisberger problems all night, forcing three interceptions, with Rashean Mathis returning one for a touchdown, as well as six sacks.
Trailing 28-10 heading in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh made a comeback. Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes and Heath Miller for touchdowns and Najeh Davenport added another to give Pittsburgh a 29-28 lead.
But on a 4th-and-two, Garrard found a seam and rushed 32 yards inside Pittsburgh’s red zone to set up the eventual game-winning field goal.
Jacksonville became the first team to ever win in Pittsburgh twice in one season.
The fourth quarter comeback provided a lot of excitement for Steelers’ fans, who made Heinz Field as energized as it ever had been. It just was not enough.
24. Sept. 12, 2010 vs. Falcons 15-9: Steelers Open Season With OT Thriller
Pittsburgh was opening the season without star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who was serving a suspension, and many around the league did not have high hopes for the Steelers.
Meanwhile, the Falcons were the up-and-coming team entering Pittsburgh hoping to spoil the Steelers home-opener. They almost did.
The teams exchanged field goals and entered overtime tied at nine.
Finally something broke loose when Rashard Mendenhall rushed 50 yards for the game-winning touchdown capping the Steelers eighth straight win in openers
23. Dec. 28, 2008 vs. Browns 31-0: Finish With Style
Pittsburgh has a habit of destroying the Browns to close the season, and this game was no exception.
They already had the second seed locked up but Mike Tomlin still played his starters. This could have been a big mistake.
Ben Roethlisberger was hit by two Browns and suffered a concussion. It was not known at the time as he had to be immobilized and carted off the field.
That did not slow down Pittsburgh as they won with ease.
Pittsburgh outgained Cleveland 369 to 126 yards and held Brown’s quarterback Bruce Gradkowski to 5-of-16 passing for 18 yards and two interceptions. That equated to a quarterback rating of 1.0.
Why were the Steelers so dominant? Larry Foote had the answer.
“We were so upset we had to practice on Christmas, we had to take it out on the Browns,” said Foote after the game.
Hines Ward also had a couple of milestones on this day, reaching the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the first time since 2004 and hit 800 career receptions.
22. Jan. 1, 2006 vs. Lions 35-21: Farewell “Bus”
A season ending game against the Detroit Lions would normally be nothing of consequence. But this year it was the final game for Jerome Bettis to be introduced to the Heinz Field crowd against his hometown team. It also happened to be the site of Super Bowl XL.
Pittsburgh’s defense wore throwback No. 44 Lions jerseys to honor Dick LeBeau, but the real honor of the day was for Bettis.
It was not a pretty game or one that gave the Steelers momentum entering the playoffs as the sixth seed, but it was a standout game for Bettis.
While he only had 41 yards on 10 carries, Bettis rushed for three touchdowns.
The crowd at Heinz Field gave Bettis multiple standing ovations and an excellent highlight video capped off the day for Bettis with a big “Ride the Bus!”
21. Nov. 7, 2004 vs. Eagles 27-3: Back-to-Back Wins Over Undefeated
It was another big win in Roethisberger’s rookie season as he continued to impress, earning his sixth win.
Roethlisberger threw two touchdowns to Ward who mocked Terrell Owens’ “wing flapping” touchdown dance.
Jerome Bettis also had a huge day with 33 carries for 149 yards. As a team the Steelers out-rushed the Eagles 252 to 23 and out-gained them 420 to 111.
What made this game stand out was that it was such an exceptional performance for a second straight week against a team which entered the game undefeated.
20. Sept. 29, 2002 vs. Browns 16-13 (OT): Kordell Stewart’s Final Start
Pittsburgh was on the verge of their third loss in three games when Bill Cowher replaced Kordell Stewart with Tommy Maddox.
The former XFL MVP came in and helped lead the Steelers to victory and end the Kordell Stewart era in Pittsburgh.
Maddox finished the game 11-of-13 for 122 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
The game itself was not notable but rather the benching of Stewart was.
Maddox would lead the Steelers to the playoffs in 2002, and his and the team’s struggles in 2003 led to Ben Roethlisberger.
If this event did not happen, Pittsburgh may never have ended up with Roethlisberger and likely would be without two more Super Bowl championships.
19. Oct. 25, 2009 vs. Vikings 27-17: Steelers Beat Favre
A Heinz Field record (at the time) 65,597 fans watched Favre throw for 334 yards but no touchdowns and Adrian Peterson got held to only 69 yards.
Pittsburgh did not light things up offensively, however their defense came up with two huge plays.
Brett Keisel forced Favre to fumble and it was picked up by LaMarr Woodley and returned 77 yards for the score.
Pittsburgh’s defense was not done as Keyaron Fox intercepted Favre and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown.
Mike Wallace also flashed his deep speed catching a 40-yard touchdown pass.
Though it wasn’t a Steelers player, Peterson also ran over William Gay in an impressive display of power which will be run on highlight films for a long time.
But on this day, it was a story of the defense getting a capacity crowd to its feet as Pittsburgh defeated one of the games great quarterbacks by forcing him into mistakes.
18. Sept. 29, 2008 vs. Ravens 23-20 (OT): Steelers MNF OT Win
The Steelers and Ravens have played a lot of great games over the years, and Pittsburgh’s Monday Night Football overtime victory in 2008 was no exception.
The early season match was key to gain control of the AFC North.
Pittsburgh struggled in the first half and headed into the locker room with a 13-3 deficit.
Things changed in the third quarter.
Santonio Holmes, who always shows up to play against the Ravens, caught a 38-yard touchdown from Roethlisberger.
Fifteen seconds later, James Harrison sacked Joe Flacco and forced a fumble. LaMarr Woodley picked up the ball and ran seven yards for the go ahead score.
Baltimore would later tie the game to send it to overtime.
In overtime, Roethlisberger completed two passes to Mewelde Moore to set up Jeff Reed for the game-winning 46-yard field goal.
What made the win even more impressive was that the Steelers lost both Rashard Mendenhall and Kendall Simmons to season ending injuries.
It was a typical Steelers-Ravens game and a big early season win.
17. Nov. 16, 2008 vs. Chargers 11-10: Unusual Score
The first of what would be two games against San Diego in the 2008 season was a wild one.
The 11-10 score was the first in 12,837 games, though it never should have happened.
Late in the game Troy Polamalu returned a lateral 12 yards for a score, but upon further review, it was deemed an illegal forward pass, though the fans in Heinz Field and sitting at home would adamantly disagree with that call.
Regardless, the overturned fumble gave this game a historical note.
The low score was actually a surprise since Pittsburgh dominated the game. They outgained San Diego 410-213 behind 308 passing yards from Roethlisberger, 115 yards from Willie Parker and 124 receiving yards from Hines Ward.
Cold, windy and snowy conditions contributed to that.
While touchdowns were at a premium, Steelers’ fans were treated to a safety and a spectacular interception by Troy Polamalu (does he make anything but spectacular interceptions?).
Philip Rivers appeared to have hit Vincent Jackson for a completion but he bobbled the pass. A diving Polamalu stuck out his hand and made a fingertip interception just above the blades of grass.
A unique score and a highlight reel interception made this game special.
16. Oct. 7, 2007 vs. Seahawks 21-0: Super Bowl XL Rematch
After defeating Seattle in Super Bowl XL, the Steelers and Seahawks waited two years for a rematch at Heinz Field.
The constant whining about officiating had more than gotten under the skin of Steelers’ fans who were tired of the excuse making. They wanted to see a great game, and that is exactly what they got.
It was a hot and sunny day and the crowd was fired up, reaching some of the highest volume levels heard at Heinz Field.
Fans had a lot to cheer about as the Steelers left no room for whining after this game.
Pittsburgh dominated Seattle led by Ben Roethlisberger’s 18-for-22 for 206 yards and touchdown performance.
On the day, the Steelers outgained the Seahawks 342 to 144 and had a 24:53 to 5:07 time of possession advantage in the second half.
There was not much talk from Seattle fans after this game.
15. Oct. 7, 2001 vs. Bengals 16-7: Heinz Field Opener
The original Heinz Field opener was scheduled for Sept. 16th but was postponed due to the attacks on September 11th.
Oct. 7th was another significant day as President George W. Bush announced the war on terrorism, all while secretary for Homeland Security, former Governor Tom Ridge, was part of the pre-game ceremonies at Heinz Field.
“It was, like, kind of weird,” Steelers color commentator Tunch Ilkin told the Post-Gazette. “We could see that we started the bombing. We’re having a football game here, and we’re having a war there. We were wondering, ‘Are they going to start the game?’”
They did start the game, and unlike their opening loss at Three Rivers Stadium in 1970, the Steelers came on out on top playing their first home game on natural grass in over 30 years.
On the day, Jerome Bettis was the star, rushing for 153 yards which put him over 10,000 yards for his career, making him the 14th player to achieve this milestone.
14. Nov. 26, 2007 vs. Miami 3-0 – Mud Bowl
Back in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger made his first start for the Steelers in Miami. The reminents of Hurricane Jeanne left a heavy downpour during the game in which, as we all know, Roethlisberger would go on to win.
Flash-forward three years and you would have thought this November matchup was being played in Miami.
Instead, unseasonably warm temperatures and a rare heavy storm resulted in some unique playing conditions.
The Steelers resurfaced Heinz Field following the four WPIAL high school playoff games as well as a Pitt game. Rather than entirely replace the field, they just overlaid a sod surface over their old field.
That combined with heavy rain made for some of the worst playing conditions imaginable. The field was a swamp.
Water had leaked under the tarp covering the field leaving it an absolute mess and resulted in an awful Monday night game for the fans who stuck out the lightning delay to watch these two teams play the NFL’s version of slip-and-slide.
“Those conditions, whew, they were horrendous,” Hines Ward said. “The footing was bad, all of a sudden you'd hit a water puddle and sink down. Some of defensive backs were scared about falling down and giving up a big play.”
No need to worry, they didn’t. In fact, no touchdowns were scored.
Miami, who was winless, nearly took Pittsburgh to overtime, but Roethlisberger connected on a 21-yard pass with Ward and would connect with him two more times to help set up a game-winning 24-yard field goal by Jeff Reed with only 17 seconds remaining.
Though the quality of the game left much to be desired, it made for outstanding slow motion highlights of mud splashing everywhere.
The highlight, though, came on a Miami punt when the nose of the ball stuck into the ground. It quite possibly may have been the most memorable downing of a punt of all time.
13. Jan. 11, 2009 vs. Chargers 35-24 – Steelers Dominate Chargers in Playoffs
The 2008 season had two great Steelers games against the Chargers. The second was better than the first because it was in the playoffs.
The brash Philip Rivers had a big first quarter, throwing for 103 yards and finished the game with 308 yards and three touchdowns while Darren Sproles was all over the field with 274 combined yards and a touchdown, but it was not nearly enough.
Willie Parker ran for 146 yards and two scores and Ben Roethlisberger was efficient throwing for 181 yards and a touchdown.
What seemed to be the norm, Santonio Holmes came up big in a playoff game taking home a 67-yard punt return in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7.
The cold temperatures and snow flurries added to the playoff atmosphere as the Steelers win propelled them to their third AFC Championship game at Heinz Field against the hated Baltimore Ravens.
12. Nov. 10, 2002 vs. Falcons 34-34 – Tie Game
There is nothing worse in sports than a game that finishes in a tie. The game against the Atlanta Falcons was no exception.
“They talk about how a tie is like kissing your sister?” Tommy Maddox said. “Well, I love (Atlanta head coach Dan Reeves) to death, but I still wanted to beat him. Man, I wanted that game.”
Maddox got a chance to compete against the coach who drafted him in Denver and did everything that he could to get the victory.
The 473 passing yards by Maddox set a Steelers franchise record, but that was not enough as Pittsburgh blew a 34-17 fourth quarter lead.
Hines Ward, who caught 11 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown, was stunned at the result.
“I can't believe it. For us to do the things we did—I mean, Tommy almost threw for 500 yards—and to fall short, it's unbelievable,” Ward said.
A huge chunk of that yardage went to Plaxico Burress who caught a franchise-record 253 yards and added two touchdowns. But it was the one touchdown that he did not score that mattered the most.
With only one second to go in overtime Maddox connected on a 50-yard pass with Burress who caught the ball at the Falcons’ one-yard line but was unable to extend the ball into the endzone making for a disappointing, but memorable ending.
Prior to this play, both the Steelers and Falcons had blocked field goals in overtime.
Pittsburgh finished the game with 645 yards of offense and Amos Zereoue had 123 yards on 37 carries, which was the second highest total carries in a game for the Steelers behind Franco Harris’ 41 in 1976.
11. Jan. 15, 2005 vs. Jets 20-17 – Late Game Playoff Winner
Ben Roethlisberger’s playoff debut was not pretty, but in the end, he did what he usually does: win games.
Two crucial interceptions thrown by Roethlisberger put the Jets in position to win as one was returned for a touchdown and another was late in the fourth quarter.
But the Jets kicker Doug Brien would miss two field goals in the final two minutes allowing the Steelers to take advantage.
The first was a 47-yard attempt with only 1:58 to go. The crowd could feel that this was it but to their pleasant surprise it hit the upright.
Following an interception thrown by Roethlisberger, the Jets set up a 43-yard field goal as time expired which was sent well wide of the uprights sending the crowd at Heinz Field into a frenzy.
"I've never seen anything like it,” Larry Foote said. “I’m not going to say it was a miracle, because that's crippled people getting up and walking, the blind seeing. But that's the closest thing to it I've ever seen.”
Jeff Hartings agreed, saying, “God gave us another chance.”
Jeff Reed connected on a 33-yard field goal in overtime which sent the Steelers to another AFC Championship game.
10. Nov. 5, 2007 vs. Ravens 38-7 – Steelers Dominate Ravens on MNF
The Steelers often treat their fans to nail-biters. Are they exciting? Sure, but there is nothing wrong with blowing out an opponent every once in awhile.
Steelers’ fans were treated to that and more on a special Monday Night Football game in 2007 against their AFC North rival, the Baltimore Ravens.
On a night in which the Steelers celebrated their 75th season with all-time great players Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Bill Cowher and others in attendance, Pittsburgh would put on an all-time performance.
“It was a magical night to have those guys come and show their support,” said Hines Ward. “You want to put on a show for those guys.”
Pittsburgh forced three first quarter fumbles and raced out to a 14-point lead and would extend the score to 35-0 at halftime.
Ben Roethlisberger achieved what would be his first of two games with perfect quarterback ratings.
He completed 13 of 16 passes for only 209 yards but five touchdowns, two each to Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington and one to Heath Miller.
Under normal circumstances, Roethlisberger would have been the star of the night. Appropriately, though, that honor went to a defender, James Harrison.
Harrison forced two fumbles, including a body slam of Ed Reed (whom Ward also destroyed with a block), recovered one, had an interception and made two-and-a-half sacks all before halftime. He would later add another sack to his total.
It was an all-time performance from Harrison on a night celebrating the long history of the Steelers.
“I haven't seen anyone play a game like that since high school—not in college or the NFL,” Larry Foote said.
It was the perfect storm of excitement for fans on this Monday night. Honoring the all-time team, a perfect quarterback rating, a dominating defensive performance and the complete annihilation of your bitter rival made this one of the great games in the history of Heinz Field.
9. Jan. 20, 2002 vs. Ravens 27-10 – Divisional Round
The only thing better than to dominate the Baltimore Ravens in the regular season is to dominate them in the playoffs.
That is what happened in the first playoff game hosted in Heinz Field on Jan. 20, 2002, against the defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens.
The two teams split the season series, each losing at home, aiding to the rivalry being at an all-time high up until this point.
There was a war of words between the two squads all season. Following the Steelers 13-10 loss in which Kris Brown missed four field goals Joey Porter said, “They won the game, but they definitely know how good our defense is.”
When the Steelers headed down to Baltimore later in the season, Plaxico Burress stated that the Steelers had “physically beat” the Ravens in the first game.
Then in one of the most famous responses of trash talk, Ravens’ tight end Shannon Sharpe replied, “If Hines Ward would have said that, as physical as he plays the game, OK, I could lend some credence to that. But ‘Plexiglass’? No.”
Earlier in the season Ward had hit former Steelers great, Rod Woodson, and bloodied his nose. Baltimore believed this to be a cheap which led to talk that the Ravens put out a bounty on Ward.
Pittsburgh would win the second game 26-21, propelling them to an AFC Central Championship.
As Baltimore headed to Heinz Field for the Divisional Round match, Baltimore linebacker Jamie Sharper suggested that Jerome Bettis, who missed action in the regular season due to injury, should stay on the sidelines.
“Everybody said they’re the best team…We’ll see. If the Bus is smart, he won’t play.”
Bettis did not play but it was not because of Sharper’s warning but rather a cortisone shot that hit a nerve in his leg.
It would not matter as Bettis’ backup, Amos Zereoue, would rush for two touchdowns and Pittsburgh’s defense held Baltimore’s offense without a touchdown in a dominating effort.
The Steelers held the Ravens to 150 yards and only seven first downs, sacking Elvis Grbac three times.
Grbac would also throw three interceptions, including one to Chad Scott on his first pass of the day.
There was plenty of satisfaction in the Heinz Field stands on this day as a season’s worth of trash talk from the Ravens made this playoff victory even more enjoyable.
8. Oct.31, 2004 vs. Patriots 34-20 – Ended Patriots Unbeaten Streak
The New England Patriots have been a thorn in the side of the Steelers. The AFC Championship game at Heinz Field in 2002 and an embarrassing performance in the 2002 NFL opener left the Steelers wanting some form of revenge.
They would get it in 2004 against a Patriots team riding a 21-game winning streak, including 18 straight regular season wins, an NFL record.
Most rookie quarterbacks would have submitted to the pressure but not Ben Roethlisberger, who outdueled the immortal Tom Brady on this day.
Roethlisberger maintained his perfect rookie record on a day in which he completed 18 of 24 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
Both touchdown passes came in the first quarter giving the then record crowd of 64,737 plenty to cheer about.
Plaxico Burress reeled in a 47-yard touchdown reception to give the Steelers a 7-3 lead and caught his second just minutes later to extend the lead to 11 points.
Just seconds later, Brady was pressured by Larry Foote and Kimo von Oelhoffen and threw an interception to Deshea Townsend who returned it 39 yards for the score.
Pittsburgh would dominate the time of possession 42:58 to 17:02 behind Duce Staley’s 125 yards and another 65 yards and a score by Jerome Bettis.
But it was Roethlisberger’s day as he proved that his rookie season was no fluke. Fans knew that they had something special in him.
And for at least one day the Steelers got by the Patriots, ending their impressive undefeated streak in the process.
7. Dec. 20, 2009 vs. Packers 37-36 – Last Second Win
Mike Wallace made a 60-yard touchdown reception just 42 seconds into the game and did not make his second catch until time expired. It just so happened to be a 19-yard touchdown reception that kept the Steelers playoff hopes alive.
The two defenses decided to stay in the hotel on this day in which the Steelers and Packers combined for 973 offensive yards with all but 125 of those yards coming in the air.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for a Steelers record 503 passing yards, breaking the previous mark of 473 yards set by Tommy Maddox in 2002. It was also the NFL’s first 500-yard passing game since 2006.
The game was reminiscent to the game against the Falcons in which Maddox originally set the record.
Pittsburgh was in control of the game heading into the fourth quarter with a 24-14 lead. It looked like they were well on their way to ending a five-game losing streak.
But the defense had another week of fourth quarter struggles as Green Bay stormed back to take a 28-27 lead. Pittsburgh had already lost five games in which they were in the lead or tied in the fourth quarter.
Following a Jeff Reed field goal to give the Steelers a 30-28 lead, Mike Tomlin made one of the most puzzling decisions of his career: an onside kick with the lead.
The kick failed when Ike Taylor touched the ball prior to it going the required 10 yards. The Heinz Field crowd was in disbelief as the Packers would capitalize having to drive only 39-yards to take a 36-30 lead with only 2:06 remaining.
That was way too much time on the clock for a day such as this.
“The guys were coming back to the huddle worn out, linemen, receivers, everybody,” Roethlisberger said. “We didn't quit. Everybody believed we could do it.”
But things looked grim for the Steelers as they faced an early 4th-and-7 from their own 22-yard line before Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes for a 32-yard gain.
The very next play Max Starks was called for a holding call putting the Steelers in a bind at 1st-and-20. Roethlisberger’s next pass was intercepted but Pittsburgh got a first down due to a Green Bay penalty.
Just four plays later facing a 3rd-and-15 Roethlisberger came up big with a 20-yard completion to Heath Miller.
A 15-yard reception by Miller set the Steelers up at the Packers’ 19-yard line. On third down, on what would be the final play of the game, it was do-or-die for the Steelers.
Roethlisberger took the snap, bought some time and fired a pass towards Wallace in the front corner of the endzone.
Wallace, who was facing tough coverage, kept his feet in and made a tiptoe grab, causing Heinz Field to erupt.
Reed’s extra point would give the Steelers the win in one of the great offensive displays in the history of Pittsburgh football as well as one of the most thrilling victories ever at Heinz Field.
6. Dec. 11, 2005 vs. Bears 21-9 – Bettis Plows Over Urlacher in Snow
Cold, snow, mud. It was a perfect conditions for a matchup between to old school NFL teams as the Chicago Bears riding high on an eight-game winning streak came to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers who were in a must-win situation following a three game losing streak.
Recognized as the game that began the ride to Super Bowl 40 in Jerome Bettis’ hometown of Detroit, Michigan, it was only appropriate that Bettis would star.
“We saw something in the Bears defense that made us think we could run the ball against them,” Roethlisberger said. “We wanted to get back to what the Pittsburgh Steelers are supposed to do.”
And run the ball they did.
Pittsburgh would build a 14-3 halftime lead between a 14-yard touchdown reception by Hines Ward from Roethlisberger and a one-yard touchdown run by Bettis, his only carry of the first half.
But the snow tires went on in the second half as Bettis carried the ball 16 times for 100 yards.
“He's a mudder,” Ward said. “Those were great field conditions for him.”
It was classic Bettis, running with power and nimble feet on a snow covered Heinz Field.
At times the snow created near white out conditions but nothing could have blinded the fans from the five-yard touchdown run that will be replayed forever.
It is a highlight that could sum up Bettis’ career in just one carry.
Lined up against the top defense in the NFL, Bettis got the handoff, ran to the right and went through one defender before plowing over Brian Urlacher and two more defenders before finding his way into the end zone.
The play symbolized Bettis’ career and gave the fans something that they would never forget.
Pittsburgh’s victory would be the momentum that they would need to eventually win their fifth Super Bowl Championship.
5. Jan. 23, 2011 vs. Jets 24-19 – Steelers Hold Off Jets for AFC Championship
Outside of Pittsburgh, most counted the Steelers out for the 2010 season given the controversy surrounding Ben Roethlisberger and the failures of the team’s defense in 2009.
As the season progressed, the Steelers kept winning, but players kept going down. Willie Colon, Max Starks and Aaron Smith all were lost for the season.
Troy Polamalu was slowed with a leg injury, Roethlisberger had a broken nose, Heath Miller a concussion.
Pittsburgh would battle through it all to advance to their fourth AFC Championship game in 10 seasons at Heinz Field.
“We overcame a lot more obstacles this year than we have in the past,” Polamalu said.
Early on the Steelers did not appear to have much of an obstacle from the New York Jets on a freezing cold night.
Pittsburgh raced out to a 24-0 first half lead behind Rashard Mendenhall, who had one of the best games of his career with 95 of his 121 yards in the first half as well as the first score of the game.
The game appeared to be in control as the Steelers were cruising and the defense was dominating with a 19-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by William Gay and LaMarr Woodley had a sack in an NFL record sixth straight playoff game.
A 42-yard field goal by Nick Folk gave the Jets some momentum heading into the half and it was enough to change the course of the game.
New York had closed the gap to 24-10 early the fourth when Pittsburgh’s defense prevented LaDainian Tomlinson from getting into the endzone on a huge fourth down stand.
The Jets would not give up and made the score 24-19. With possession of the ball all the Steelers had to do was run out the clock and that is what they did.
On a crucial 3rd-and-6, rather than run the ball to keep the clock moving, Roethlisberger bought some time in the pocket and found rookie Antonio Brown for a 14-yard game to seal the game.
It was a night that the record 66,662 Heinz Field crowd went from feeling that the game was a breeze to sweating it out before getting to see the Steelers win another AFC Championship at home.
4. Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Cowboys 20-13 – Deshea Returns INT for Win
There have been more important games at Heinz Field. There have been better played games at Heinz Field. But there is not a regular season game that rivals the Steelers comeback win against the Dallas Cowboys.
It was probably the loudest regular season Heinz Field crowd ever as the hated Cowboys were in town.
Trailing 13-3 in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh’s offense was struggling again to put touchdowns on the board.
A Jeff Reed field goal brought the Steelers to within seven points and they finally broke into the end zone when Ben Roethlisberger connected with Heath Miller on a six-yard score with only 2:04 remaining.
The Heinz Field crowd exploded on this freezing cold December evening and was treated to Renegade for a second time on the day, but this time for real.
Dallas seemed content to run out the clock after getting the ball back but the Steelers would have none of that, calling a timeout to preserve the clock, surprising Cowboy’s quarterback Tony Romo.
“He gave us that, ‘Who called the timeout? You called the timeout?’” James Harrison said. “Yeah, we called the timeout.”
The timeout paid off as Tony Romo threw an interception to Deshea Townsend which was promptly 25 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
The comeback win would propel the Steelers down the stretch and at the same time all but end the Cowboys playoff hopes.
This victory was the regular season highlight of a great 2008 home season and the best regular season game in the history of Heinz Field.
3. Jan. 5, 2003 vs. Browns 36-33 – the Comeback
The crowd was in disbelief as the Steelers were trailing the Cleveland Browns of all teams 24-7 early in the third quarter of this Wild Card matchup.
The Steelers’ scoreboard operator then played Renegade and the Steelers began the comeback.
Pittsburgh scored a touchdown and the Browns answered with a field goal leaving the score 27-14 early in the fourth quarter. Then the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, Tommy Maddox, led the Steelers back.
Maddox connected with Jerame Tuman to pull to within six, but Cleveland responded to extend their lead to 33-21 with just over 10 minutes to go.
The Steelers had other plans that went back to Maddox’s halftime speech.
“Tommy brought the whole team together at halftime and told us what we were going to do,” Terance Mathis said. “He said if you don't think we're going to win this game, you need to go back into the locker room.”
It may have taken a little longer than expected, but the Steelers came on.
Maddox hit Hines Ward for a five-yard score with only 3:06 to go to pull the Steelers to within five.
The Browns, who had piled on the yardage against Pittsburgh’s defense, could not run the ball and therefore not run out the clock.
Pittsburgh got the ball back and with under a minute to go, running back coach suggested “42 Base” to offensive coordinator Mike Mularky.
The play called for the Steelers to spread the field with four wide receivers but was actually a draw play to Chris Fuamatu Ma’afala.
Fu, as the fans chanted, would take the ball and plow three yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
An Antwaan Randle El to Jerame Tuman two-point conversion pass would give the Steelers a 36-33 lead.
“The Comeback,” as the game was dubbed, was the greatest in Steelers’ postseason history. It was also the game that made Renegade famous.
The environment in the snowy Heinz Field was ecstatic as the Steelers’ sent their rival Browns’ home in an epic come from behind victory.
2. Jan.15, 2011 vs. Ravens 31-24 – Steelers Comeback Against Ravens
After splitting the season series, with each team winning on the road, the Baltimore Ravens came to Pittsburgh as they did 10 years earlier for a Divisional Round tilt.
Unlike the previous playoff meeting, the Steelers did not have an easy time of it.
Baltimore answered an early Steelers touchdown with two scores in less than 30 seconds with the second coming off of a bizarre sequence in which Ben Roethlisberger fumbled, but every player but Cory Redding thought it was an incomplete pass.
The fumble return for a touchdown gave Baltimore a 14-7 lead was extended to a 21-7 halftime lead following a Joe Flacco touchdown pass to Todd Heap.
In the third quarter, a safety came to a rescue and it wasn’t the usual suspect.
Ryan Clark hit Ray Rice forcing a fumble which was recovered by LaMarr Woodley. Momentum had shifted.
Roethlisberger would convert on a touchdown pass to Heath Miller.
Later in the quarter Clark intercepted a pass that sailed on Flacco. Roethlisberger would drive the Steelers to the end zone when he hit Hines Ward, in vintage fashion over the middle in traffic, for an eight-yard touchdown.
Tied at 24 late in the game, Pittsburgh faced a 3rd-and-19 from their own 38-yard line when Roethlisberger had an idea.
“Let's send him. Let's just chuck it deep. If they pick it, it will be a pick way down there, just as good as a punt...I just throw it as far as I can.”
He did and that ball was caught by rookie Antonio Brown, holding the ball with one hand against his helmet for a 58-yard gain.
The 64,879 in attendance knew that this was it. Rashard Mendenhall would punch the ball into the endzone to send Pittsburgh to another AFC Championship game.
It was only fitting that the game ended up turning into a high scoring affair after the first two meetings of the season were defensive slugfests. But despite the score, Pittsburgh did hold Baltimore to 126 total yards, forced three turnovers and had five sacks, three by James Harrison.
The victory was sweet as fans who had to sit through Ravens’ fans gloating in the first half got the last laugh. Pittsburgh had one of their greatest comeback victories ever against their most hated rival.
1. Jan. 18, 2009 vs. Ravens 23-14 – Finally, an AFC Championship at Home
It was brutally cold for the 2009 AFC Championship game, but the cold did not match the brutality on the field.
The Steelers-Ravens III was a heavy weight fight with uppercuts and haymakers. It was the most physical football brawl that many had ever witnessed.
Pittsburgh had swept the season series and were attempting to reach their seventh Super Bowl. But it was at home, a place that the Steelers had lost four of their past five AFC Championship appearances, including both at Heinz Field.
The Steelers defense held rookie Joe Flacco to 141 yards and three interceptions for a passer rating of 18.2, but it wasn’t enough to distance themselves from the Ravens.
Pittsburgh got out to a 13-0 lead following a 65-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes, who always showed up against Baltimore.
Baltimore hung tough, scoring a touchdown prior to the half to cut the Steelers lead to 13-7.
Hanging onto a 16-14 lead in the fourth quarter, the Ravens had the ball with a chance to take the lead.
Troy Polamalu prevented that as he intercepted a Flacco pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown which sent the Steelers to Super Bowl 43.
It was one of the greatest plays that Steelers fans ever got to witness for no other reason other than it sealed a victory.
The game was in doubt in part because of a forgettable Limas Sweed drop of a pass which should have been reeled in for a touchdown. He would also fake an injury on the play costing the Steelers a timeout.
Even though he did not contribute in the passing game, Sweed did join the physical play throwing a devastating block on a Ravens’ defender.
But the hit of the game came after the Steelers extended their lead to 23-14 when Ryan Clark collided with Willis McGahee. It was a hit that was heard and felt in over the record 65,350 in attendance.
The otherwise deafening crowd fell silent as both players laid motionless on the field.
Once the game restarted the jovial mood returned as the Steelers ran out the clock and fireworks were set off over the Heinz Field scoreboard as Pittsburgh was Super Bowl bound.
Everyone at the game sang in unison the “Here We Go” Super Bowl song anxiously awaiting the presentation of the Lamar Hunt Trophy.
Pittsburgh had finally won the AFC Championship at home again in an all-time classic game which featured tough, physical play that had to leave the players sore for weeks.
Playing in a conference title game against your bitter rival is as meaningful as a game can get, and this one did not disappoint making it the most memorable game in Heinz Field history.
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