Thanks to Maryrose. His reference to Mark Stock on another fanpost provided the impetus for this piece.
In inverse order....a
#13: Plaxico Burress...at Jax '00
Plax catches a ball in the field of play, is on the ground, isn't touched, rises to his feet and spikes the ball. Jax recovers. Steelers win. A legacy is borne.
#12: Willie Parker...'08 AFCCG
Willie's all alone on the sideline in the first quarter, Ben floats it to him perfectly, gonna be 6...clang...off the face mask!! FWP can't catch. Steelers get 3. Oh...and if you're thinking about it, don't even suggest that Santonio can't catch as he supposedly "dropped" the pass that would have put the Steelers inside the one. Despite what the rules say, we know what our eyes see...Santonio caught the ball, came free as he's stretching for the TD.
#11: Limas Sweed....'08 AFCCG
While we're on the subject, Limas is all alone on the sideline in the second quarter, Ben floats it to him perfectly, gonna be 6...clang...off the hands!! 'Cept Limas makes it worse by rolling on the ground, making like he's hurt. Shoulda been 23-7 at the half, now it's only 13-7, resulting in a halftime of bitchin' & moanin' from my perch in Section 533, Row EE.
#10: Dunno who it was...Opening game '71
Challenge anyone else to remember this one. Steelers are dominating the Bears in ChiTown, leading 15-3, about 4 minutes left in the game. Bears rang up a grand total of 141 offensive yards, 8 first downs on the day. Steelers turned the ball over 7 times on 4 Bradshaw picks and 3 fumbles. Steelers punt, Bears take over around their own 30, but Bears are flagged for a pre-kick penalty, giving the Steelers a first down. Honest to God, I turn to my brother Tony and say, "Maybe the Steelers should decline this thing, just give 'em the ball. No way the Bears drive the length of the field, do it again in the last few minutes." Of course, Steelers accept the penalty. Of course, the Steelers proceed to fumble (TB? maybe Frenchy? coulda been....Preston? yeah; sounds like him.....Bankston? dunno). Of course, the Bears (Brupacher) returns the fumble 30 yards for a score. Steelers get the ball back, can't move. Bears offense comes to life. Kent effin' Nix passes for a TD to George (?) Farmer. Steelers lose, 17-15. I storm outta the house!!
#8: Dave Smith...Kansas City '71
While we're in the '71 Neighborhood, we'll hang around a bit. Monday nighter, TB passes to Smith, out of IUP, who's all alone sprinting for the end zone. Smitty is holding the ball aloft, when it pops free around the 5, bounds through the end zone for a touchback. Steelers lose, 38-16. All's forgiven, Pirates had won the World Series the day before in Baltimore. Pittsburgh's still in party mode.
#8: Yancey Thigpen...Green Bay '95
Season finale, Steelers locked into the #2 seed, had battled back from a two-score deficit, trailed 24-19, and were inside the Green Bay 10, 4th down, not more than 20 seconds remaining. O'D finds Yancey all alone, no one within yards, in the back of the end zone. Yancey, who would drop ONE pass during the entire '97 campaign, stone-cold drops this one. Packers win, and in so doing, make the playoffs. It was a meaningless game for the Steelers, but was it really? In addition to ending their 8-game winning streak, I've always wondered what might have been had the Pack not made the playoffs, thus ensuring a different opponent in the NFCCG for the Cowboys. Would the Steelers have faced the 9ers in the SB instead? Would they have won? Not much in this world, and particularly in the NFL, that truely doesn't matter.
#7: Jeff Graham...'93 Wild Card Playoff
Steelers lead 24-17, face a 3rd & 10 around midfield, with a touch over 2 minutes remaining. A first down here, and the Steelers, decided underdogs, are off to the Divisional Playoffs. O'D was having a fine playoff game, hits Graham...was a DB's arm in there, but we'll call it a drop. Next play, KC blocks the Royals punt, ties the game on a 4th down pass from Montana to Tim Burneett (sp?) who shoulda been in jail for the weekend on a domestic, Chefs win in OT, 27-24.
#6: Plaxico Burress #2...'04 AFCCG
Not ranked higher only 'cause the catch was contested, Plaxico's failure to make this grab on 3rd down from the 2, at the onset of the 4th quarter, Steelers down, 31-17, was only exceeded in angst by the dullardly decision of Bill Cowher to send in his FG team. Depriving his club of a chance to reduce the halftime margin of 21 points to a mere 7, Cowher also succeeded in sucking the lift out of the stadium. I'm still thawing from that game, having frozen into my seat next to the Allegheny, Section 505, Row CC.
#5: Plaxico Burress #3...'02 Divisional Playoff
Consistent with the theme of this piece, we'll stick around the Plaxico neighborhood. Steelers are tied with the Titans, midway through the 4th quarter, around the Titans 23, 3rd down. Maddox hits a wide open Plax over the middle. Would have set up the Steelers, probably around the 10, and had them poised to run off more clock and take a 7-point lead. Plax drops it, Skippy hits the FG, Tennesee ties it late, wins it in OT on the Nedney acting job (comeuppance....Nedney suffered a legit knee injury the following week).
#4: Joey Porter...'01 AFCCG
Steelers trail the Pats in 4Q by 7, Bledsoe, in for Brady, throws a swing pass. Peezy defending the play, has the ball in his hands with an unimpeded path to the end zone and a tie game. Ball bounced up, off of #55's face mask, and falls harmlessly to earth. Pats win, 24-17. I'm sentenced to the fate of flying back to New Hampshire with a planeload of Patriots nitwits.
#3: Jerome Bettis...'05 Divsional Playoff
This play is perhaps unrivaled in Steeler history of its shock value. It's the only one I know of which caused a legit heart attack among one of the black & gold faithful (By the way, my brother Ralph, had a heart attack pre-game, wouldn't do to the hospital 'til the Steelers had one. He's still around to talk about it). The Fumble....the Tackle...intricately woven into Steelers lore. Unfortunately, this is the play by which JB is remembered for this game, and embellishes his rep of being a playoff choker. The Bus though picked up 46 hard fought yards on 17 carries, but they were big yards. In 3Q, he carried 5 straight times from the 19 yard line, finding the end zone on the final carry. In 4Q, after Indy had scored its first TD, Bettis was instruemental in the Steelers keeping possession for the next 8 minutes, carrying 3 straight times, starting with 2nd & 10, picking up the Steelers 2nd consecutive 4th & 1 on the drive. All was good in the end, Steelers won, 21-18, and both heart attack victims lived to tell about it.
#2: Mark Stock...'89 Divsional Playoff
Steelers trailed heavy fave Denver, 24-23, with about 2 minutes remaining. The Bubster hits the VMI rookie around the Steeler 40, uncontested, he drops it. What might have been:
*Steelers trailed by a single point
*Steelers had Gary Anderson
*Venue was the thin Denver air
*AFCCG opponent would've been the Browns
This was a biggie...cost the Steelers a legit Super Bowl berth
#1: Andre Hastings...Super Bowl XXX
For my money, this was the worst ever, Steelers gain possession around their own 32, around 4 minutes left, trailing 20-17, all the momentum in the world, Steelers crowd in Sun Devils Stadium.
First down, O'D hits Hasting at around the 40; #88 drops it. I'll forever remember Hasting gazing at the Jumbotron on his way back to the huddle, seemingly checking the replay of his error. This was nothing compared to the gaffe that followed on the next play. Dallas blitzes, Hastings runs inside, O'D throws outside....picked....again. I say to myself, "Oh no, not again," (WHY did I not flip out??). Cowboys win, 27-17.
Was Hastings distracted? I think so. Had he made the catch, would the Steelers be undefeated in 7 Super Bowls? I think so. Had Steeler won, does O'D stick around, negating the Kordell Stewart era? I think so.
What might have been.