We'll turn our attention back to Latrobe later this morning, but back to mary rose's outstanding countdown of the 12 greatest non-Super Bowl wins in the storied history of the Pittsburgh Steelers. If you're stumbling upon the site for the first time and enjoy the writing, be sure to check out the other posts in the countdown, as well as the new book the author recently published. - Michael Bean -
This series will highlight my Top 12 Greatest Wins in Pittsburgh Steelers' history. I do not include Super Bowls, as they would eat up half the series! Please keep in mind that these wins are not necessarily the most important wins. If that were the case, then only the deepest playoff wins would be recounted. Sometimes "importance" is a factor, but not always. Sometimes the underdog factor comes into play and sometimes the comeback factor is the reason for a game being selected where it is. Sometimes it is just the way the game unfolded. In any case, this is just one person's opinion, so there is no right and wrong, just fun. Enjoy.
Look, it's simple. Beat the Cleveland Browns in a playoff game and you get on my list, any list, not just a football list. Great moments in my life, great days, great joys, great anything. In the case of the 1994 division-round playoffs, there were mitigating circumstances, not that any are needed, which make this win even sweeter. First, the Steelers didn't just win this game, or have to come back like 2002. They in fact pounded the Browns into submission. The game was a complete butt-whoopin, like some lopsided college game between men and boys.
Second, this joke of a football game came at the expense of Bill Belichick, no less. Of course, we didn't know at the time that Belichick would be coronated by some as the best coach of all-time, certainly of his era, en route to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This game will always stand out in my mind as Belichick's first playoff loss, and a bad one at that. I lived in Cleveland at the time. The Cleveland players tried hard to camouflage their feelings about how the Browns were out-schemed in the game. The Browns' defense, the side of the ball with Belichick's expertise, was simply never in the right place at the right time. Pittsburgh ran the ball right down their throats and there was nothing Cleveland could do to stop it. Browns' defenders came off the field and threw their helmets on the ground, frustrated at being manhandled. There was yelling going on between players and coaches on the sidelines. I was delirious with joy at such a sight.
The Cleveland media was not as kind as the players and had no motivation to camouflage anything. The media ripped Belichick a new one. In fact, this game was the beginning of the end for Belichick in Cleveland. The fans and media crucified the man unmercifully, ran him out of town like he was Hannibal Lector. His kids couldn't ride the school bus. Police had to watch his house. All of that, of course, leads me to absolutely love this 1994 playoff game.
To the game itself, played on January 7, 1995, the Browns had the dropsies in the first quarter, two by Derrick Alexander, to give the Three Rivers crowd something to cheer about. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, scored on its first three possessions. The first drive of 65 yards resulted in a Gary Anderson field goal. The second drive of 53 yards ended when Eric Green caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Neil O'Donnell, and the third possession, 74 yards, culminated on a 26-yard TD scamper by John L Williams. The score was 17-0 before Pittsburgh had to punt. Moreover, the Steelers were getting four, seven, five, eight yards a pop. Barry Foster would gain 133 yards on 24 carries. It was embarrassing.
The Browns managed a field goal before Pittsburgh ended the half with a nine-yard TD catch by Yancey Thigpen. The score was set up by corner Tim McKyer, who picked off Vinnie Testaverde and returned it to the six. (A week later the Steelers cornerback would have opposite feelings, but I digress.) The Steelers led at intermission, 24-3, and it wasn't that close. Anderson tacked on a field goal in the third frame to stretch the margin to 24 points. After Cleveland scored a touchdown late in the game, Carnell Lake sacked Vinnie Testaverde in the end zone for a safety. The final was 29-9. The most remarkable statistic of the game, among many, was time of possession. Pittsburgh won that battle 42:17 to 17:33. The Steelers racked up 424 yards to Cleveland's 186. The Browns made it into Pittsburgh territory all of three times. Bill Belichick ended up losing six games all season. Three of them were to Pittsburgh.