Top 10 Memorable Plays of the Regular Season: One Man's (Subjective) List

As the Steelers sit back and enjoy the well-deserved bye week off while the Wild Card teams pummel each other, I began to reflect upon this incredible season, which began on such a sour note in Georgia in March but now finds us within striking distance of the Super Bowl.

In my mind I began to assemble a highlight reel of memorable plays from the season and was surprised at how many vivid scenes I could conjure up without the help of video.  If you just sit back and close your eyes for a moment, in all likelihood you, too, will find yourself with a relatively lengthy list of plays that have stuck with you.

Well, I thought that BTSC readers might appreciate a simple post that presents one man's Top 10 Most Memorable Plays of the 2010 season and then add their own two cents worth.  By definition, a list of this nature is entirely subjective.  Some of the plays listed below may be on your lists as well, but I have no doubt that there were other note-worthy ones that I'm leaving out.

One more thing: I thought long and hard about including INFAMOUS plays as well (like the near-decapitation of Heath Miller by Raven Jameel McClain or the already legendary play in which Haloti Ngata broke Big Ben's nose).  There were a number of other disturbing and/or infuriating plays that quickly come to mind, too. Maybe someone else could put up a post on that subject.  But here I would like to concentrate mostly on plays that worked in our favor... although you will see below that there is one play on my list that others might very well include on a "Top 10 Plays of Infamy List." 

So here's my Top 10 List of Memorable Plays of 2010.  I could find a video link for 9 of the 10.  If anyone leaves comments on this post, it would be great if you could provide a link of your own if you mention a different play, since we may not all remember it.

One more warning: I'm copping out.  I looked at my list several times and simply could not rank them  in order of "importance," so I'm just presenting them in order of occurrence.  Yeah, that's me.  I'm really good at making difficult decision....  I also include some "Honorable Mentions" for fun.

N° 1: Game 1 vs. the Falcons

On our first play in OT, Rashard rips off a 50 yard game winning TD run, sewing up our first victory and serving notice to the NFL that we could still win without Big Ben.

Mendenhall OT TD

N° 2: Game 2 vs. the Titans

It's garbage time and the Steelers are up 19-3, but the Titans, with Collins in at QB in replacement of Vince Young, march down the field.  On a 1st and goal from the one, Troy Polamalu makes an incredible leap over the offensive line to sack Collins for a one yard loss.

Troy's Leap

N° 3: Game 3 vs. the Bucs

Charlie Batch heaves it deep to Mike Wallace in the end zone in the 2nd quarter... the ball literally bounces off the hands of the Buc defender and into Wallace's grasp for a 41 yard TD.

Tipped TD Pass

N° 4: Game 3 vs. the  Bucs

Steelers have the game in the bag.  it's 31 to 6 in the 4th quarter.  The Bucs are in the red zone (at the 17) when Josh Freeman drops back and then, scrambling, makes a pass.  James Harrison's hit on the intended received causes the ball to bounce away, and Brett Keisel picks it off at the 21.  Keisel rumbles 79 yards for a pick six, getting good blocks along the way.

Keisel Pick 6

N° 5: Game 5 vs. the Browns

I just couldn't leave this play out... the hit that probably changed the course of the 2010 season.  In the 2nd quarter, on a 1st and 10, Colt McCoy finds Mohamed Massaquoi over the middle on a short route.  James Harrison, who already knocked Joshua Cribbs out of the game, launches into Massaquoi and literally knocks him senseless.  There is no flag on the play. The hit would launch a 1,000 posts and articles in the press and internet as NFL fans debate its merits: legal or a cheap-shot?  NFL VP of Football Operations Ray Anderson decides it was illegal and fines Harrison $75K.  Harrison's original appeal is rejected, but later the fine is reduced to $50K.

The Hit that Rocked the NFL

N° 6: Game 6 vs. the Dolphins

Steelers down 20-22 in the 4th quarter with about two and a half minutes to go.  3rd and goal from the 2 yard line.  Big Ben tries a sneak, breaks the plane of the goal line, but fumbles, triggering a massive scrum.  It appears that the Dolphins have recovered, but upon further review the refs can't determine who ended up with the ball, so they award it to Pittsburgh at the 1.  A Jeff Reed FG follows, the defense holds and the Steelers win.

Who's got the ball?

N° 7: Game 12 vs. the Ravens

Steelers are losing 6-10 with a little over 3 minutes to go in the 4th quarter against their most tenacious rivals.  Troy Polamalu runs in unblocked to strip sack Joe Flacco, and the ensuing fumble is recovered by LaMarr Woodley.  The play inspires Suggs' memorable line: "And I was thinking, man, I hope we got a plan... because it doesn't feel good when I saw that hair at the line of scrimmage."

Watch out for the Hair

N° 8: Game 12 vs. the Ravens

A mere play later, 1st and goal at the Ravens 9, playing with a fractured foot and a broken nose received earlier in the game, Big Ben goes back to pass and is assaulted by Suggs, who made quick work of Jonathan Scott.  In what is probably the most incredible and athletic incompletion in recent memory, Ben somehow manages to battle off the Raven's behemoth and scramble to the left, throwing away the ball and avoid the sack.

Majestic Incompletion

N° 9: Game 13 vs. the Bengals

it's the 2nd quarter against the Bengals and the offensive is, so far, in a funk.  Bengals have the ball.  Carson Palmer goes back and passes... and is intercepted by Troy Polamalu who races down the sideline and makes an acrobatic leap (a la Superman) into the end zone for a TD.

Super Troy

N° 10: Game 13 vs. the Bengals

The only play for which I couldn't find a video.  2nd and 6 from the Bengal 40 in the 2nd quarter.  Big Ben fires a pass that's too high but Antwaan Randle El somehow manages to leap and make a spectacular one-handed catch for a 22 yard gain.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Game 2 vs. the Titans: Mewelde Moore receives the opening kick-off, but hands it off to Antonio Brown on a reverse, who flies up the right sideline for a 89 yard TD return.
  • Game 5 vs. the Browns: Hines Ward fights his way into the EZ after a short pass from Ben, powering through at least 3 Brown defenders.
  • Game 11 vs. the Bills: In overtime Ryan Fitzpatrick finds Steve Johnson in the EZ in overtime; instead of pulling in a game-winning catch, Johnson lets the ball drop. The Steelers soon after force the Bills to punt and then get the FG for the victory.
  • Game 12 vs. the Ravens: The Isaac Redman TD catch in the 4th quarter against the Ravens that sealed our victory, in which he fights his way into the EZ.
  • Game 16 vs. the Browns: Immediately on the heels of Troy's 7th interception, Ben airs it out on our first offensive play of the day and throws a 49 yard bomb to Wallace who catches it in stride at about the 7 yard line and then continues into the EZ for a 56 yard TD reception. The rout was on.

Well, that's my list.  What's yours?

(PS: Coach said in a press conference that I was a one-trick pony with stat-heavy posts; I'm hoping to prove to him that I can put something up there without a single table or percentage... trying to show off my positional flexibility, you see...)

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