Do the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers have a long and storied history? Not really. The rivalry dates back to 1970 and started off with the Steelers winning the first nine games until the Jets finally prevailed in 1988. The last 11 games have been closer with the black and gold holding only a one-game advantage. This week, BTSC takes a look at the more memorable games that took place between the Jets and Steelers.
Here’s a brief tale of the tape:
Points: Steelers 574, Jets 338
Wins: Steelers 20, Jets 6
Home Record: Steelers 10-1, Jets 5-10
Shutouts: 2 - Jets 6, Steelers 0 (12/14/2003), Steelers 13, Jets 0 (12/10/1989)
Biggest Win Margin: 9/28/1981 - 28 (Steelers 38, Jets 10)
Overtime Games: 2 - Steelers 1, Jets 1
Postseason Record: Steelers 2, Jets 0
December 10, 1983 - Steelers 34, Jets 7
This Week 15 contest was a historic game of lasts for the Steelers and Jets. Terry Bradshaw, not quite healed from offseason elbow surgery, was making his final NFL appearance in an attempt to salvage a shot at the playoffs after a three-game freefall derailed the Steelers 9-2 start. The venue for this pairing of AFC teams was Shea Stadium and it was the final game for Gang Green in New York before moving to the Meadowlands of New Jersey in 1984. It was a last also for Franco Harris, who recorded the final 100-yard game of his career. But again, because of Cliff Stoudt’s struggles behind center, this was Bradshaw’s moment and he took full advantage of it, if only for a quarter-and-a-half. The Blonde Bomber threw his first scoring pass to Penn State rookie Greg Garrity in the first quarter, but it came with consequences. Bradshaw destroyed the elbow on the throw, but stayed in to put the black and gold up 14-0 with the ultimate touchdown pass of his storied career by finding Calvin Sweeney from ten-yards out. The legend would then exit the game for good, as Stoudt entered to finish what Terry started. No. 18’s two scoring passes to Bennie Cunningham and Sweeney, combined with two Gary Anderson field goals, completed the scoring and the 34-7 triumph to earn the Steelers the Central Division crown.
December 13, 1986 - Steelers 45, Jets 24
In a departure from the typical in this series, the Steelers entered this Week 15 matchup at 5-9, while the once 10-1 Jets were embroiled in a three-game losing streak and desperately trying to secure a playoff ticket. After playing to a 17-17 tie going in to the fourth quarter, the Steelers exploded, while the Jets disintegrated. Walter Abercrombie, who scored twice in the first half, added a third touchdown and Mark Malone accounted for three scores, one on the ground and two through the air to Abercrombie and John Stallworth. On defense, the Steelers befuddled Ken O’Brien into throwing three interceptions, two to Lupe Sanchez (one for 67-yards and a score) and one to Rick Woods. It was a bright spot in a notoriously dismal season.
October 30, 1988 - Jets 24, Steelers 20
This All Hallows’ Eve-Eve was a horror show for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the razor in the apple, the turd in the Baby Ruth wrapper and a toothbrush in your pumpkin sack. East Rutherford was East Rougher-ford. Actually, this was more like a bad Christmas with the Steelers being the headliner on the naughty list. Yep, all the Steelers got was a 220-pound lump of coal in former-Steeler Robin Cole. The All-Pro linebacker in the Steel City spent 11 seasons from 1977-1987 before getting released in the preseason and hooking on for a final season with the Jets. Cole heated up the Steelers with two sacks, eight tackles and a fumble recovery after Bubby Brister and the Steelers jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Touchdowns by Rodney Carter and Ernest Jackson, combined with two Gary Anderson field goals accounted for the Steelers scoring, as the Steelers outgained the Jets in total yards, 352 to 196. However, Cole and the Jets defense sacked Brister on six separate occasions, forced the Steelers into too many costly penalties and a rookie defensive back, John Booty, blocked a punt and recovered a fumbled punt as the Jets collected a total of four turnovers. It took ten games and 18 years, but the Jets got their first-ever win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on this day.
December 10, 1989 - Steelers 13, Jets 0
There are certain games that prove pivotal to a franchise, a season and sometimes even a career. The Steelers were 6-7 going into an elimination situation against the New York Jets in the Meadowlands in the special/stupefying season that was 1989. The black-and-gold did just enough on offense, scoring on rookie Tim Worley’s 35-yard dash to glory and Gary Anderson’s two field goals. However, Bubby Brister exited after sustaining a concussion after a nasty head slam in the final quarter, The Steelers defense led by Rod Woodson (blocked field goal) and Dwayne Woodruff (interception) dominated and extended the franchise’s AFC-best tally of 38 takeaways by adding three more to the ledger after the Jets made their way into Steelers territory. But the true star of the day was Greg Lloyd, who officially served notice on the entire NFL that afternoon that he was the true master of nasty and a force to be reckoned with. No. 95’s interception, eight tackles, knockout of quarterback Pat Ryan with a concussion, sack of Ken O’Brien and (by his own admission) an inappropriate WWE-style three count of Al Toon, a player that sustained nine concussions in his career, after a violent hit by Thomas Everett that took him out of the game. The shutout helped Chuck Noll’s team even their record to hold on to even their record at 7-7 and contribute to their sneaking into the playoffs.
January 15, 2005 - Steelers 20, Jets 17 (OT - 2004 AFC Divisional Playoff Game)
The magical season of 2004 almost immediately went up in smoke in the playoffs. Despite the 15-1 Steelers taking an early 10-0 lead courtesy of a Troy Polamalu interception that led to a short Bettis touchdown run and a Jeff Reed field goal, uneasiness set in when the Jets took a 17-10 lead in the fourth quarter with a 75-yard punt return by Santana Moss and an 86-yard interception for a score by Reggie Tongue. But the rookie Roethlisberger rallied the favorites and tied the contest on a shovel pass to Hines Ward with exactly 6:00 remaining on the Heinz Field clock. The Jets didn’t waver though and moved into field goal range right before the two-minute warning, only for Doug Brien to miss from 47 yards away. But those celebrating the entry into the AFC Championship threw up in their mouths as Roethlisberger was picked off by David Barrett on the very next play. Barrett returned the ball 25 yards, all the way to the Pittsburgh 37 with 1:58 remaining. But Pittsburgh again escaped the rabid teeth of defeat as Brien missed a 43-yarder as the regulation clock struck zero. In overtime, the Steelers buckled down and forced Chad Pennington and the J-E-T-S... Jets, Jets, Jets to stall at their own-41. After the punt and starting at their own 13, No. 7 drove the Steelers downfield by way of Duce Staley, Verron Haynes and Hines Ward. On 4th and 1, on the Jets 15, Bill Cowher trotted out Jeff Reed for a 33-yard field goal and a gut-wrenching 20-17 triumph in OT.
November 18, 2007 - Jets 19, Steelers 16 (OT)
When a team is 7-2 with a top-five offense faces a 1-8 bottom-feeder taxed with a 30th-ranked defense, the outcome seems like a no-brainer. But the Steelers and Jets defied all convention on this day as the home-team Jets sacked Ben Roethlisberger seven times, forced three turnovers and held Fast Willie Parker to just 52 yards on the ground. The Steelers made a habit of taking the Jets too lightly on this day as they got down 10-0 early and surrendered their late lead as Mike Nugent kicked true 28-yard field goal with :26 seconds left in regulation to tie the game. After giving up a 33-yard punt return to Leon Washington, the Steelers watched in horror as Nugent nailed a 38-yarder in overtime to complete the devastation.
December 19, 2010 - Jets 22, Steelers 17
The Grinch was green and so are the New York Jets, who stole this Week 15 matchup days before Christmas. Despite missing Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller, the Steelers dominating nearly every statistical category. Brad Smith spiked the eggnog, returning the opening kickoff 97 yards to glory, but Ben Roethlisberger countered in Q2 when he connected with tight end Matt Spaeth on a nine-yard touchdown play in the second quarter. Nick Folk and Shaun Suisham then added field goals before intermission. Rashard Mendenhall’s two-yard run and Mark Sanchez’s seven-yard bootleg kept the score tied going into the final quarter of play, but only the Jets added to the scoreboard thanks to another Folk field goal and Jason Taylor stopping Mewelde Moore in the end zone for a safety and two points. Big Ben did have a chance for a comeback victory with 2:08 remaining with a drive that would begin at the Steelers 8 and stall at the New York 10. Both squads left Heinz Field hoping to meet again in the playoffs.
January 23, 2011 - Steelers 24, Jets 19 (2010 AFC Championship Game)
The Steelers, having lost to the Jets exactly five weeks earlier, hosted Rex Ryan and his Jets at Heinz Field with an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl for the third time in six seasons. It was also a chance for Santonio Holmes to get back to the Super Bowl at the expense of his former black-and-gold mates. The Steelers suffered a huge loss early as center Maurkice Pouncey was rolled up by Bryan Thomas and was lost for the game. The situation looked better on the scoreboard as it seemed that a rout could be on as the Steelers started out with a nine-minute drive that culminated in Rashard Mendenhall (121 yards and a TD) bursting in for the score from one yard away, followed by a Shaun Suisham field goal, a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown run and an Ike Taylor blindside sack of Mark Sanchez that jarred the ball loose for William Gay to scoop and score for a seemingly insurmountable 24-3 advantage at Halftime. But the Gang Green from Gotham would phone Holmes for help and get a 45-yard TD reception from No. 10. The defense chipped in when Brodney Poole intercepted Roethlisberger near the goal line to thwart a score, but would squander a 17-play, eight-minute drive when Ladanian Tomlinson ran into a wall of black jerseys at the one to turn the ball over on downs. The Jets would get points though when Ben, with a new center, mishandled the next snap and is tackled in the end zone for the safety. The Jets put Steeler Nation further on the edge of their seats as they took advantage of the free kick and scored on a Sanchez to (future Steeler) Jerricho Cotchery with 3:06 left and the scoreboard reading 24-19. But on 3rd and 6 from the Jet 40 and only 2:00 left on the clock, Roethlisberger rolls out, escapes harm and completes the pass for 14 yards to rookie Antonio Brown to clinch the game and punch a ticket to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas against the Green Bay Packers.