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The biggest time-eating drives in modern Steelers history

Eat Clock, Move Rock.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

When the Pittsburgh Steelers opened the second half against the Carolina Panthers with a 21-play, 11:43 drive, it wasn’t only the longest drive in the NFL this season, it was the longest Steelers drive of both the Tomlin and Cowher eras (maybe even more. play-by-play results during the Noll era are more difficult to find).

A drive of 13 or more plays that lasts longer than 7 minutes is a rare feat for Steelers teams. Over the last 30 years, it happens an average of 4.5 times a season. Let’s take a look at the biggest and most significant time-sucking drives.

Ben’s Biggest Drive

10/7/07 - VS Seahawks. Start of the 3rd quarter. 17 plays, 10:17, 80 yds, TD.

The Steelers kicked off this drive on the ground, running the ball five of the first six plays. When Seattle finally started stuffing the box, Ben’s favorite target became Cedrick Wilson. #80 caught three first down passes, including a 3rd & 12 and a 3rd & 17. Once the Steelers hit the red zone, Willie nearly took it to the house, but was ruled out at the one. The dump truck, Najeh Davenport, lined up behind the full back on 2nd down and leaped in. The Steelers ended up shutting out Seattle, 21-0.

Cowher’s Biggest Drive

12/1/96- at Ravens. 7:08 left in the 1st quarter. 18 plays, 10:09, 85 yds, FG.

This was a drive for the old-school fans. It featured 11 carries for Bettis, including 5 straight touches in the red zone, and 3 carries from the 3. Plus a run from Kordell and a QB keeper from Mike Tomczak. They ultimately settled for 3 when Bettis couldn’t punch it in. Mike was 4/4 throwing on the drive, by the way. Unfortunately, this is the drive that history has forgotten. It did not make the highlight reel that night on SportsCenter. Instead, they showed Bam Morris and Eric Green celebrating... for the Ravens, in a 31-17 victory over the Steelers.

Biggest Playoff Drives

12/29/96 Wild Card vs Colts. 14:49 left in 3rd. 16 plays, 9:19 91 yds, TD.

It was a rematch of the 1995 AFC Championship game, the Harbaugh Hail Mary. Pittsburgh dominated in the first half, but some Mike Tomczak turnovers kept Indianapolis in the game. The Steelers received the ball in the second half, but dug themselves in a hole with a special teams penalty. Enter Jerome Bettis & Dermonti Dawson. The Bus had eight carries and a score on the drive, including three touches in five red-zone plays. The only red-zone pass was a dump off to, who else, #36. Fun Fact: the 2 point conversion was caught by John Farquhar. The Steelers won the game 42-14.

1/23/11 AFC championship vs Jets. Opening drive in 1st quarter. 15 plays. 9:06. 66 yds, TD

The Steelers used all their toys to open this game; play action, empty sets, bootlegs, even an option pitch from Ben to Mendenhall. Ben converted three third downs, including a 3rd and 12 that he got with his legs. Isaac Redman converted a 2nd and short. The refs called back a diving Heath catch in the red zone that could be considered the prequel to “Jesse Caught It.” Mendenhall willed it in from the 1. The Steelers would never trail as they marched on to Super Bowl XLV.

2/1/09 Super Bowl XLIII vs Cardinals. 10:50 left in 3rd quarter. 16 plays, 8:39, 79 yds, FG

We all remember Ben’s drive to end the game, but this clock-eater kept the defense fresh. Lots of yellow laundry on this drive, including 3 personal fouls against Arizona. This drive stalled out in the red-zone, not once, but twice. A roughing the holder call gave the Steelers an additional 3 shots from the 4, after failing at 3 shots from the 9. Steelers had to settle for a field goal from Jeff Reed and a 20-7 lead.

1/15/05 Wild Card Weekend vs Jets. 12:15 left in Overtime. 14 plays, 8:19, 72 yds, FG

By the time regulation ended in this game, the Jets defense was so tired, even the announcers noticed it. Duce Staley continued to wear them out with repeated runs up the gut. Ben only had eyes for Hines, who had three catches on the drive, including a key 3rd down conversion. This drive took so long, the announcers had time to note that Ben was giving his $18k game check to Tsunami relief. A converted 3rd and 4 draw out of shotgun to Verron Hayes got Cowher pumped up. Everybody got some screen time on this drive, including The Bus and “the sensational blocking fullback” Dan Krieder. “Quadzilla” Jeff Reed came in for the game-winner.

1/22/06 AFC Championship at Broncos. 9:23 left in 2nd. 14 plays, 7:28, 80 yds, TD

This drive nearly started with a fumble when Ben’s signature pump fake led to the ball lying in the dirt. Fortunately, this was so close to the Tuck Rule, the refs called it incomplete. They shouldn’t have given the gunslinger a second chance. Willie Parker was having no luck on the ground. That forced big completions to Cedrick Wilson, then a big 3rd down completion to Hines Ward. A slippery screen to Randle El converted a 3rd and 9, and Ben found Verron Hayes over the middle on the following third down. Bettis came in as a goal line specialist and finished it off for the score. It was part of a 21-point second quarter for the Steelers in a 34-17 blowout.

1/14/96 AFC Championship vs Colts. 7:33 left in 2nd quarter. 17 plays, 7:33, 80 yds, TD.

When the Colts took the a 6-3 lead in the second quarter, cameras caught Bill Cowher talking to offensive coordinator Ron Airheardt, “Hey Ron, let’s get back, run the ball.” 5 of the next 7 calls would be run plays from Erric Peagram or Slash Stewart, who converted three 3rd downs with his legs. John L Williams even got in on the action. Neil O’Donnell threw to 8 different receivers on this drive, and ultimately found Kordell in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown.

Kyle Chrise is the host of the BTSC podcast “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout.” New episodes drop every Thursday. Check out the latest episode in the player below: