clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The BTSC Delorean: Looking back at the complete catalog of Steelers Wild Card games, Part 1

BTSC takes a look at every Wild Card games in their history.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have only played 13 Wild Card Games in their history, but they all elicit memories in Steelers fans. In those contests, the Steelers have won only six of those games. While only one of those wins led to a Super Bowl victory, none of the teams the Men of Steel lost to went on to win a Super Bowl. BTSC begins a look back at the entire catalog of Wild Card Games in Part 1 of a two-part series.

Here’s a brief tale of the tape:

Points: Steelers 379, Opponents 353

Wins: Steelers 6, Opponents 7

Home Record: Steelers 3, Opponents 4

Road Record: Steelers 3, Opponents 3

Shutouts: 0

Biggest Win Margin: 28 - Steelers 42, Colts 14 (December 29, 1996)

Biggest Loss Margin: 21 - Chiefs 42, Steelers 21 (January 16, 2022)

Closest Game: 2 - Jaguars 31, Steelers 29 (January 5, 2008), Steelers 18, Bengals 16 (January 9, 2016)

Overtime Games: 3 - Opponents 2, Steelers 1

January 9, 1983 - San Diego Chargers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 28 (Round 1 of the 1982 NFL Super Bowl Tournament)

*Note: Although this was not a true Wild Card Game, the NFL considers the first round of the Super Bowl Tournament caused by the 1982 strike is considered in the WC category.

The NFL season in 1982 was completely disrupted by a 57-day player strike that reduced the season to nine games and increased the playoff field to one including 57% of the 28 teams representing the shield. The 6-3 Steelers were seeded as the No. 4 team and were set to take on a nemesis of their glory years, Dan Fouts and the No. 5 San Diego Chargers in the first round of the 16-team Super Bowl Elimination Tournament. Gone were Joe Greene, Dwight White and Rocky Bleier, but 70s stalwarts like Mike Webster, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, John Stallworth and Terry Bradshaw remained to restore the glory of just few years prior. Bradshaw came in with 17 touchdown passes to be perched atop the conference for a share of the lead and was looking to continue the team’s 10-year streak of seven-straight, home playoff wins. But the Steelers still-tough Steel Curtain defense was surely about to be tested with the vaunted “Air Coryell” offense of Don Coryell invading Three Rivers Stadium, featuring Fouts and the NFL’s No. 1 and No. 2 receivers in Wes Chandler and Kellen Winslow, that led an offensive average of 458 yards per game, pretty potent for back then.

It looked great from the outset as Gary Anderson boomed the opening kickoff inside the 5. James Brooks mishandled the pigskin, and the Steelers Guy Ruff fell on it in the end zone to put the Steelers up 7-0 just like that, a mere :12 seconds into the game. Disaster almost happened again on the ensuing kickoff as, according to NFL Films, “it appeared that Brooks was trying to handle a greased pig”. This time, though, the second-year man from Auburn recovered the ball at the 1. Mostly through Fouts throws to Chandler, San Diego got inside the 10 on a 12-play drive and cut the lead to 7-3 courtesy of a 25-yard field goal by future Wheel of Fortune host Rolf Benirschke. Bradshaw had weapons too though. Jim Smith took a pass and rumbled 40 yards, while Franco Harris (106 total yards) took the possession down to the one-inch line on a play that appeared to be a touchdown. When Craig Wolfley led his QB in for a 1-yard rush, the Steelers led 14-3 midway through the first. But the visitors, courtesy of James Brooks 18-yard redemption touchdown run over Donnie Shell, put the “Bolts” close again. It seemed like Air Coryell was taking over on the next drive as Fouts was humming, but Kellen Winslow had a ball knocked free from his grasp by Donnie Shell at the Steelers 7. Mel Blount’s recovery Steelers had a chance to increase their lead riding the hot TB12 (13/15 in the first half), but Bradshaw was picked in the end zone by Bruce Laird. To follow, Wes Chandler hit an even 100 yards on the next drive as tight end Eric Sievers capped it off with a 10-yard touchdown reception on a pass from Fouts in the final two minutes to take a 17-14 lead into the Three Rivers Stadium locker room.

In the third quarter, the Steelers immediately retook the lead as Bradshaw remained on fire !2/12 in the third period) by finding a wide-open Bennie Cunningham for a 2-yard scoring collaboration. Terry remained hot in the fourth and extended the Steelers advantage to 11 with a John Stallworth 14-yard TD reception. No. 82 caught three passes for 58 yards on this series alone.

Unfortunately for the Steelers, that was all she wrote for scoring in the game. Virtual unknown CB Jeff Allen picked off Bradshaw later in the final quarter. It looked like the Steelers were off the hook a few plays later as Mel Blount intercepted Fouts in the end zone, but the game turned on a defensive hold by the great Jack Ham. A few plays later, Kellen Winslow caught an 8-yard pass from Fouts in the end zone, and the home team’s lead was a mere 4. On the next series, the Steelers took to the ground and Franco Harris, It seemed to be working too, but Bennie Cunningham’s third down catch was called a trap to the shock of the big tight end, the Steelers and everybody watching in stadium and on television. When barefoot punter John Goodson shanked a punt that traveled only 20 yards, the Chargers had a good field position with 4;06 remaining in the game. And they would take advantage when Fouts faked to Chuck Muncie and tossed a tight end screen to Kellen Winslow for a 12-yard go-ahead with exactly 1:00 left on the clock. With only one timeout and the spike rule not in place yet, the Steelers only got to midfield and couldn’t get in range for Anderson to attempt a field goal for a tie.

Bradshaw (28/39 for 325 yards) had a fine game for his last ever start in Three Rivers Stadium, but the two interceptions were backbreakers. But the biggest problem for the Steelers was surrendering 126 yards on the ground to Muncie, 124 receiving yards to Chandler, 102 in the air to Winslow, and 68 to Charlie Joiner. They couldn’t stop Fouts (27/42 for 333 yards, 3 TDs/0 INTs) and that led to the Steelers being ousted. This was a game that even more marked the end of the 70s dynasty, in a season that could have seen the Steelers legitimately compete for another Super Bowl title.

December 31, 1989 - Pittsburgh Steelers 19, Houston Oilers 16 OT (1989 AFC Wild Card Game)

As the 1980s came to a close, a cast of black-and-gold Cinderellas inexplicably found glass cleats and made their way to Houston to confront their evil stepsisters and get to the ball or, in this case, the Bowl. The 1989 Wild Card game between a very strong Houston Oiler team and an unlikely participant, the Pittsburgh Steelers, would be the final football game of the 1980s. That Steelers had started off the season losing their first two games by a combined score of 92-10 and had to get improbable losses by three teams and beat Tampa to get into the postseason. Yet, the impossible happened. But beating a Houston team that was a constant tormentor of Head Coach Chuck Noll seemed even more unlikely. The Oilers were led by controversial Head Coach Jerry Glanville, complete with his “Red Gun” offense and a stifling defense that led the league in penalties. Glanville and Noll despised each other, and it trickled down to their respective teams. The ever-quotable Steeler QB Bubby Brister quipped, “It’s gonna be a war.” While Alonzo Highsmith declared, “Modern-Day Barbarism is a required attitude for the playoffs.” Fitting because they were playing in the Houston Astrodome, nicknamed “The House of Pain”.

Quarterbacking for Space City was future HOFer Warren Moon. At his disposal was a foursome of dangerous receivers like Drew Hill, Ernest Givens, Curtis Duncan and Haywood Jeffries. Also, on that potent office were RBs Highsmith, Lorenzo White, Allen Pinkett and Mike Rozier. All were capable of dominating a defense.

The game started off with the Oilers receiving the opening kick. They started out with a potent mix of run and pass. It was looking early like Moon and his men would thoroughly dominate. But the ten-play drive stalled, and Glanville shockingly sent out Tony Zendejas (25/37) for the 56-yarder. It failed miserably. It set the Steelers up with good field position, but that ended in a punt.

The Oilers were forced to punt on the next drive, but (the Steelers current ILB coach) rookie Jerry Olsavsky burst through and blocked the Jeff Montgomery offering. The Steelers set up shop at the Houston 32. With a fourth and inches and 2:53 remaining in the first, Pittsburgh gambled, and it paid off when rookie Tim Worley rumbled nine yards for a 7-0 Steeler lead.

In the second quarter, Moon led his team on a drive of 18 plays and nearly nine minutes. But it stalled at the nine and ended with a field goal. The first play of the ensuing drive, Worley caught a pass in the flat and promptly fumbled (recovered by Bubba McDowell) after being stripped by Steve Brown. It was Worley’s sixth lost fumble of the year, but it only netted a chip shot from Zendejas. 7-6. Towards the end of the half, RB Merril Hoge tore off a 49-yard run. But the drive stalled at the eight, capped off by a Gary Anderson field goal. The Steelers led at the half 10-6.

There was very little scoring in the third, but there was still plenty of action. That action included McDowell blocking a Harry Newsome punt that only earned them a field goal, a FG from 38-out from Anderson and a Dwight Stone strip on a punt muff that yielded a 48-yarder from Anderson to start the fourth. It was 16-9 in favor of the underdogs with a quarter to go.

In the fourth, Houston went to the Moon (29/48, 315 yards and 2TDs) and back. 5’9” WR Givens had a superstar game by nabbing 11 balls for 136 yards and those two scores. Just like that, the seven-point faves were up 23-16.

Brister, who was only 15/33 for the day passing, relied on a mix of passes and runs on the ensuing drive. Most of the rushing yards were gained by Hoge (126 total yards on the day), who with :46 seconds remaining...plunged in from two yards out and the tie. Glanville, who called both the offensive and defensive plays, wasted a majority of the clock with runs. He went to passes with :14 left. On regulation’s final play, Moon was stripped by Greg Lloyd. Lloyd raced towards the end zone and was forced out at the one. It didn’t matter, because the Steelers had 12 men on the field. The game went to overtime.

The Steelers went three-and-out to start the extra session. Harry Newsome’s punt traveled a mere 26 yards. Zendejas started warming up and it looked like Houston would prevail. However, Lorenzo White got rocked by Rod Woodson, who recovered the fumble he forced. Three plays later, a stunned-silent Houston crowd watched Gary Anderson nail a 50-yarder for the thrilling victory. The game got Glanville canned and the clock struck midnight a week later on Cinderella in Denver, but this game remains a favorite of Steeler Nation for so many reasons. As it proved that Steel hearts never quit fighting.

January 8, 1994 - Kansas City Chiefs 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 24 - OT (1993 AFC Wild Card Game)

After stopping the home team on their initial drive of the game, it looked like the warming Chiefs would do the same to the Steelers on their initial drive. Returning from a play on the sideline due to an injury, Merrill Hoge converted on a 3rd and 17 to take a Neil O’Donnell screen all the way to the 27 after a gain of his jersey number for 33 yards. On the 9th play of their opening drive, O’Donnell would find Adrian Cooper all alone in the left flat for a touchdown of 10 yards. KC got the ball with a chance to counter, but initially their Joe was ordinary. QB Joe Montana would miss on his first seven passes in the game and there was even more concern when Donald Evans nailed the Hall of Famer right after his first completion. With Montana clutching his ribs, veteran Dave Krieg would enter the ballgame and the Chiefs would advance the chains on runs by Marcus Allen, Kimble Anders and a 15-yard penalty on D.J. Johnson for kicking future Steeler Johnathan Hayes in the head away from the play and the ABC cameras. It was a huge loss for the Steelers as the fine corner was ejected. Kreig took advantage with his only pass being a 23-yard beauty to a sprawling J.J. Birden past Rod Woodson for the score to tie the contest at 7-7.

To begin the second quarter, the Steelers added a 30-yard field goal by Gary Anderson to retake the lead, but the quarter was ruled mostly by defense. After a Gerald Williams sack of a returning Montana gave the Steelers an opportunity late in the half, Bill Cowher went for it on 4th and 3 at the Chiefs 36, but an Ernie Mills drop surrendered the ball back to the red and gold on downs. Williams second sack was more of a gift when Joe Cool lost his footing on a fourth down drop back to turn the ball over. This time, Neil made KC pay for it with a 26-yard TD pass to Ernie Mills with :18 seconds remaining in the half. At 17-7, the upset looked possible.

In the second half, scoring didn’t occur until late in the quarter when a Greg Lloyd sack forced a Nick Lowery field goal from 23 for the only score in the third quarter. When O’Donnell overthrew a wide-open Ernie Mills and a sure back-breaking touchdown fell to the ground, Montana led the red team on an 80-yard drive, capped off by a Marcus Allen 2-yard touchdown run. But the Steelers countered quickly with a drive that culminated in another Neil TD throw, this time to Eric Green, who after his athletic 22-yard reception, celebrated by mocking an angered Arrowhead crowd with a Tomahawk Chop, a staple of the Chiefs faithful for a 24-17 lead.

It looked like the Steelers had a chance to ice the game when Gerald Williams’ third sack of the game forced a punt deep in KC territory, but the offense couldn’t do anything better than lose a yard and suffer a blocked punt after establishing great field position at their own 48. Keith Cash blew through blocks and knocked Mark Royals’ attempt into the waiting arms of Fred Jones. Gary Jones came out of nowhere to stop the Chiefs special teamer at the Pittsburgh 10 with 2:20 remaining. Schottenheimer’s team could only move the ball 3 yards and a near fourth sack by Williams forced a do-or-die 4th and goal play. It was “do”, as Tim Barnett was all alone in the back of the end zone and hauled-in a 7-yard pass that was vintage Joe Montana. Ironically, Barnett was a big story that week for a loophole that for some reason kept him out of prison from a parole violation. The Steelers did have 1:43 left on the clock but a three-and-out gave the ball back to the Chiefs with 1:14 left in the contest. Montana made a furious attempt to get into Lowery’s range and got all the way down to the 25, but they shouldn’t have as the ball one-hopped and everybody in the world, but the officials saw it. When the (then) most-accurate kicker of all time went wide right on his 43-yard attempt, Al Michaels called it justice, and bashed the removal of instant replay. But any way you slice it, said-it spelled overtime.

In the OT, the Chiefs won the toss, but they squandered the opportunity with a three-and-out. The Steelers did nothing with their chance as the offense remained anemic. With a second chance in OT, Joe Montana did his best Joe Montana imitation and led the Chiefs downfield and in position for another Nick Lowery field goal attempt. This time it was good, and the Chiefs moved on, sending the Steelers home in the process. As bitter as the defeat was, the Steelers sewed a lot of seeds on this day and spent the next two seasons hosting AFC Championship Games and in a Super Bowl.

December 29, 1996 - Pittsburgh Steelers 42, Indianapolis Colts 14 (1996 AFC Wild Card Game)

On paper, it appeared to be a rematch of the two teams that engaged in an epic battle less than a year earlier in the AFC Championship Game. But the 1996 season for the Steelers saw key components such as Neil O’Donnell, Kevin Greene, Bam Morris, Ernie Mills, Greg Lloyd either departed as free agents, imprisoned, or injured. That’s just to name a few. But This was the fourth postseason meeting between the Colts and Steelers. Pittsburgh had won all three prior meetings.

The Steelers scored right away when Norm Johnson’s 29-yard field goal went through the Three Rivers Stadium uprights on a drive including a 30-yard reception by receiver Charles Johnson on a pass by Mike Tomczak. When the Colts’ next drive ended in a punt, Steelers returner Jahine Arnold advanced said-punt 36 yards to the Colts’ 31. It was Johnson again advancing the ball to the 8 on a 20-yard pass play. Ultimately, though, it was the man they called Slash, Kordell Stewart capping off the efforts with a 1-yard run to run the scoreboard up to read 10–0 lead with 4:55 left in the first quarter. Right after the first quarter expired, another trip to Indy territory ended in points courtesy of Norm Johnson’s 50-yard field goal.

With 4:35 left in the half, Tomczak (13 of 21 for 176 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs) erred by throwing a short pass behind Ernie Mills and into the waiting arms of Eugene Daniel for a return of 59 yards and a touchdown. No. 18 didn’t have the poison shaken out of his slinger as he threw INT No. 2 to safety Ray McElroy on the Colts 40-yard line. On the next play, Jim Harbaugh completed a 48-yard pass to rookie Marvin Harrison at the Steelers 12. On 3rd and 7, Captain Comeback completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to receiver Aaron Bailey to give the visitors a 14–13 lead with :31 seconds left before intermission. The scoring collaboration between Harbs and Bailey came way too late for Colts fans who were still bothered by the Fail Mary in the AFC Title Game.

Everything changed at halftime, as the second half was all Steelers. a 16-play, 91-yard possession drained 9:30 off the clock as Jerome Bettis’ 42 yards on eight carries was highlighted by a 1-yard touchdown run that gave the home team heroes in hypocycloids a 21-14 lead after Kordell completed a 2-point conversion pass to lightly used tight end John Farquhar. Levon Kirkland intercepted Harbaugh on the next drive, but they Steelers couldn’t convert the turnover into points and had to punt. However, when Marshall Faulk fumbled a pitch on the ensuing series, Carnell Lake recovered on the Indy 18-yard line and Bettis scored another 1-yard touchdown run to give the Steelers 14-point advantage seconds into Quarter No. 4.

Despite a Jon Witman miscue by putting the ball on the turf to be absconded by the Colts defense, the Steelers ran away with the game in the final 15 minutes. With Stewart now installed as the Steelers’ QB for the remainder of the contest, the Steelers kept their fortunes going mostly on the ground. With a 31-yard touchdown run by the rookie Witman and a Stewart 3-yard touchdown run with 3:10 left in the game, Steeler Nation rejoiced the final score of 42–14. The win was highlighted by Bettis rushing for 102 yards and two touchdowns and Johnson’s five receptions counted for 109 yards. But Blitzburgh corralled Harbaugh allowing a mere 12 of 32 passes for 134 yards and 1 TD/1 INT. The brash Colts signal caller was also sacked four times, three by Chad Brown who had 13 in the regular season. The party would end a week later in the Foxboro fog, but this game justified that Bill Cowher’s Men of Steel could rebuild on the fly.

January 5, 2003 - Pittsburgh Steelers 36, Cleveland Browns 33 (2002 AFC Wild Card Game)

After shutting down veteran Kelly Holcomb, starting in his fifth game as a pro, the Steelers took over on offense in their first drive with a 50-yard run by Amos Zeroue. But on the very next play, Tommy Maddox was intercepted by Daylon McCutcheon on the Browns 22. Holcomb struck quickly by hitting a streaking Kevin Johnson for 21. The rookie William Green took the ball in from the one for a 7-0 lead just 1:16 into the game. 16 seconds into the second quarter, future Steeler Chris Gardocki punted, and Louis Sanders blind-sided Antwaan Randle-El, forcing him to cough it up at the Steelers 32. On the very next play, Dennis Northcutt beat Hank Poteat for the touchdown. 14-0 Cleveland. Poteat was playing for starter Chad Scott, who was out with an injured hand. After a punt, Randle El, who Cowher reportedly informed that he “owed him one” after the turnover, paid his debt quickly by going down the right sideline for a 66-yard TD, the first ever scoring punt return in the playoffs in Pittsburgh history. 14-7 Browns. Towards the end of the first half the Browns drove down the field to the Steeler one. But Holcomb get sacked by Joey Porter for a 15-yard loss. After a 31-yarder by Phil Dawson to widen the Cleveland lead, Jeff Reed lined up for a 46-yarder to tighten up the game, but he missed to end the half. 17-7 Brownies.

To start the third, the Steelers’ Tom Rouen punted to Northcutt, who returned the ball 59 yards to the Steelers 15. Three plays later, Northcutt’s second touchdown of the day made the score 24-7. But safety Mike Logan owed Cowher one too. After getting nailed for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Holcomb to extend a drive, Logan intercepted the setting up Maddox to hit a balletic Plaxico Burress for the six-yard score. After a Browns drive down to the Steeler seven stalled, the Browns settled for 24-yard Dawson field goal to extend the lead. In a nervous moment for Pittsburgh, Randle El caught his third pass of the drive and fumbled on the two-yard line and it looked like the Browns had recovered. However, the call was reversed on the field when No. 82 was ruled down by contact. Moments later with 12:28 left in the fourth, Maddox had another ball tipped at the line of scrimmage by Dwayne Rudd, but he had enough on it to find Jerame Tuman in the back of the Endzone for the touchdown. With 10:17 to play, the Browns extended their lead when the red-hot Holcomb threw another touchdown pass, this time to André Davis from 22 out. The Browns went for two, but Holcomb’s pass to Quincy Morgan was well-defended by Deshea Townsend. 33-21 Cleveland. However, the Steelers get the ball back at their own 23 and frantically moved down the white-speckled Heinz Field turf. A couple of minutes later, Maddox threw incomplete on third down, but Robert Griffith hit Hines Ward helmet-to-helmet and was penalized. It was the third first-down due to penalties on the drive. 33-28 Cleveland. Then Maddox threw into traffic on the goal line on third and goal from the five, but Hines Ward came up with the clutch grab for the touchdown. After a quick three-and-out the Steelers got the ball back 46 ticks later, just inside their own 40 after a punt< where Tommy Gun (30-48 for 367 yards and 3 TDs) drove the Steelers down the field and with 54 seconds remaining, Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala took the ball in from the three for a 34-33 lead. The 2PC attempt was interesting as Hines Ward lined up at QB, but Randle El took the direct snap, rolled right and found Tuman for a 36-33 lead. The Steelers played over 59 minutes of football before finally taking your first lead of the game. Holcomb (26/43 for 429 yards and 3 scores) only got his offense down to the Steeler 30 as time expired, denying Dawson a chance at a tie. The Steelers won one of the most exciting games in their history and the remaining fans, that didn’t prematurely exit, rejoiced.

January 8, 2006 - Steelers 31, Bengals 17 (2005 AFC Wild Card Playoff Game)

It took 38 seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals to meet for the first-ever postseason matchup between the two division rivals and it was absolutely worth the wait. The division-winning Bengals, with their high-powered offense and staunch defense, were favorites against the sixth-seeded visitors.

On the Bengals second offensive play of the game, Pro Bowl QB Carson Palmer completed a 66-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Henry and it looked like it was going to be a very long night for Bill Cowher’s team. But the bigger story was the devastating knee injury sustained by Palmer after getting hit unintentionally by former Bengal Kimo von Oelhoffen. Henry was also injured on the play, but it didn’t immediately change the fortunes of the home team “Who Deyers”. Jon Kitna came in and Shayne Graham’s 23-yard field goal put Cincy up 3-0. Ben Roethlisberger and his Steelers were unable to counter and Kitna followed the punt by completing three consecutive passes for 40 yards while rushing for 11. When Rudi Johnson scampered 20 yards to glory, the Paul Brown Stadium patrons rejoiced as their team led 10–0. This time, though, the Steelers could counter. Ike Taylor returned the ensuing kickoff 36 yards to the 40 and Ben’s 19-yard touchdown toss to Willie Parker narrowed the deficit to three points. But just like Ike, Tab Perry returned the kickoff following the score 32 yards to the 43-yard line, allowing Kitna to engineer a 14-play drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Steeler nemesis and Terrible Towel desecrator T. J. Houshmandzadeh to make the scoreboard read 17–7. But Roethlisberger kept up with a 54-yard completion to Cedrick Wilson, setting the stage for a 5-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward, and hope with only a 17–14 deficit at halftime.

Cincinnati stormed out of intermission on a mission but ended up stalling on the Steelers 15. It did allow them an opportunity for Graham to attempt a 34-yard field goal, but Brad St. Louis’ snap sailed over the holder’s head and the Steelers took over on the 34. Aided by safety Kevin Kaesviharn’s 40-yard pass interference penalty on the Bengals 5-yard line, the Steelers scored on a 5-yard Jerome Bettis rumble to take their first lead of the game at 21-17. The backbreaker came a drive later when Antwaan Randle El took a direct snap, ran to his right, and threw the ball back to Roethlisberger. Big Ben then found Cedrick Wilson for a 43-yard touchdown reception that made the score 28–17. Or maybe, the true straw that fell the camel came on the next drive when James Farrior intercepted a pass from Kitna to set up a Jeff Reed. Later in the fourth quarter, the Bengals last gasp found them in Steelers territory, but Troy Polamalu ended the drive with an interception and the Steelers pulled off an upset in the Queen City by scoring 24 unanswered points in a game that started the true course to a victory weeks later in Super Bowl XL.

January 5, 2008 - Jaguars 31, Steelers 29 (2007 AFC Wild Card Game)

Mike Tomlin’s first-ever game in the postseason came after his rookie season as the Steelers Head Coach and it started off well with Najeh Davenport’s rush for a one-yard touchdown on the first possession of the game. The ensuing kickoff turned into a Maurice Jones-Drew 95-yard return to the one that Fred Taylor capped-off on the next play. But the tide turned with Ben Roethlisberger throwing three interceptions in the first half. Notorious Steeler tormenter Rashean Mathis took the first one 63-yards to the house, while the next one, another theft by Mathis, precipitated a Jones-Drew catch-and-run on a pass from David Garrard from 46 out. The third interception came after a Josh Scobee miss and with the Steelers driving, rookie backup lineman Derek Landri came up with the ball. In the second half, the Steelers get back on the scoreboard courtesy of a James Farrior INT that presents an opportunity for a Jeff Reed field goal. But the visitors from Duval scored again as MJD scored again, this time with a 10-yard run.

It would get interesting as the Heinz Field Heroes staged a furious comeback to take a 29-28 lead with 6:28 left. The scores came when Ben Roethlisberger’s 4th and 12-completion to Santonio Holmes for a 37-yard trip to the end zone, followed by a Heath Miller touchdown reception from 14 out and a Najeh Davenport burst from the one came after an Ike Taylor pickoff of Garrard. But a pair of two-point conversion failures would haunt the Mike Tomlin’s team, as they couldn’t cling to the one-point lead. The backbreaker came when Garrard, facing a 4th and 2 at the Steelers 43 with 1:56 left, broke free up the middle for a gain of 32. The Steelers defenders were arguing for a hold, but despite replay evidence, it was to no avail. “I don’t want to get fined, but watch the long quarterback sneak,” Larry Foote told reporters. “Watch the middle of the defensive line and you’ll see. You’ll see it. Watch what happens in the middle of the field. You see a big old hole open up and you’ll see the reason why.” All of this sets up Josh Scobee’s 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds left. A last gasp attempt for the black and gold fell to the ground as a strip sack of Roethlisberger sent the Steelers to a premature offseason to think about what might have been.