On their first trip to the Houston Astrodome the 1989 Steelers arrived with their .500 record and a hope that opportunistic defense could compensate for back up quarterback Todd Blackledge’s deficiencies.
They left Houston with a renewed understanding of why Oilers fans dubbed their palace “The House of Pain.”
The final score was 27 to 0, but the game really wasn’t even that close.
Ineptitude on Offense Reaches New Lows
The Steelers rushing total was 32 yards on 17 carries. Their leading rusher? Todd Blackladge, who ran 3 times for 13 yards. As for the running backs?
- Merrill Hoge 2-8
- Tim Worley 11-6
- Ray Wallace 1-5
The Oilers did far more than shut down the Steelers running game. Bubby McDowell picked off two Blackledge passes on a day when completed 41% of them for 105 yards.
The resilience that Rod Rust’s defense had shown since week 3? Gone, instead the Steel Curtain was simply, er um, rusty, as Warren Moon completed his first eight passes. By the time Moon threw an incompletion, he’d thrown for two touchdowns and seven more yards than Blackledge would throw for during the entire game.
Alonzo Highsmith, Alan Pinkett, Lorenzo White, and former Pittsburgh Mauler Mike Rozier ran for 132 yards.
Unimpressive? Perhaps, but their 3.2 yards per carry average helped Houston mass a 19 minute advantage in the time of possession category.
Not that it really mattered, as the Steelers did not convert a third down until the after the two minute warning in the fourth quarter. (They actually completed two after the two minute warning, for those taking notes at home.)
Through and through, the 1989 Steelers first visit to the Astrodome was rotten to the bone.
The Steelers now had an identical record (3-4) to their next opponent, Kansas City.
But their second shut out to a division rival under their belt, the possibility of beating Marty Schottenhiemer’s Chiefs seemed remote, but not nearly as remote as the idea that these Steelers would live return to the Astrodome again that year.