This was the one everyone had waited for. When Chuck Noll dedicated the Steelers to securing a playoff spot when they were 4-6, there was no question which of Pittsburgh’s remaining six games was the biggest.
It was their December 3rd match up with the Houston Oilers.
Chuck Noll and Jerry Glanville
If it is safe to say that in 1989 rivalry between the Steelers and Browns ran deeper and still held the most intensity, it is also safe to say that the passion on the surface for the rivalry with the Oilers was hotter.
Jerry Glanville, with his showboat tactics and overt encouragement of dirty play was the antithesis of Chuck Noll. Noll and Bud Carson might have had their differences, and you can sure bet that Carson enjoyed the post-game hand sake after defeating his former mentor 51-0 in the season opener. But Noll and Carson certainly respected one another.
Houston so thoroughly thrashed the Steelers in week 7, that the 27-0 score betrayed the lopsidedness of the contest.
In week 12, the Steelers were 6-6 and the Oilers 7-5 clinging to a narrow lead in the division. A win would knock Houston down a peg, and give Steelers another divisional win to help with those all-important tie breakers.
It was time for Pittsburgh to show the NFL they were for real.
Steelers Start Strong, But Oilers Finish on Top, with Help
And the Steelers began the game doing just that, jumping to a 10 point lead on the strength of a Gary Anderson field goal, and a Merrill Hoge touchdown.
But Houston fought back, they scored two touchdowns late in the first half, although on the latter touchdown drive an official’s error awarded Houston an extra time out.
The Steelers marched the length of the field twice in the second half, but both times were forced to settle for Gary Anderson field goals, although the latter one tied the score, late in the fourth quarter.
- But Houston struck back, marching 80 yards to score a touchdown with 21 seconds remaining to give them the lead with 21 seconds left to go.
Houston of course would hold on to that lead, and improve their record to 8-5 while the Steelers, with three games left, were knocked back into the losing side of .500.
At 6-7 sitting in last place in the AFC Central the odds of the Steelers making the playoffs were discouraging.
But the men in Black and Gold remained undaunted.