At first glance, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets are two teams that share little history. They’ve only played 19 times. For comparison’s sake, the Steelers and Saints have played 14 times.
This week of course, Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes head to Heinz field in a game that will go along way to determining both team’s playoff fortunes.
What the Steelers and Jets history might lack in quantity is made up in quality. Many meetings between these two teams have been steeped in significance, although many times the significance was not apparent at the moment.
Click on the links below or scroll down to relive some of the key moments in Steelers-Jets History:
1969 – The Most Important Steelers Game in History – Not Involving the Steelers?
1983 – The End of Eras
1988 – So Far, Yet So Close
1989 – The Shadow (and Promise) of Things to Come
1990 – IF Only this Could Have Been a Divisional Game…
1992 – Cowher Power is Born as Barry “Bananas” Foster Romps
2000 – Vinny Testaverde – New Uniform, Same Result
2001 – Hines Ward’s First 10 Catch, 100 Yard Game
2003 – 40 Passes, in the Snow….?
2004 – Rookie Roethlisberger’s 11th Victory
2004, Playoffs – Steelers Football at Its Best: Pure Power Rushing Carries the Day
2007 – Tomlin’s Trap Game Trip Up
The Most Important Steelers Game in History – Not Involving the Steelers?“I Guarantee Victory” – Joe Namath, prior to Super Bowl III
You know the story. The NFL and AFL were merging, and the brash young quarterback of the upstart New York Jets guaranteed victory despite being an 18 point underdog.
The Jets of course took an early lead, Don Shula of course waited too long to put Johnny Unitas in, and the biggest upset in Super Bowl history was on.
On the Colts sidelines that day was a young assistant named Charles Henry Noll. Who knows what happens if the Colts win? Does the added notoriety lead to a better offer for Noll? Does perhaps stick around hoping to repeat?
We’ll never know. One thing we do know is this:
- Noll learned that the Colts were wrapped too tightly prior to Super Bowl III felt it cost them the game. Noll avoided the same mistakes when he led the Steelers to Super Bowl IX.
The rest, as we say, is history.
A moment far more bitter than sweet for Steelers fans. The Steelers snapped a three game losing streak, but the price, as Myron Cope would write a decade later, was “the last throws that were left in Terry Bradshaw’s arm.”
Bradshaw opened with a pass touchdown pass to Greg Garrity and followed with another to Calvin Sweeney, but that was it.
- Not just for the day. Not just for the season. But for good.
It was the last NFL game at Shea Stadium. It was the last pass of the last game of Terry Bradshaw’s career. It was the last time the remnants of the Super Steelers would ever contend. Too many eras ended that day.
The 1988 Steelers had started 1-6, but on the previous week, led by Rodney Carter, Gary Anderson and Rod Woodson, the Steelers had thumped the Broncos to snap a six game losing streak. Could Chuck Noll’s boys make it two in a row?
- The Steelers jumped to a 10-0 lead but, as was the case many times during the 1988 season, the Steelers saw that lead evaporate in the second half.
Steel Curtain Rising discussed this Steelers-Jet’s match up in the tribute to the 1989 Steelers, celebrating Greg Lloyd’s announcement to the NFL that he was a force to be reckoned with, as he knocked Ken O’Brien out of the game, caught an interception, and WWE-style three counted a concussed Al Toon.
- Jet’s fans jeered “Joe Must Go!” calling for their coaches head. Joe did go. Unfortunately hiring Joe Walton became Chuck Noll’s fateful mistake.
This victory was sandwiched in between losses to the Cincinnati Bengals. The 1990 Steelers would finish 9-7. Unfortunately, only one of those victories came against an AFC Central team.
- One more divisional win would have put the Steelers into the playoffs….
Rookie head coach Bill Cowher’s Steelers shocked the NFL in defeating the Oilers the week before. Chris Berman remained unconvinced, predicting that Brownie Nagel would lead the Jets to victory.
- Barry Foster had other ideas, as he ran for a then team record 190 yards, and the Steelers revival under Bill Cowher was was on!
The Steelers had tormented Testaverde in Tampa, Cleveland, and Baltimore. Would things be different in New York?
Afraid not. One week after upsetting the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game that set the tone for a decade, the Steelers showed they were for real. The Steelers did not intercept Testaverde because he got only one pass off before getting knocked out of the game.
It is hard to believe that the Steelers had one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets and it is hard to believe that his name is Hines Ward. The previous week the Steelers had lost Jerome Bettis, who had been dominating the league in rushing, and were in need of leadership. Hines Ward delivered posting his first 10 catch game while breaking the 100 yard barrier for the first time.
Ok, it was 38 passes not 40, but the Meadowlands are a difficult place to throw in December, let alone in a blinding snow storm. That didn’t stop Mike Mularkey from throwing the ball, which did stop the Steelers from winning.
- The Steelers failure to draft Chad Pennington was a subplot that day. During the next draft that proved to be one of Kevin Colbert’s wiser non-decisions
Jerome Bettis broke Franco Harris record that day, causing Mike Prisuta to plead for the Steelers to part ways with the Bus. 1,309 yards and 22 touchdowns and a Super Bowl later, Bettis would prove Prisuta wrong.
The Jet’s played this one closer than the score might indicate, as Curtis Martin crossed the 13,000 yard barrier, marking the first time that 13,000 rushers faced off against each other.
Rookie Ben Roethlisberger won his 11th consecutive game, in route to setting the rookie record
People remember this as the game where Ben Roethlisberger started playing like a rookie. They remember it for the Jet’s Doug O’Brien missing 2 field goals that cost his team the game. But the real beauty of the game was the effort put forth by the Steelers running back crops.
- Jerome Bettis ran 27 times 101 yards and a TD
- Duce Stanley ran 11 times for 54 yards
That might not be an overwhelming total, but both backs had to come out due to injuries at critical times, and the Steelers ability to beat the Jets into submission with two power rushers was a sight to remember.
During Mike Tomlin’s rookie season the knock on him was that his Steelers “played down to the competition.” No where was this more apparent than against the Jets. New York was 1-9 in route to 4-12, but the Steelers struggled all day, as Bob Ligashesky’s special teams gave up a 33 yard punt return that allowed the Jets to send the game into overtime where they won by a field goal.
Free free to share your memories of Steelers-Jets match ups past and/or offer your thoughts on the upcoming game.