Chin Up Steelers Nation, There’s a Bright Side to the Ben Roethlisberger Retirement Talk. Seriously

As if the frustration of Pittsburgh’s 3rd AFC Championship loss to the Patriots wasn’t enough, Steelers signal caller Ben Roethlisberger dropped another bomb two days after the game. In speaking with 93.7 FM’s “The Fan” Roethlisberger responded this way to a question about how much time he has left to play:

I don’t know. It’s one of those things, I was talking to my wife about it last night and I’ve been talking to my agent about it and coach about it. I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate it, to consider all options, to consider health, family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season — if there’s going to be a next season — all those things. At that point and age of my career, I think that’s the prudent and smart thing to do every year.

Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that he’s had these types of conversations with Ben Roethlisberger in the past, and Dale Lolley has gotten confirmation from one of his teammates as well.

  • It says here that the Ben Roethlisberger retirement talk remains a bit premature and that he’ll be back for in 2017.
Ben Roethlisberger, Ben Roethlisberger retirement, Ben Roethlisberger retirement rumors

Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement talk actually has a bright side (for him). Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune Review

He’s too much of a competitor and the Steelers are too close to securing Super Bowl Number 7 for Number 7 to simply walk away. Players like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell give the Steelers the fire power they need to win another Super Bowl. Ben knows that and he’s not going to walk away from it. Not just yet.

But its sobering, if not surprising, nonetheless to start the Steelers 2017 off season hearing your franchise quarterback admit that he’s reached the point where his playing days are in the “year-by-year” phase.

The Bright Side to Ben Roethlisberger’s Retirement Talk

And if the news is a downer for Steelers Nation, there’s a decided bright side to the Ben Roethlisberger retirement talk for Big Ben himself. Unless injuries accelerate his timetable, Roethlisberger’s statement affirms that he’ll leave both the game and the Steelers on his terms and at a time of his own choosing.

  • Who was the last Steelers quarterback that walked away at a time and on terms of his own? Bobby Layne?

Sure, Mike Tomczak and Kordell Stewart returned to Pittsburgh to “retire” as Steelers. In Iron Mike’s case the Steelers gave him access to their press room at Latrobe to make the announcement, but denied him a 1 dollar contract. Kordell Stewart’s “retirement” came in 2012, seven years after his final NFL game and 10 years after he left Pittsburgh.

  • Compared to their predecessors, those two men were relatively lucky.

Terry Bradshaw of course blew out his elbow and barely got more than a grunting acknowledgement from Chuck Noll. Cliff Stoudt bolted to the USFL, only to “Pittsburgh Maulers Fans” sellout Three Rivers Stadium to pelt him with ice balls when returned with the Birmingham Stallions.

Mark Malone started for four seasons in Pittsburgh, but performed so poorly in 1987 that the Steelers traded him for an 8th round draft pick to the San Diego Chargers. Bubby Brister spent his final year in Pittsburgh as a backup, then went on to play for the Eagles, Jets, Broncos and Vikings.

Neil O’Donnell famously boasted that he’d take less money to stay with the Steelers as opposed to going to a losing team. After Super Bowl XXX, O’Donnell went to the 3-13 New York Jets, who became the 1-15 Jets. O’Donnell faired a little better after Bill Parcells took over, but Tuna decided he wasn’t worth the money and cut him. He played for Cincinnati and Tennessee after that, but never started another playoff game.

Tommy Maddox reportedly got into shouting matches with Bill Cowher during his final year as a backup to Ben Roethlisberger, found himself demoted to third string behind Charlie Batch and burned his final bridge with the Steelers by no-showing at the team’s White House ceremony following Super Bowl XL.

Ben Roethlisberger Deserves to Leave on His Own Terms

Steelers fans have been blessed. Terry Bradshaw played for 14 seasons and, although he wasn’t an instant winner, he developed into one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play. Ben Roethlisberger will return for a 14th season and perhaps one or two more after that.

  • But the day when Roethlisberger hangs it up isn’t too far off on the horizon.

Hopefully Ben Roethlisberger will add a Lombardi Trophy (or two?) before he calls it a career. But even if he doesn’t, he’s earned the right to step down on his terms. Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement will mark a sad day in Steelers Nation, but it the fact that Big Ben will decide should make us appreciate the moment much more.

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Steelers Playoff History vs Miami Dolphins – Pittsburgh Looks to Even 1-2 Record

When the Pittsburgh Steelers welcome the Miami Dolphins to Heinz Field for the AFC Wild Card game Mike Tomlin’s team will be looking to even the Steelers playoff history vs the Miami Dolphins.

  • The Steelers and the Dolphins have clashed in the playoffs on three prior occasions, with the Steelers holding a 1-3 record.

The first time came at Three Rivers Stadium on New Year’s Eve 1972, in the AFC Championship game a week after the Immaculate Reception. The Super Steelers would clash in the post-season with Don Shula’s Dolphins again before they ended their run in the 1979 AFC Divisional Playoff game. And the final time Chuck Noll would face his mentor Don Shula in the playoffs came at the Orange Bowl in January 1985 in another AFC Championship match up.

Neither Steelers-Dolphins AFC Championship game resulted in a trip to the Super Bowl for Pittsburgh, but the Black and Gold’s luck in the AFC Divisional round was markedly better. Now we’ll take a look at all three, plus a peek at Mike Tomlin’s record vs. the Dolphins.

Terry Bradshaw, Steelers Dolphins 1972 AFC Championship, Steelers vs. Dolphins, Steelers playoff history vs Miami Dolphins

Terry Bradshaw scrambles in Steelers 1972 AFC Championship loss to the Miami Dolphins. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

1972 AFC Championship Game

January 31st, 1972 @ Three Rivers Stadium
Pittsburgh 17, Miami 21

Given that I was only a few months old when during the first Steelers-Dolphins 1972 AFC Championship game From Black to Gold author Tim Gleason surprised me when he listed this game as the biggest playoff disappointment in Steelers history.

  • After all, isn’t the Steelers 1994 AFC Championship loss to the Chargers Steelers Nation’s biggest post-season heartbreak?

While the Alfred Pupunu game certainly ranks, Gleason makes a compelling case for the Steelers 1972 New Year’s eve loss to the Dolphins. But Gleason argues that Don Shula’s famous 1972 undefeated Dolphins squad was in fact rather beatable, benefiting from the third easiest regular season schedule in NFL history that only had them play one winning team.

If the Steelers showed they could hang with the Dolphins, Chuck Noll’s playoff novices made a host of rookie mistakes. The Steelers got on the board first, but ominously Terry Bradshaw fumbled the ball but was saved by Gerry Mullins diving on it in the end zone. As the game wore on, Pittsburgh proved to be less capable of picking up after itself.

  • Dwight White jumped off sides to negate a Jack Ham interception
  • Dolphins punter Larry Seiple caught the Steelers flat footed on a 37-yard fake punt scramble
  • Bob Griese came off the bench to hit Paul Warfield at Andy Russell’s expense to gouge the Steelers for 52 yards
  • A blocked 4th quarter field goal prevented the Steelers from narrowing the score early in the 4th quarter

Terry Bradshaw had left the game in the first half with a concussion, but Terry Hanratty was unable to move the offense. Bradshaw returned, pulled the Steelers to within a touchdown with a 12 yard pass to Al Young. However, Bradshaw would throw interceptions on the next two drives ending Pittsburgh’s comeback hopes.

Not only did this game blunt the euphoria the Immaculate Reception had created a week earlier, but it also coincided with the tragic death of Roberto Clemente, who was probably the best baseball player in Pittsburgh’s history.

1979 AFC Divisional Playoffs

December 30th, 1979 @ Three Rivers Stadium
Pittsburgh 34, Miami 14

Legendary Pittsburgh Post-Gazette scribe Vito Stellino likened this one to Michaelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. And why not? The Pittsburgh Steelers ran up a 20-0 score before Miami had even run its 8th play from scrimmage. As the first quarter reached its end, Miami had 2 yards of total offense; Pittsburgh had amassed 180.

  • Even a bad call couldn’t disrupt the Steelers on that day.

In the third quarter the officials ruled that Dwayne Woodruff had touched a punt, when in fact replays showed he had not. The Dolphins recovered at the Steelers 11-yard line and scored their first touchdown of the day.

Dwayne Woodruff, Mel Blount, Tony Nathan, 1979 Steelers Dolphins AFC Divisional Playoff game, Steelers playoff history vs dolphins

Dwayne Woodruff and Mel Blount close in on Tony Nathan in the 1979 AFC Divisional Playoff. Photo Credit: miamidolphins.com

Not that it mattered. Terry Bradshaw immediately led them on a 69 yard drive that ended in a Rocky Bleier touchdown. Franco Harris opened the 4th quarter by scoring another touchdown. Miami answered with a touchdown of its own, but it was too little too late.

Jack Lambert, Joe Greene and Gary Dunn combined for 3 sacks on Bob Grisie while Woodruff and Dirt Winston intercepted him twice. After Super Bowl XIII Chuck Noll boldly proclaimed that “this team hasn’t peeked yet.”

The Steelers 1979 Divisional playoff win over the Dolphins proved that the Emperor had been right.

1984 AFC Championship Game

January 6th, 1985 @ The Orange Bowl
Pittsburgh 28, Miami 45

As EVERYONE knows Chuck Noll decided to draft Gabe Rivera instead of Dan Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft and his decision forced Pittsburgh to wait 20 years until it drafted its next Franchise Quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

  • But when the Steelers took to the field against the Dolphins in the 1984 AFC Championship, it seemed like that decision might not matter….  Seriously.

A year earlier, the 1983 Steelers had limped into the playoffs on the final throws remaining in Terry Bradshaw’s arm only to have the Los Angeles Raiders man handle them 38-10. Logic dictated that “Decline” would define the 1984 Steelers. Chuck Noll had other ideas.

  • The 1984 Steelers might have only earned a 9-7 record, but they upset Bill Walsh’s 49ers and the defending Super Bowl Champion Raiders along the way.

A week before, Mark Malone spearheaded a dramatic upset of John Elway and Denver Broncos in Mile High. Yes, the Steelers had lost to the 1984 Dolphins 31-7 in early October, but the Steelers string of giant-slaying upsets showed that Pittsburgh had improved since then didn’t it?

Steelers Dolphins 1984 AFC Championship, Dan Marino vs Steelers, Steelers Dolphins Playoff History

Dan Marino shreds Steelers in the 1984 AFC Championship game. Photo Credit: miamiolphins.com

The Steelers intended to use the same game plan that had seen them through to wins over the 49ers and Broncos – dominate at the line of scrimmage, control the clock and blitz the living daylights out of the quarterback.

Unfortunately, that was about the only thing that worked for the Steelers. A week earlier against Denver, Keith Gary, David Little and Mike Merriweather had combined for 4 sacks of John Elway. The Steelers defense failed to land a glove on Dan Marino.

  • To make matters worse, the Steelers couldn’t protect the ball, and the Dolphins capitalized.

Dan Marino had time to torch the Steelers defense for touchdown passes of 40, 41 and 26 yards. For much of the first half however, the Steelers feigned that they could match the Dolphins score for score. But Malone had opened the first half giving up an interception that allowed Miami to score first, and he closed the first half with another allowing Marino to stitch together a 3-play drive that gave them a 24-14 halftime lead.

The Dolphins scored 3 more touchdowns during the second half as the Steelers defense was powerless to slow, let alone stop the Miami juggernaut. In his final playoff game, John Stallworth had 4 catches for 111 yards including a 65 yard touchdown catch giving him league records for post season touchdown receptions and hundred yard games.

And, although Dan Rooney’s outlook following this game was rather rosy, the 1984 AFC Championship loss to the Dolphins also officially confirmed that, by not drafting Dan Marino, the Steelers wouldn’t enjoy back-to-back Super Bowl eras.

Mike Tomlin’s Record Against the Dolphins

Although it has been a long time since the Steelers and Dolphins have faced off in the playoffs, Mike Tomlin is no stranger to Miami, holding a 3-2 record against the Dolphins.

In 2007, the Steelers and Dolphins met on a soggy, rainy Heinz Field during Mike Tomlin’s first year as coach where the Steelers eked out a 0-3 win. The 2009 Steelers closed out their disappointing season with a 30-24 win over Miami that was pleasant, but insufficient to get them into the playoffs. In 2010, the Steelers won a  23-22 contest with controversial swirling over whether a fumble had been a fumble.

  • Mike Tomlin has had a tougher time against Miami during the rebuild following Super Bowl XLV.

In 2013 the Steelers followed their Thanksgiving Day loss to the Ravens with an upset loss to the Dolphins — in the snow at Heinz Field. And back in October this same Pittsburgh Steelers team dropped a 30 to 15 decision to the Dolphins.

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Pittsburgh Steelers History vs Washington Redskins

The Pittsburgh Steelers history vs. the Washington Redskins includes 77 contests played over the course of 83 years.

The record reflects that the Washington holds the advantage over Pittsburgh. Overall, the Steelers record vs. the Redskins is 33-43-4. However, the Steelers are 7-4 vs. the Redskins since Chuck Noll’s arrival in Pittsburgh in 1969. The Steelers 2016 season opener on Monday Night Football at FedEx Field will mark the 78 installment of this series.

Art Rooney Sr. was the polar opposite to both George Preston Marshall and Jack Kent Cooke. And about the only similarity between Daniel Rooney and Daniel Snyder is the their first name.

Even if the rest of Steelers Nation isn’t ready to get the pitchforks out for the Redskins, the Steelers history vs. the Washington Redskins has provided a lot of memorable games – for both franchises. With the help of Tony Defeo we recount them here.

Scroll down or click on the link below.

LaMarr Woodley sacks Jason Campbell in Steelers 2008 win over Redskins. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press

LaMarr Woodley sacks Jason Campbell in Steelers 2008 win over Redskins. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press

1979 – Super Steelers Peak Against Redskins

November 4, 1979 @ Three Rivers Stadium
Pittsburgh 38, Washington 7

Terry Bradshaw had his best day passing, to that point in his career. Both Lynn Swann and John Stallworth caught for over 100 yards, for only the second time in their careers. Chuck Noll’s offense totaled 545 yards – his best effort to that point. The Steelers scored 38 points against a Redskins team that entered the game as the stingiest defense in points allowed. It was the worst Redskins loss since 1970… And did we mention that Bradshaw missed most of the second half with a concussion?

  • If the Super Steelers of the 70’s had a single peak moment, the 1979 Redskins victory would be a candidate.

Joe Theismann describes the Redskins effort as “Embarrassing.” John Riggins conceded to John Clayton, then of the Pittsburgh Press:

They’re the defending Super Bowl Champs, and they’re playing at the top of their game now. You expect them to when November rolls around. That’s when the giants tart to wake from their slumber. They were awake today.

Indeed, in addition to the touchdown John Stallworth’s two touchdowns, Terry Bradshaw threw scores to Bennie Cunningham and Randy Grossman, while Rick Moser (who?) scored the Steelers final touchdown. Donnie Shell and Mel Blount both recorded interceptions.

The win over Washington marked the third straight week the 1979 Steelers demolished a playoff contender, with victories over Denver and Dallas preceding it, followed by another win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Key Takeaway from Steelers vs Washington Redskins History: 2 weeks later the 1979 Steelers fell 35-7, suffering their worst defeat in San Diego at the hands of Don Coryell, whose offense was coached by a then-obscure offensive coordinator named Joe Gibbs….

1985 – Redskins “Officially” Send Steelers into 80’s Mediocrity Era

November 24, 1985 @ Three Rivers Stadium
Washington 30, Pittsburgh 23

The 1984 Steelers had shocked the NFL by winning the AFC Central, upsetting John Elway at Mile High in the Divisional Playoff game and knocking on heaven’s door by reaching the AFC Championship. 1985 started with the bang of Mark Malone’s 5 touchdown game vs. the Colts. But that win was led to a 3-5 record at midseason, when a Malone injury led to David Woodley getting the starting nod, who led Pittsburgh to 3 straight wins.

  • Unfortunately, stomach flu would sideline Woodley, forcing Scott Campbell into his first NFL action.

Change was also the watch word in Washington. A week before Lawrence Taylor had sacked Joe Theismann, knocking out of the game and ending his career. Jay Schroeder responded by rallying the Redskins to victory, and started his first game against the Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium.

Scott Campbell played a respectable first half, connecting with Louis Lipps and Rich Erenberg to tie the score at the half. However, the Redskins owned the second half, with the Steelers only managing two Gary Anderson field goals as John Riggins ran for a touchdown, while Mark Mosley knocked in two more.

Key Steelers history vs Washington Redskins Takeaway: The 1985 loss to the Redskins dropped the Steelers record to 6-6, signaling 7-9 finish and introducing an era of Pittsburgh would find itself mired in mediocrity.

1988 – Young Steelers Suffer Serious Growing Pains vs. Redskins

September 11, 1988 @ RFK Stadium
Washington 30, Pittsburgh 29

Chuck Noll’s 1988 Steelers won the franchise’s first game without Art Rooney Sr. a week earlier against Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys. Could this young Steelers team upset the Super Bowl champions?

  • For 3 and 3/4 quarters, the 1988 Steelers teased that they could.

Bubby Brister showcased his rocket like arm and his mobility. First hitting Louis Lipps on an 80 pass were Lipps burned future Hall of Famer Darrell Green. Brister then scrabbled for a touchdown, although mistake that proved costly, Harry Newsome bobbled the snap, and the Steelers missed the extra point.

The Redskins pulled a point ahead as the fourth quarter began, but Brister hit Dwight Stone over the middle, Stone zinged past Wilber Marshall and ran 70 yards untouched for a touchdown. Gary Anderson knocked in his 3rd field goal of the game. Midway through the 4th quarter, the Steelers had a nine point lead…

…Yet, in what would be a recurring theme during the 1988 season, Tony Dungy’s defense failed to defend a 4th quarter lead. The Redskins scored quickly on a 74 yard drive, and then Darrell Green returned a punt 13 yards to the Steelers 44, setting up an easy field goal drive.

Just how bad was the Steelers defense? After the game Doug Williams confided in Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I played terrible in the first half. The offensive line gave me time, and I wasn’t doing my job.” For the record, Williams had what was then a second best passing day for a Redskins quarterback completing 30 of 52 passes for 430 yards.

Key Steelers history vs Washington Redskins Takeaway: The 1988 Steelers would lose several close games like this. But the great individual efforts that powered those “almost wins” revealed that these Steelers had real potential, something that the 1989 Steelers would realize. None of that was apparent as Pittsburgh finished 1988 at 5-11.

1991 – Redskins Render Steelers as Road Kill on Ride to Super Bowl XXVI

November 17th, 1991 @ Three Rivers Stadium
Washington 41, Pittsburgh 14

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins both entered the 1991 season with something to prove. In 1990, the Redskins had gone fallen in the NFC Divisional Playoffs a 49ers team that many assumed were en route to their 5th Super Bowl.

  • The loss carried extra sting in Washington, because only a few years before, it was the Redskins, and not the 49ers who’d been dubbed “The team of the 80’s.”

Although 80’s were over, another Super Bowl would put Redskins back in the conversation.

In contrast, the 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers had shocked the world, overcoming a disastrous start and a regular season that saw them shut out 3 times, only to see them make the playoffs and upset the Oilers in the Astrodome. In 1990 however, the Steelers limped to a 9-7 record, as inconsistency and an inability to win divisional games cost them a playoff game. Steelers Digest Bob Labriola editor remarked that 1990 marked the year the Steelers had either learned to win or to lose games.

  • The Steelers entered 1991 hoping to prove that learned to win.

Sadly, by the time the Redskins arrived at Three Rivers Stadium in week 11, Washington already had an 11-0 record, while Steelers held a 4-6 record, which wasn’t nearly as good as it looked.

The Redskins trashed the Steelers that day, as a Mark Rypien to Art Monk 63 yard hookup led to a 1 yard Gerald Riggs touchdown just four plays into the game. By half time the Redskins led 17-0. After three quarters the Redskins led 27-0.

  • Then the Steelers did what those 1990 and 1991 Chuck Noll teams did all too well – the teased.

Neil O’Donnell hooked up with Adrian Cooper and then Dwight Stone early in the 4th quarter to cut the
Redskin’s lead to 13. Suddenly, it seemed like the Steelers had a chance. Of course they didn’t. Ricky Sanders and Gary Clark hooked up with Rypein from 49 and 40 yards to reestablish the Redskin’s 27 point margin.

Key Steelers history vs Washington Redskins Takeaway: Chuck Noll may hold a 2-1 advantage over Bill Walsh, but the Emperor was 0-3 vs. Joe Gibbs, a statistic that reveals just how great of a coach Joe Gibbs was – and that comes from someone who grew up actively rooting against Gibbs’ Redskins.

1997 – 3 Scappy Steelers Interceptions Seal the Deal

September 7, 1997 @ Three Rivers Stadium
Pittsburgh 14, Washington 13

Just like in 1988, Pittsburgh opened the season with back-to-back games against Dallas and Washington. And like 1988, the Steelers were facing a Cowboys Super Bowl coach who would ultimately be heading into his final campaign. But unlike 1988, the Dallas Cowboys had come into Three Rivers Stadium, trashing the Steelers to the tune of 37-7.

  • So the Redskins arrived in Pittsburgh facing a Steelers team looking for a comeback to defuse the “Free Agency is ruining the Steelers” stories that were a stable of 1990’s.

The Steelers got their comeback win, but the outcome was in doubt until the final gun. For the record, Kordell Stewart rushed for one touchdown, to open the scoring and Jerome Bettis closed it with another touchdown. But the Steelers defense wrote the real story of the game.

Twice in the first half Gus Frerotte led the Washington deep into the Red Zone, and twice Pittsburgh’s defense picked off his pass in the end zone, with Darren Perry and Levon Kirkland splitting the honors. Following Bettis’ touchdown, Frerotte ripped off a perfect pass to Michael Westbrook, only to have Randy Fuller, he of 1995 AFC Championship fame, deflected the pass.

The Redskins had one final chance following the 2 minute warning and threatened to reach field goal range when Jason Gildon tipped a pass that Chris Oldham picked off, ending the game.

Key Steelers history vs Washington Redskins Takeaway: This game established the 1997 Steelers as a scrappy, team that could rally to beat just about anyone during the regular season.

2000 – Steelers Scalp Redskins to Close Three Rivers Stadium

December 16, 2000 @ Three Rivers Stadium
Pittsburgh 24, Washington 3

If ever there was a case study in contrast to who Daniel Rooney and Daniel Snyder run their franchises, the Steelers 2000 victory over the Redskins offers the perfect example.

The 2000 off season marked Daniel Snyder’s first full year as Redskins owner, and he made no bones about breaking from the past. Upon assuming control of the team, Snyder summarily fired dozens of Redskins first office workers, many secretaries and administrative staff, some who’d had decades of service to the team.

  • That meant less to Snyder than showing everyone a new chief was in charge.

The offseason also saw Snyder the first of many off season Lombardi Trophies by signing any and every big name free agent the Redskins could fit under their salary cap. Washingtonians drank the Kool-Aid. Deion Sanders signing earned a front page story in the Washington Post and 2 and a quarter full pages from the sports section. Fans called into radio shows predicting an undefeated season.

Prior to the season opener, an owner at the Wheaton Athletic Club remarked to a patron, “…I’m tired of hearing about Tampa’s injured players. A win is going to be a win.” The client’s response, “Yeah. And a Super Bowl is gonna be a Super Bowl.”

  • Given that the Steelers were coming off a 6-10 season, Redskins fans figured the final game at Three Rivers Stadium would be a road sign route to Lombardi number 4. If they thought of it at all.

By reality unfolds at its own pace. The 2000 Steelers started 0-3, but rallied with 5 straight wins and held a 7-7 record heading into their matchup against Washington. Meanwhile, at 7-6 but on a two game losing streak, Snyder fired Norv Turner. Before the Steelers game, interim coach Terry Robiskie was forced to admit that he’d need to clear any quarterback changes with Snyder.

  • The game itself was a work of beauty. A better send off for Three Rivers Stadium could not be had.

Jerome Bettis rumbled for 104 yards, and Deion Sanders pulled back rather than try to tackle. Chad Scott and Dewayne Washington intercepted Jeff George, Snyder’s anointed starter, two times while future Super Bowl quarterback Brad Johnson watched from the bench.

Key Steelers history vs Washington Redskins Takeaway: When Daniel Snyder objects to Myron Cope’s “Wash Redfaces” nickname for the Redskins, Cope mocks Snyder on the air declaring: “If that boy billionaire thinks he can shut me up, he can take his head and stick it in a bucket of paint.”

2004 – Jerome Bettis Ties Franco Harris Record for 100 Yard Games

November 28th, 2004 @ Heinz Field
Pittsburgh 16, Washington 10

Joe Gibbs return from retirement heading into the 2004 season was one of the biggest stories, as one of the most underrated coaches (nationally) would seek to revive the fortunes of a once proud fantasy. The Pittsburgh Steelers, following their 6-10 2003 campaign, were supposed to be in “Rebuilding” mode, as rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was to get an apprentice year behind Tommy Maddox.

  • But of course things seldom workout as planned.

The Steelers entered their week 12 matchup vs. Washington with a 9-1 record, while Gibbs Redskins had a 3-7 mark. But again, what looked to be a mismatch on paper, turned out to be something very different in reality.

The 2004 Redskins defense was deceptively good, holding the Steelers to a 13-0 lead at half time, thanks to two Jeff Reed Field goal and a Jerome Bettis touchdown (set up by a Antwaan Randle El punt return.) In the third quarter the Redskins made it look like they’d give Pittsburgh a run for their money, as Patrick Ramsey hooked up with Chris Cooley to make the score 13-7.

But another Jeff Reed Field goal, followed by a Deshea Townsend put the game out of reach as on a day where Clark Haggans, Joey Porter and Aaron Smith teamed to sack Patrick Ramsey 5 times.

Key Steelers history vs Washington Redskins Takeaway: With his 4ths straight 100 yard game, Jerome Bettis tied Franco Harris’ franchise record for 100 yard games. Not bad for a player supposedly getting a “scholarship” year.

2008 – Steelers Nation Anexxes over Fed ExField

November 3, 2008 @ FedEx Field
Pittsburgh 23, Washington 6

For a Steelers fan who grew up in Metro Washington DC subjected to an endless stream of “Are you a Redskins fan?” “No,” “Then you’re a Cowboy in Redskins territory….” The Steelers 2008 Monday night win at FedEx Field was a portrait of glory.

Fans forget in hindsight that this game did not start out well for the Steelers. Bob Ligashesky’s special teams botched a surprise on-sides kick to open the game, followed by another Steelers turnover deep in their own territory. Redskins fans at FedEx Field were fired up, as Washington led for the first 29:28 of the first half until Ben Roethlisberger put the Steelers ahead with a rushing touchdown.

  • With Byron Leftwich taking over for an injured Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers defense took over.

James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, Nick Eason, Aaron Smith, James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons, who saw his first extended action – at outside linebacker, combined for 7 sacks, and Tyrone Carter end a Jason Campbell streak of 271 passes without an interception.

Best of all, before it was all over, Steelers fans had taken over FedEx Field to the point where the Redskins were forced to use a silent count.

Key Steelers history vs Washington Redskins Takeaway: Jim Zorn’s Redskins were 5-2 heading into the game, looking to make “statement.” Instead, the Steelers made a statement that they were serious Super Bowl contenders.

2012 – Dick LeBeau Schools RGIII

October 12, 2012 @ Heinz Field
Pittsburgh 27, Washington 12

In 2012 Robert Griffith III, or RG3 was a rookie sensation that was shaking the NFL. After just 7 games pundit were already saying that RG3 was doing what Doug Flutie, Randall Cunningham, Steve McNair and Donovan McNabb had promised to do in earlier generations – prove that you could win big with a non-pocket passer.

  • Worse yet, the Steelers 2012 defense had been shaky, having failed to protect 4th quarter leads on 3 separate occasions.

Dick LeBeau answered by unleashing his defensive backs on the Redskins wide receivers, and the Steelers corners and safeties hit hard. This led to numerous drops on the part of the Redskins’ receivers. On offense, Todd Haley did his best Ron Ernhart impression, as the Steelers fed the ball to Jonathan Dwyer and dominated time of possession, keeping the ball for over 33 minutes as the Steelers beat the Redskins 27-12.

Key Steelers history vs Washington Redskins Takeaway: Dick LeBeau improves his record to 15-1 against rookie quarterbacks. For the Record RGIII finished the day 16-34-177, 1 touchdown and 8 yards rushing. Need we say more?

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Steelers Sign Garrett Hartley to Replace Shaun Suisham @ Place Kicker

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Garrett Hartley today to replace Shaun Suisham. Suisham, who was one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers last season and has mastered the difficult art of kicking at Heinz Field, tore his ACL during the Hall of Fame Game while attempting to make a tackle on a kick return.

Garrett Hartley has kicked in the NFL since 2008 when he entered as the kicker for the New Orleans Saints. A brief glance at his history shows that he is a very strong kicker inside of 30 yards and does reasonably well inside of 40 yards. His overall career field goal kicking percentage is 81.7%

  • Garrett Hartley has never missed an extra point.

For comparison’s sake, Suisham’s field goal kicking percentage for the Steelers 2014 season was 90.7% and his career average in Pittsburgh is 87.9%. However, prior to coming to Pittsburgh Suisham’s averages with Washington and Dallas were less impressive, where he leveled out at 80.2% and 66.7%

In addition to his time in New Orleans with the Saints, Hartley kicked for the Cleveland Browns at the tail end of 2014, where he went 3-3 on field goal tries including two from over 30 yards and one from beyond 40.

Steelers Trends with Kickers

Tony Defeo, a fellow blogger and part-time contributor to this site, once quipped that Steelers kickers are like ex-girlfriends (that’s a must read if there ever was one.)

  • And he’s right. The Steelers tend to go all in with a kicker or not at all.

Roy Gerela kicked for Chuck Noll from 1969 to 1978. He was followed by Matt Bahr who kicked from 1979 and 1980, was spelled for a year by David Trout, who was followed by Gary Anderson who kicked from 1982 to 1994.

Gary Anderson left Pittsburgh in a contract dispute, but he was followed by Norm Johnson who kicked from 1995 to 1998. Johnson gave way to Kris Brown, who did well enough at Three Rivers Stadium but struggled at Heinz Field.

The Steelers thought they had Brown’s replacement in Todd Peterson, but Peterson too had difficulty kicking at Heinz Field so the Steelers brought in Jeff Reed, who kicked from mid-2002 until mid-2010.

That’s 9 kickers in 46 years for those of you at home taking notes.

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Jerome Bettis Enters Hall of Fame as Face of Steelers Franchise

21  Pittsburgh Steelers have entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Jerome Bettis arrives in Canton carrying a special distinction. Number 36 aka “The Bus,” Jerome Bettis enters the Hall of Fame as one player who truly was “the face of the franchise” during his entire career.

  • Consider the company Bettis shares in Canton and let that sink in for a moment.

Jerome Bettis became the face of the franchise the moment he arrived in Pittsburgh and held that distinction until the Bus stopped in Detroit at Super Bowl XL, making him unique among Steelers Hall of Famers.

  • You can make the case that Joe Greene held and still holds “Face of the Franchise” status.

As Steel Curtain Rising has argued that Joe Greene defines the very essence of a Pittsburgh Steeler, you’ll find no rebuttals here. But while playing Greene shared “Face of the Franchise” status with Franco Harris early on, and with the likes of Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann and Terry Bradshaw later.

In contrast, Jerome Bettis held uncontested status as the “Face of the Franchise” status while wearing the Black and Gold.

Jerome Bettis, Hall of Fame, Decal, Steelers, Hall of Fame Game

The Jerome Bettis Hall of Fame Decal

1996-1997 Pittsburgh Hops on the Bus!

Jerome Bettis arrived in Pittsburgh via a draft day trade in in 1996, when the Steelers were reeling from their loss in Super Bowl XXX. History has not been kind to Super Bowl losers, note Mike Tomlin’s Steelers have yet to win a playoff game since losing Super Bowl XLV, and Pittsburgh had just lost starters Neil O’Donnell, Leon Searcy, Tom Newberry, and Bam Morris.

The Steelers won their division in 1996 and it took two Kordell Stewart goal line interceptions a last minute John Elway comeback in 1997 to keep them out of the Super Bowl.

At the time, commentators marveled at Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe’s continued winning despite suffering annual exodus of free agents. Cowher and Donahoe do deserve credit. But anyone seeking to understand the Steelers post-Super Bowl XXX resilience would do well to look at who arrived in Pittsburgh, rather than with left and no arrival was more important that of Jerome Bettis.

  • Fans forget, but Jerome Bettis didn’t start the first three games of the 1996 season.

But it’s a testament to how quickly Bettis bonded with the city, and the Steelers Nationwide legion of fans, that by the time Erric Pegram’s week 3 injury cleared the way for Bettis to claim the starting role, he’d already logged 2 100 yard games. More tellingly his nick name, “The Bus,” was already lingua franca in Steelers Nation.

The ’96 and ’97 Steelers success was certainly a team effort, but it’s almost impossible to find a key win during either season that did not feature a dominating performance by Jerome Bettis.

1998-1999 Steelers Struggle, But Bettis Shines

The Steelers disappointed in 1998 and 1999 just as deeply as they surprised in 1996 and 1997. A series of critical draft day errors prevented the Steelers from replacing key free agent departures, and the results showed on the field. Nearly every spot on the Steelers depth chart presented glaring liabilities, every spot that is except running back.

Jerome Bettis, while a worthy Hall of Famer, was still a mortal. His performance dropped off in both of those seasons, prompting some of the more ignorant fans and members of the press to call for Bettis replacement with his back up, Richard Huntley.

The truth is that during those dark days, Jerome Bettis was by far the most consistent player on the roster, and one who stubbornly refused to quit during not one but two late-season implosions. Forced to run behind make-shift offensive lines, Bettis still managed over 1,000 yards in both seasons.

2000-2001 The Bus Fuels Bill Cowher’s “Second Wind”

After the 1999 season the Cowher-Donahoe feud came to a head, and Dan Rooney sided with Bill Cowher and brought in Kevin Colbert to replace him.

Colbert retooled the Steelers offensive line in 2000, and Bettis bounced back. Jerome Bettis helped rally the Steelers from a 0-3 start with a gallant effort in a major upset over Jacksonville, followed by three straight 100 yard games. Later, Bettis helped fuel a critical Steelers victory over Oakland and Bettis took over the final game at Three Rivers Stadium, leading the Steelers to victory over the Redskins. (And boy did Myron Cope enjoy rubbing that one in on Daniel Snyder!)

Bettis was a free agent after the 2000 season, but the Bus, gave the Steelers every chance to resign him, and Bettis rewarded them by exploding in 2001. Bettis, and the rest of the 2001 Steelers took the NFL by storm. By early December Bettis broke the 1,000 yard rushing barrier and was en route to a 1,500 yard plus effort.

  • Unfortunately, and ironically, an injury derailed Bettis in early December and that ushered in an era when his hold on the “Face of the Franchise” status was most tenuous.

The Steelers made it to the playoffs, and won their first game vs. the defending Super Bowl champions Ravens with Bettis unable to play due to a pain killing shot that numbed his entire leg. He was ineffective in the Steelers first AFC Championship loss to New England.

2002-2003 The Bus Downshifts, but Still Rumbles

Bettis began the 2002 season as the starter, but the Steelers struggled early on, as Kordell Stewart gave way to Tommy Maddox, and the era of “Tommy Gun” was born. Still, Bettis 100 yard effort in week 6 sparked a 5 game winning streak that transformed the Steelers from a 2-3 team to a 5-3-1 team contending for the division title.

The success of Tommy Gun down the stretch in 2002 convinced Bill Cowher to flirt with a “pass-first” offense and accordingly he started Amos Zereoue, relegating Bettis to the bench. Six weeks into the season the Steelers record stood at 2-4, it was clear that Tommy Maddox couldn’t read Cover-2, and the Amos Zereoue experiment was a failure. Bill Cowher responded by doing one of the things he did best – he hopped on The Bus.

  • It would be poetic to write that Bettis’ return to the starting lineup sparked a turn around.

Alas, it did not. But Bettis brought attitude to the offense and, for whatever else you can say about the 6-10 2003 Steelers, those men contested every last blade of grass until the season’s final gun. Bettis only rushed two 100 yard games that season. Both came in December, vs. the Raiders and the Chargers. The fact that those were the Steelers final two wins that season is not at all coincidental.

2004-2005 Jerome Bettis Is Closer as The Bus Stops @ Super Bowl XL

Bill Cowher issued a mandate to Ken Whisenhunt in 2004: Re-establish the run.

That was music to the diehards in Steelers Nation, but perhaps not so much for Bettis. In the off season the Steelers had signed Duce Staley, while Bettis had to agree to a pay cut. Bettis appeared to be settling into his new role as Steelers elder statesman, and as Bill Cowher used him used him to score touchdowns at the goal line.

Jerome Bettis, Bus Stops, Super Bowl XL, Lombardi

Jerome Bettis, the Face of the Steelers Franchise

By week 7 Duce had wracked up 707 yards looked like he was building to a dominating performance, but fell injured in the Steelers victory over the Patriots. While a young man by the name of Willie Parker was on the Steelers roster, he’d yet to prove himself. And here the Steelers stood at 6-1 awaiting an undefeated Eagles team with a rookie quarterback named Ben Roethlisberger and an offense designed to run…. What to do?

  • Fortunately for the Bus was all too eager to show Pittsburgh just how much traction he had left on his tires.

Bettis started vs. Philadelphia and ran roughshod over the Eagles for 149 yards, the second performance best in his career. He then proceeded to rip off four straight 100 yard rushing performances, yielded the starting job back to Staley when he return, and then closed the season with two more performances that broke the century mark. (For the record Bettis finished the season 59 yards shy of 1,000, by which time Richard Huntley had been out of football for 2 years….)

During the playoffs Bettis and Staley teamed to bludgeon the New York Jets in an exhibition of Smash Mouth football excellence not seen in Pittsburgh since the days of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Although Bettis ran well the next week in the AFC Championship vs. the Patriots, Ben Roethlisberger began to play like a rookie and the Steelers came up short.

The moment moved Hines Ward to tears.

And he was crying because he feared the loss doomed Bettis chances of winning a Super Bowl. Bettis did consider retiring, but when the Steelers convened at St. Vincent’s, Bettis was there, handing out T-Shirts exclaiming, “Super Bowl XL, Detroit, The Bus Stops Here.”

The Steelers 2005 season was a topsy turvy affair. For a while it looked like the Steelers won’t even make the playoffs, let alone contend for the Super Bowl. The media anointed the Colt’s as the team of destiny.

Jerome Bettis, Brian Urlacher, Steelers vs. Bears, '05 Steelers

Jerome Bettis shows Brian Urlacher who is boss

But after a three game losing streak that left the Steelers at 7-5, Bill Cowher once again turned to the Bus as the Steelers hosted the 9-3 Chicago Bears and Bettis took over, stoning Brian Urlacher on the way to a 101 two touchdown performance.

With Bettis serving as inspiration for the entire team, the 2005 Steelers closed out the season with 8 straight wins, including three road games in the playoffs. The night before the AFC Championship vs. Denver, Bettis implored his teammates “Take me home.”

His teammates did take him home, doing him the honor of walking out during team introductions all by himself. The Pittsburgh Steelers of course triumphed in Super Bowl XL in a game where they made their own opportunities.

  • When it was all over, standing on the dais, Lombardi in his hand, Jerome Bettis announced that “the Bus stops here.”

It was a story book ending to career. But Bettis was wrong. The Bus still had one more stop, and that is Canton, Ohio’s Pro Football Hall of Fame, where Jerome Bettis enters as the face of the Steelers franchise.

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15 Jerome Bettis Hall of Fame Games

The Super Bowl has arrived and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee will soon be selecting the 2015 Hall of Fame Class. This year 3 candidates with strong ties to the Pittsburgh Steelers are finalists and they are Kevin Greene, Tony Dungy and of course Jerome Bettis.

  • While most of Steelers Nation would be perfectly happy to see Dungy and Greene elected, Bettis is the one we care about.

Bettis is also the most deserving of the threesome. A year ago Steel Curtain Rising ran “14 Reasons to Put Jerome Bettis in the Hall of Fame in 2014” and then embedded an awesome  video summarizing Bettis Hall of Fame credentials.

Perhaps Jerome Bettis is falling victim to the “Too Many Steelers in the Hall of Fame” mentality, perhaps it is his 3.9 yards per carry average. Neither should be a sticking point. Jerome Bettis belongs in the Hall of Fame.

To help make that happen, here are 15 Worthy Jerome Bettis Hall of Fame Games. Click on a link below for specific games or scroll down to relive them all!

Jerome Bettis, Brian Urlacher, Steelers vs. Bears, Bettis vs. Urlacher,

Jerome Bettis shows Brian Urlacher who is boss

I. Bettis Best Game Ever

12/12/93, Los Angeles Rams 23, New Orleans Saints 20
Sometimes we easily forget Jerome Bettis wasn’t always a Pittsburgh Steeler after so long as “The face of the franchise.” But it is true. The Los Angeles Rams selected Jerome Bettis with the 10th overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft.

Bettis took the league by storm, rushing for 1429 yards as a rookie, and his best game of the season came vs. New Orleans, when he banged out 212 yards on 28 carries, for one touchdown. That was his highest single game rushing total ever, and it included his longest run at 71.

Although Bettis would never have a better day statistically, he did have bigger games — all for the Black and Gold.

II. Bettis First 100 Yard Game for Steelers

9/8/96, Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Baltimore Ravens 17
Jerome Bettis’ first game for the Steelers didn’t go so well, as Pittsburgh suffered a disastrous defeat in Jacksonville at the hands of the Jaguars with injuries decimating the linebacking crops, with Bettis 57 yard effort an under story.

He made good in week 2 the first Steelers-Ravens match up ever. Bettis rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries – and he didn’t even start. Erric Pegram had that honor, who turned in a respectable 60 yard on 11 carry performance

III. Rams Rue Decision to Run Bettis Out of Town

11/3/96, Pittsburgh Steelers 42, St. Louis Rams 6
Jerome Bettis was the only positive for the 4-12 1993 Rams. Chuck Knox aka “ground Chuck” got the ax the team hired Rich Brooks and moved to St. Louis. For whatever reason Bettis and Brooks didn’t work well together. Bettis production dropped by 400 yards in 1994 and to 637 yards in 1995.

  • Dick Vermeil’s first decision was to pick Lawrence Philips in the 1996 draft.

That made Bettis expendable. St. Louis traded him to Pittsburgh for what was essentially a 2nd round pick.

By the time the Steelers played the Rams at mid-season, it was already clear that the trade might have been one of Tom Donahoe’s best ever personnel decisions. Bettis already had six 100 yard games and laid claim to the moniker, “The Bus.”

Bettis exploded vs. the Rams, scoring the first two touchdowns and racking up 100 yards before the half, as The Bus steamrolled the Rams to the tune of 129 yards rushing on 19 carries for a 6.8 yard average. For the record Lawrence Philips had six yards on 5 carries….

IV. Bettis Best Game with the Steelers

10/12/07, Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Indianapolis Colts 22
It was a strange night for the Steelers. Lindy Infante’s Colts arrived at Three Rivers Stadium nursing an 0-5 record and quickly took 10-0 lead before Norm Johnson got the Steelers on the board and then Bettis tied it up early in the second half.

Carnell Lake returned a fumble 83 yards for a touchdown, but the Colts would threaten the entire game, as the Steelers lost Kordell Stewart and Charles Johnson to injury. Things got so bad that reserve receiver Mike Adams had to play the entire second half on a torn ACL.

The Steelers did what they worked for them best in that day and age – they rode The Bus. Bettis racked up 164 yards, his highest total as a Steeler, on 30 carries including one touchdown.

V. Bettis Rides Over Broncos

12/7/97 Steelers 35, Denver Broncos 24
This late season show down would and should be remembered for many things.

But credit Jerome Bettis as the game’s unsung hero. The fireworks took place in the first half, which ended in a 21-21 tie. The second half started with the Broncos getting a field goal and the lead.

  • Then Bettis took over.

He pounded Denver into submission, including 24 yard run where he literally dragged defenders for a good 7 or 8 yards after contact. When all was said and done, The Bus had run for 24 yards on 125 carries.

VI. Bettis Leads By Example

12/28/98 Jacksonville Jaguars 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 3
The Pittsburgh Steelers started 1998 unevenly, played a few strong games in the middle, and then pathetically petered out down the stretch, losing their final five games as Kordell Stewart looked lost.

When the season finale vs. Jacksonville arrived, the Jaguars started their back up and the only thing at stake was Bill Cowher’s chance to avoid his first losing season. He didn’t.

  • The harsh reality is that many of Cowher’s players quit on him.

But one player shown out. He not only gave it his all, he played with power and he delivered results. That player was number 36, Jerome Bettis who ran for 139 yards and caught 4 balls for 24 yards – and he did it on a bum knee, having announced to ABC’s sideline reporter that he’d scheduled surgery for the following morning.

Stepping up in games like these were one reason why Bettis owned the Steelers locker room.

VII. The Bus Rides Well in the Snow

12/26/99 Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Carolina Panthers 20
The Steelers 1999 season ended much like the 1998 season did – with a season-ending melt down. With one exception.

George Seifert’s Carolina Panthers came to Three Rivers Stadium with a 7-7 record while the Pittsburgh Steelers were reeling on a six game losing streak.

  • The Steelers looked like easy pickings.

Early on the Steelers looked lackluster, but then it started to snow. Snow blanked the Astroturf at Three Rivers Stadium, and it left the Panthers flat footed. The Bus took off, rushing for 137 yards and inspiring the team to victory. The Panthers made a run late in the game as they fought to within 3 late in the third quarter. But Bettis did what he always did – iced the game away with a dominating 4th quarter that saw him barrel into the end zone with 3:47 remaining to put the game away.

VIII. Bettis Helps Set Steelers Tone for ‘00’s

10/1/00, Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Jaguars 13
The Steelers followed their 1999 meltdown by opening the 2000 season by going 0-3, including a heart breaker at the hand of Steve McNair, as the pundits pooled their money on predictions on when Dan Rooney would fire Bill Cowher.

Bill Cowher had other ideas. He didn’t care that he’d started 0-3. He didn’t care that the Jacksonville Jaguars were Super Bowl contenders. He didn’t care that Jacksonville had won 3 straight vs. Pittsburgh. He didn’t care that Kent Graham, his starting quarterback, had been injured late in practice on Friday.

  • He didn’t care because Bill Cowher preached that players should expect to win on Sunday.

In this game, names like Joey Porter, Aaron Smith and Desha Townsend announced their presence to Steelers Nation and as the Steelers defense dominated. But on a day where Kordell Stewart only managed 132 yards passing, Jerome Bettis carried the Steelers offense. He didn’t break 100 yards, but he did run for 97 and scored two touchdowns. The victory in Jacksonville set the tone for the Steelers for a decade and, once again, the Steelers rode the Bus.

IX. Bus Shines in Old Fashioned Steelers Raiders Showdown

12/3/00, Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Oakland Raiders 20
This probably gets left off of many other worthy Jerome Bettis Hall of Fame games lists, but it makes it here because this game simply doesn’t get its due. The twin Steelers-Cowboys Super Bowls defined pro football excellence in the 70’s, but had they not then the dozen epic matchups the Steelers and Raiders fought between 1970 to 1980 would have.

Due to scheduling irregularities, the Raiders would not play in Pittsburgh for 20 years. That changed in December 2000, and the matchup was worthy of the best of Steelers-Raiders lore. The Steelers had clawed their way out of an 0-3 start back to 6-6 while the Raiders boasted a 10-2 record.

Kordell Stewart, who’d reclaimed the starting quarterback role, was injured early in the game, and his replacement Kent Graham looked clueless, throwing a pick six and getting planted on the turf as the Raiders jumped to a 17-7 lead.

The Steelers comeback left Pittsburgh with some priceless memories:

  • Kordell Stewart’s miraculous recovery, including his 17 yard touchdown run
  • Mark Bruener marshaling pure will power to win a goal line dog fight to spark the Steelers rally
  • Jon Gruden pleading for a 5th down after the Steelers defense stopped him cold on 4th down with 7 seconds left.

But what many forget, is that amidst all the chaos Jerome Bettis “quietly” kept the offense moving for by rushing for 128 yards. That’s just what Hall of Famers do.

X. Bus Rolls Over Redskins in Three Rivers Stadium Finale

12/16/00, Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Redskins 3
In 2000 Daniel Snyder bought his first off season Lombardi. For many fans and press alike, Snyder’s signing of Deon Sanders in June made the delivery of the Redskins 4th Super Bowl trophy a mere formality. The schedule had been published by then, and few Redskins fans even gave a second thought to the fact that they’d have to play the Steelers in the final game a Three Rivers Stadium.

  • A far different off season narrative had been penned for Jerome Bettis.

Declining production in 1998 and 1999 led many, inside and outside Pittsburgh, to assume Bettis best days were behind him.

Yet, when the Three Rivers Stadium finale arrived, it was Jerome Bettis, and not any of Daniel Snyder’s high-priced free agents, who dominated the game. Bettis charged up and down the middle of the Redskins defense for 104 yards on 25 carries, and added another grab for 25. Perhaps the biggest highlight came when Deon Sanders backed away rather than try to tackle Bettis.

Daniel Snyder grew so incensed that he tried to order Myron Cope to alter his color commentary, to which Cope retorted,

  • If that boy billionaire thinks he can shut me up, then he can take his head and stick it in a bucket of paint!

Suffice to say, all of Snyder’s money could neither silence the voice of Steelers Nation, nor change the fact that The Bus had plenty of tread left on his tires.

XI. Bettis Leads the Way as Steelers Inaugurate Heinz Field with a Win

10/7/01 Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Cincinnati Bengals 7
The Pittsburgh Steelers were supposed to open Heinz Field against the Cleveland Browns. But September 11th changed everything.

Jerome Bettis, Bengals, Heinz Field

Instead, the Steelers would open at home nearly a month later, and this time vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. Bettis again led the way for the Steelers offense, piling up 153 yards on 25 carries, and giving the Steelers their first win in their new home.

XII. Bus Comes Off Bench to Help Steelers Spoil Philly’s Perfect Record

11/7/04, Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Philadelphia Eagles 3
Thanks to their 6-10 2003 season, the Steelers entered 2004 as an after thought –which is exactly what made this generation of Pittsburgh Steelers dangerous. On the arm of a rookie quarterback named Ben Roethlisberger and the newly added Duce Staley, reached week 8 with a 6-1 record.

Staley had run well in the season’s first seven games, but got injured in the Steelers upset of the Patriots. Prior to the season, Jerome Bettis had accepted a pay cut and was seen by many as an insurance policy at best or a scholarship year at worst.

Bettis proved his critics wrong as he ran for 133 yards and helped the Steelers spoil the Eagles 7-0 record.

XIII. Bus, Staley Tag Team to Bludgeon Jets in Playoffs

1/15/05, Pittsburgh Steelers 20, New York Jets 20
Steel Curtain Rising has talked about this playoff victory vs. the Jets many times before and will again. If you’re looking for a “Three yards and a cloud of dust” example of post season Steelers smash mouth football then you’d be hard pressed to find one without looking to the 70’s.

Jerome Bettis started this game, but had to take himself out due to injury. Staley came in and continued to pound the Jets. Then he got hurt and Bettis had to return.

  • It was a sight to behold – two Steelers big backs alternating to pummel an opponent into submission.

The Steelers needed every bit of it, as Ben Roethlisberger began playing like a rookie, and the Jets mounted a stiff challenge. At the end of the day, Bettis the 32 year old war horse, ran for 101 yards and a touchdown.

XIV. Urlacher, Bears Get Hit by The Bus

12/11/05, Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Chicago Bears 9
Despite finishing the 2004 a hair under 1,000 yards, even veteran commentators such as Mike Prisuta declared that Bettis presence on the roster was more important to Bettis than the team itself.

  • Games like this one prove him wrong.

The Steelers were at 7-5 and coming off a 3 game losing streak. Bill Cowher took the unusual step of order a full pads practice. He told the team they were Christopher Columbus uncharted journey. And with the 9-3 Bears coming to town, he turned to his gamers.

The record will note that Willie Parker got 21 carries as opposed to Bettis 17, but the Bus carried the day for the Steelers rushing for 101 yards, including dominating Brian Urlacher in one incredible 1-1 open field confrontation.

The Chicago game marked Bettis final 100 yard effort. But The Bus made it count.

XV. Super Bowl XL – The Bus Stops Here

2/5/06, Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10
When the Steelers came up short in the 2004 AFC Championship vs. New England, Hine Ward was moved to tears because he thought it would deny Bettis his shot at a championship. Ben Roethlisberger promised him, “I’ll get you back next year.” Bettis returned in 2005 with a singular goal – parking The Bus in Super Bowl XL in a game played in his home town Detroit.

  • Bettis didn’t break 100 yards. He didn’t score a touchdown. He didn’t rip off a record breaking run.

Bettis finger print was all over the field, a fact made evident when Joey Porter pulled a surprise, and allowed Bettis to emerge as the lone Steeler during introductions.

Bettis leadership and inspiration is what drove the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers on their improbable 8 game season-closing winning streak and ultimately to One for the Thumb.

15 MORE Reasons for Jerome Bettis to be in the Hall of Fame

The tough thing about writing an article like this, aside from finding the time, is limiting this list to 15 worthy Jerome Bettis Hall of Fame Games. Many other candidates scream for inclusion.

  • Forget about the numbers and statistics.

Hall of Fame worthiness comes from defining what it means to be excellent at your position. When you look at a sampling of his work, who can argue that Jerome Bettis failed to accomplish that? In 13 years as an NFL running back, from his rookie season to his final season, Bettis dominated games.

  • You can’t say that about Terrell Davis, whom will likely get the nod over Bettis.

Jerome Bettis belongs in the Hall of Fame. Period.

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Steelers Make Right Call on Heinz Field Expansion

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 off season has been among the busiest on record. The team was uncharacteristically aggressive in free agency. Management also kept the faithful on their toes with a 2014 draft defined by size,speed and surprise.

The impact of the Steelers free agent wheeling and dealing won’t be known until September and the full measure of the Steelers 2014 draft can only be taken in 2016 or so. But there is one move Steelers management made this spring that is unequivocally the right one:

  • Agreeing to expand Heinz Field without leaving the Allegheny County taxpayers on the hook.

As Steel Curtain Rising has editorialized before, expanding Heinz Field is a good idea and one the Steelers should pay for. Expanding Heinz Field is a smart move simply because while the NFL’s revenue pie might be growing, there’s no guarantee that the Steelers piece of pie will grow in proportion.

  • Steelers Nation tends to think of Heinz Field as “new” but it is this will be its 14th year in operation, or as old as Three Rivers Stadium was in 1984.

And while Heinz Field is the newest facility in the AFC North, with the Ravens, Browns, and Bengals abodes having opened in 1998, 1999, and 2000, the Ravensrevenue bests the Steelers to the tune of 26 million dollars a year, and both Baltimore and Cincinnati are more profitable.

Why the Steelers Should Pay (Again)

But if the business case is plain to see for expanding Heinz Field, it is equally obvious that the people of Allegheny County shouldn’t pick up the bill.

  • The Rooneys are not like the Daniel Snyders or Jerry Joneses of the NFL. 

Their wealth is tied up in the Steelers, and they do not have the non-football income streams to finance a new stadium. That was the argument they made in getting Pennsylvania to build Heinz Field. It made sense then, but in Heinz Field gives the Steelers a platform for raising the revenues they need for stadium improvements.

  • For a while there, it seemed like the Steelers didn’t see it that way.

The Steelers of course went to court trying to force the public to finance the expansion, which was a sad spectacle. While Steel Curtain Rising has no proof of this, it’s interesting to note that the decision to take the case to court began while Dan Rooney was still serving as ambassador of Ireland, and the choice to settle outside the courts was made after his return.

  • Is this Dan Rooney’s influence at work? 

Steel Curtain Rising has no information to answer that question. If the answer is yes, then that speaks well of the Patriarch of Steelers Nation and offers cause for concern about the direction the team’s stewardship may take when Rooney moves on to his heavenly reward.

Technically speaking, the Steelers aren’t financing the expansion themselves, they’re passing the cost on to ticket buyers in the form of a 1 dollar surcharge. While that might not be the most fan friendly thing to do, the Steelers are hardly the first business to pass capital expansion costs off to the customer.

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Art Rooney Sr. Displayed Incredible Foresight on Merril Hoge

Art Rooney Sr. was not a micromanaging owner, often times to a fault. After Walter Kiesling refused to even let Johnny Unitas practice and was set to cut him, Tim Rooney wrote The Chief a 22 page letter imploring his father to overrule his head coach.

  • Rooney dutifully read the letter, then balled it up and threw it in the trash.

Art Sr. liked Unitas, but stuck by his philosophy of “Let the coach, coach.” All of which is to say that Rooney Sr. might have been a fair judge of talent, although he did once admit to stopping short of prohibiting Dan Rooney and Chuck Noll from cutting Terry Bradshaw when the blonde bomber struggled, but The Chief wasn’t known for his personnel moves.

  • All of which makes a bit of news reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on-line editor Dan Gigler in the Blog-N-Gold more interesting.

On the heels of the Steelers 2014 Draft, Gigler caught up with ESPN Commentator and legendary Pittsburgh Steelers running back Merril Hoge. As expected, a good bit of Gigler’s interview with Hoge centered around the Steelers decision to pick Ryan Shazier.

  • But Gigler also asked Hoge about his time with the Steelers, specifically about his interactions with Chuck Noll and The Chief. 

Hoge shares the story of the final day at Three Rivers Stadium during his rookie year, when he didn’t get the season ending meeting he was expecting with Noll, but was treated to this unexpected encounter:

And as I started to walk out, here comes ‘The Chief’ walking with [the team’s chief contract negotiator] Dan Ferens. And The Chief stops me and he says, “Hey — you are one heck of a football player. We’re lucky we got you on our team.” He said, “Where you heading?” I said I’m heading home to finish school and he said, “Well, get that done and get back here.” And he stopped at the drinking fountain and I started to walk out and turned the corner near the coaches’ offices and Dan Ferens came after me and said, “You know something? That’s the greatest compliment you could probably ever get right there. The Chief doesn’t say that about everybody.”

In hindsight, this of course makes perfect sense. Hoge was never a superstar in the vein of Franco Harris or Jerome Bettis. He lacked the heart rendering comeback story of Rocky Bleier. He didn’t have the speed of a Willie Parker. His contemporaries Tim Worley and Barry Foster had more athleticism.

  • But Merril Hoge made up for that in hard work, grit, determination, leadership, and toughness.

Hoge was a gamer like Hines Ward, a player who teammates turned to when times got tough.

His back-to-back 100 yard playoff games vs. Houston and Denver in 1989 sufficed to earn him legend status, but it was the everyday dedication that made Hoge the hero he was.

  • The curious thing about Rooney’s statement was when he made it.

As mentioned, it came after Steelers 1987 season where Hoge entered as a rookie 10th round draft pick. He rushed 3 times for eight yards that year, and caught 7 passes for 97 yards. Yes, he did bag a touchdown catch, but that came in the final striker-replacement game. He also came in 5th on special teams tackles.

  • Unglamorous stats to be certain, but the Chief knew enough to see through glamor and glitter, and he’d seen enough to know Hoge was someone.

Perhaps the Chief should be know for having an eye for talent afterall….

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Expanding Heinz Field is a Good Idea. And One the Steelers Should Pay For….

Paul Brown is a millionaire and needs a 200 million dollar stadium to do his job and the city is going to pay for it. I make 15 thousand a year and need a pick up to do my job, but the city isn’t going to buy me a pickup….” Brother Bob Johns, Society of Mary, – 1996 in Cincinnati, Ohio

Bob Johns was a throwback, a man who joined a religious order out of high school and never looked back. He was a “worker brother” a craftsman skilled in plumbing, masonry, carpentry and just about any kind of home repair. Br. Bob worked with reckless abandon. He well into his 60’s when I knew him, yet as a “go to the gym 3 times a week” 24 year old I could barely keep up with him.

Bob was also from Pittsburgh. He wore a black and gold Steelers winter hat, much like the one I wore to school in 1st and 2nd grade after Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XIV. He looked and sounded like one of my grandfathers. And while his sarcastic wit could get taxing at times, Br. Bob did come up with gems of wisdom like the one above.

All of which brings us to the subject of this post.

The Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Pittsburgh-Allegany County Sports Exhibition Authority

The Pittsburgh Steelers would like to expand Heinz Field to the tune of 3,000 more seats in the south end of the stadium.

Their logic if flawless – more seats = more tickets = more concessions = more money.

  • But there’s a catch.

The Steelers want the SEA to pay for it.

Not surprisingly, SEA is decidedly unenthusiastic about picking up the estimated 40 million dollar tab for the expansion.

  • So the two sides are resolving it fashionably – they’re taking the case to court. 

As with any dispute, the devil hides in the details. The Steelers are fighting with the SEA over whether or not the Heinz Field Expansion counts as a capital improvement under the terms of their current lease.

You can read about the details from the Post-Gazette here. Not being a lawyer, it’s hard to say who is right in legal terms. However, if you use Br. Bob’s more mundane measures, the issue becomes much more clear.

Steelers Should Pay for Heinz Field Expansion

It’s hard to dispute Br. Bob’s point. Why should cities buy millionaires (or billionaires) the tools they need to do their job there are so many unmet health, housing, education and infrastructure needs.

  • In plain English, the Steelers need to foot the bill for the Heinz Field expansion.

Before proceeding, allow me to admit to some hypocrisy. I supported the use of public funds to build Heinz Field.

Heinz Field was a capital investment well beyond the Rooney’s means and the Steelers could not remain competitive in Three Rivers Stadium. The Steelers essentially rented Three Rivers from the Pirates and the revenue arrangement favored the Pirates by a lopsided margin.

True to their word, the Rooneys reinvested the newly money newly from Heinz Field into the roster, and Steelers Nation enjoyed victories in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII and appeared in Super Bowl XLV as a result.

The same principle must apply to Heinz Field expansion – Western Pennsylvania provided the Steelers with the platform they needed to be economically viable, but it’s up to the Steelers to sustain that viability.

If they need the extra seating revenue that badly then why not make the investment themselves? Given the Steelers stable ticket buying base, there should be little mystery into how long it will take them to see a return on investment.

And to put the 40 million dollar figure into perspective, the Steelers have paid Willie Colon:

  • a restricted free agent tender of about 2.5 million in 2010
  • a six million dollar signing bonus in 2011
  • average salaries of 4.6 million dollars in 2011 and 2012

That’s approximately 13.1 million over paid to a single player who played in 13 games over 3 years. The math couldn’t be simpler. That’s 1 million dollars per game.

Steel Curtain Rising likes Willie Colon (when healthy.)

But if the Steelers can afford to pay Colon 1 million dollars per game, then they afford to invest 40 million dollars that they’ll recoup soon enough.

And, more to the point, I am sure Western PA’s police departments, fire engine squads, and schools could certain benefit from an injection of 40 million dollars.

Art Rooney II needs to get over himself on this one, and invest in his own facility.

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