The place Steelers’ wild-card loss to the Browns ranks amongst franchise’s all-time worst defeats

The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ most painful defeat occurred on Dec. 26, 1976. That assertion was true the day after Pittsburgh’s 24-7 loss to the then Oakland Raiders within the AFC Championship Sport, and that assertion will nonetheless be true 100 years after the publication of this story. 

As a substitute of presumably changing into the primary (and solely) staff to win three consecutive Tremendous Bowls, the ’76 Steelers fell quick towards their most bitter rival. With 1,000-yard working backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier injured, the Steelers’ high-powered offense was held to 13 first downs and 237 whole yards. To today, Steelers followers and gamers from that staff surprise what the result might need been had Harris and Bleier been wholesome sufficient to face the Raiders, who would then defeat the Vikings to win the franchise’s first Tremendous Bowl

Pittsburgh’s loss to Oakland stays the franchise’s most painful, however it’s removed from the worst loss within the franchise’s wealthy historical past. The Steelers did not play notably nice that day in Oakland, however the loss is considerably justifiable, contemplating the greatness of the opponent in addition to the accidents to Harris and Bleier. The identical factor could be stated of Pittsburgh’s two Tremendous Bowl losses. The Steelers performed properly in each video games, however turnovers had been the primary distinction in losses to Dallas (Tremendous Bowl XXX) and Inexperienced Bay (Tremendous Bowl XLV).   

Whereas these video games belong on the checklist of essentially the most painful, let us take a look at the 5 worst losses in Steelers’ historical past. Every loss on this checklist got here within the postseason towards groups that had been thought of inferior to the Steelers. And sure, one of many video games is the loss Pittsburgh followers are nonetheless struggling to digest. 

5: 2020 wild-card: Browns 48, Steelers 37 

We do not know the long-term ramifications of this loss, which is why it at the moment sits at No. 5. However the truth that the Steelers have 26 pending free brokers, together with the unsure way forward for Ben Roethlisberger and anticipated retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, Sunday’s loss to the Browns could have signaled the top of a specific period of Steelers soccer. 

Lengthy-term ramifications apart, Sunday’s loss was ugly. The Browns — who barely defeated a Steelers staff that was resting a number of starters in Week 17 — scored an NFL playoff report 28 factors within the first quarter. The sport began with Pouncey’s excessive snap that was scooped up by the Browns for a landing. It primarily ended when Baker Mayfield (moments after Pittsburgh punted on fourth-and-1 from its personal 46-yard line) linked with Nick Chubb for the game-clinching landing. Roethlisberger’s 4 landing passes had been overshadowed by his 4 interceptions, as Pittsburgh dropped their fifth and last sport of the season after an 11-0 begin.  

4. 2017 divisional: Jaguars 45, Steelers 42 

Steelers followers ought to have seen this one coming. Jacksonville beat down the Steelers 30-9 in Week 5 behind 5 Roethlisberger interceptions and Leonard Fournette’s 181 speeding yards. Pittsburgh rebounded to win its subsequent eight video games, however suffered a significant setback when linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a career-ending damage in Week 13. The Steelers protection wasn’t the identical with out Shazier. In Week 15, that they had no reply for the combo of Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski, who led New England’s to a controversial come-from-behind win

The loss to New England dropped the 13-3 Steelers to the No. 2 seed within the AFC playoffs, which led to a playoff rematch with Jacksonville. Much like Sunday’s loss to Cleveland, the Jaguars stormed out to an early lead earlier than surviving a livid Pittsburgh comeback try. Roethlisberger completed with 5 landing passes that included two to Antonio Brown, who performed with {a partially} torn calf muscle. Pittsburgh additionally acquired 155 whole yards and two touchdowns from Le’Veon Bell, who sat out your complete subsequent season earlier than signing with the Jets in 2019. The Steelers, who had made the playoffs every of the earlier 4 years, missed the playoffs the subsequent two seasons earlier than being one-and-done within the 2020 postseason.  

3. 2001 AFC title sport: Patriots 24, Steelers 17  

The Steelers have misplaced three AFC title video games to the Patriots, however the first one is undoubtedly the worst. A 13-3 common season staff, the 2001 Steelers commanded the defending champion Ravens within the divisional spherical, 27-10. Conversely, the Patriots wanted arguably essentially the most controversial name in NFL historical past to get previous the Raiders. The favored Steelers had been so assured that they started making Tremendous Bowl preparations within the days main as much as the AFC title sport. 

Pittsburgh’s unhealthy mojo began earlier than kickoff. Jerome Bettis, who tried to play by an damage, had a pain-killing injection hit a nerve, which made his total leg numb. With Bettis neutralized, New England jumped out to a 7-0 lead on Troy Brown’s 55-yard punt return. The Patriots’ solely offensive landing got here from Drew Bledsoe, who relieved an injured Brady close to the top of the second quarter. Bledsoe’s landing go to David Patten gave the Patriots a 14-3 halftime lead. 

The deficit grew to 21-3 after Antwan Harris returned a blocked subject aim for a landing. At that time, Pittsburgh’s offense, led by quarterback Kordell Stewart, lastly discovered its footing. However after two touchdowns lower the deficit to 4 factors, two fourth-quarter interceptions by Stewart sealed Pittsburgh’s destiny, because the Steelers fell to the eventual champs. The sport was the ultimate playoff begin for the favored Stewart, who additionally led the Steelers to an AFC title sport look in 1997. 

2. 2011 wild-card: Broncos 29, Steelers 23 

Each Pittsburgh fan remembers the place they had been when Tim Tebow abruptly ended the Steelers’ 2011 season. Coming into additional time, the Steelers appeared to have the entire momentum after rallying from 10 factors down within the fourth quarter. However after dropping the coin toss, Pittsburgh’s offense watched as Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route on Denver’s first play. Thomas then managed to muscle away from cornerback Ike Taylor earlier than out-running Pittsburgh’s protection on a game-winning, 80-yard landing. 

Except for its stunning conclusion, this loss is important contemplating that the Broncos entered the playoffs with an 8-8 report after dropping their last three video games of the common season. Including insult to damage was the truth that the Steelers’ top-ranked scoring protection, a unit that included Corridor of Fame security Troy Polamalu and former Defensive Participant of the Yr James Harrison, was duped by a quarterback who would by no means begin in one other NFL sport. The loss was the start of the top for that period of Steelers soccer. Pittsburgh started parting with a number of marquee gamers whereas enduring consecutive non-playoff seasons. 

1. 1994 AFC title sport: Chargers 17, Steelers 13  

Invoice Cowher calls his staff’s loss to the Chargers the worst lack of his Corridor of Fame teaching profession. The AFC’s top-seeded staff, the 1994 “Blitzburgh” Steelers, eased previous the Browns within the divisional spherical earlier than internet hosting San Diego for the precise to go to Tremendous Bowl XXIX. 

Whereas they statistically dominated the Chargers, the Steelers held a modest 13-3 led 4 minutes into the third quarter. The lead vanished after Stan Humphries threw two 43-yard landing passes, the second touchdown within the arms of Tony Martin with simply over 5 minutes left within the sport. Pittsburgh’s offense rapidly drove from its personal 17 to the Chargers’ 10-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 10-yard line, Neil O’Donnell accomplished a seven-yard go to Barry Foster with 1:08 left. 

What occurred on fourth down? This is Cowher’s recollection of what transpired throughout and after that play, courtesy of the “Dan Patrick Present.” 

“Dennis Gipson knocked down the (finish zone) go, Neil O’Donnell to Barry Foster, and the entire crowd simply went silent. I will all the time keep in mind that sport as a result of it was a sport the place we had been a defensive soccer staff, Barry Foster [combined with Bam Morris] had 1,700 yards that 12 months. We imposed ourselves on folks. Fourth-and-goal on the three and I am going empty and threw the ball, incomplete go. 

“I am going into the locker room and I am telling the gamers, ‘There isn’t any phrases that I can say that may ease the ache that you feel proper now. However simply perceive that you have finished lots for this metropolis and this isn’t the top, that is the simply starting of us coming again, being relative once more. I advised the coaches what an incredible job they did. They made this staff higher than they ever needs to be. They pushed all the precise buttons. 

“I see Mr. (Dan) Rooney, and I stated, ‘I am sorry, Mr. Rooney, for letting you down.’ He gave me slightly pat on the shoulder. I noticed my spouse, and he or she gave me slightly peck on the cheek. I walked over to my daughter, and my daughter was 8 on the time, Meagan, she checked out me and stated, ‘Dad, why could not you get the ball to Barry Foster? He may have gotten you three yards?’ Hindsight, you are proper, I ought to have given it to Barry Foster.'”

Cowher was proper. The Steelers survived the Colts‘ last-second Hail Mary to win the 1995 AFC championship. Cowher and his staff would endure a number of extra postseason defeats earlier than profitable all of it on the finish of the 2005 season. 


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