Given what we've been through the last month and a half, I realize this isn't the best time to revisit what devastation this mostly generous decade has given Steelers fans. But being a true fan isn't merely about delighting in victories. You got to stick it out through the bad. And this was the worst it got for us in the Aughts.
10. The Kris Brown Game (2001)
When watching Kris Brown shank two potential game-tying field goals this season with the Texans, all I can do is wrap myself in a warm Snuggie of schadenfreude. Brown was a disaster with the Steelers and the 2001 home game against Baltimore typified the whole mess. He missed FOUR FIELD GOALS in what wound up being a 13-10 Ravens victory. The Steelers could have had two three-game sweeps of Baltimore this decade were it not for this slapdick.
9. The Tommy Maddox Gets His Home Vandalized Game (2005)
Tommy Maddox's window of competence for the Steelers was a very, very narrow one. He had a pretty good year in 2002, then proceeded to nosedive right back into the shittiness that got him out of the league his first go-round. The 2005 overtime loss to the Jaguars was the absolute worst - he finished 11 for 28 with three interceptions and a lost fumble and that doesn't even begin to describe how utterly horrible he was. Considering how poorly Maddox played, the fact that Pittsburgh even forced OT against a team that ended up finishing 12-4 that year is a testament to how good that '05 Steelers team was. In overtime, Pittsburgh was even in position to win, with the ball well into Jags territory when Maddox dropped a snap that Jacksonville recovered. Pittsburgh forced another punt, so Tommy decided to speed up the process by throwing a pick-six to end the game. I can't endorse how some Steelers fans reacted to the loss, but I certainly understood their frustration.
8. The Running into the Kicker Game (2002)
What's so funny about the haters who swear that the NFL tries to make the Steelers win or that the referees are always on their side is that the fact that Pittsburgh has suffered two playoff losses this decade in which questionable calls (or non-calls) went against them at critical moments, and almost a third with the overturned Polamalu interception against the Colts in 2005. Joe Nedney missed a 31-yard gimme kick in overtime but the refs gave him a second chance after flagging Dewayne Washington for a ticky-tack running into the kicker penalty. Still, the Steelers had a three-point lead late in the 4th and they couldn't hold it. This time a break went against us. We're not crying conspiracy about it.
7. The Losing to a Goddamn Expansion Team Game (2002)
One reason that Titans playoff loss doesn't sting so much is because that 2002 Steelers was a bit of a maddening conundrum. Exhibit A: THEY LOST TO A TEXANS TEAM IN THEIR FIRST SEASON IN THE LEAGUE! WITH DAVID CARR STARTING! THE GAME WASN'T EVEN CLOSE - THEY LOST 24-6! GGGGAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!
6. The Perils of Starting After a Concussion Game (2006)
And this, besides the NFL's efforts to bolster awareness of the effects of head injuries, is why Ben Roethlisberger did not start against the Ravens in Baltimore. A week removed from a concussion suffered against the Falcons, Big Ben threw for 300 yards. He also threw two pick-sixes, including one in the redzone that went back 100 yards for a score the other way. Yes, the Steelers lost despite the fact that Oakland had 98 yards of total offense. Ninety eight. On a personal note, this game was an extra slap to me because I ran the Marine Corps Marathon that morning and still went out to the bar even though my legs were killing me. And this was my reward. Just a further reminder that running is for suckers.
5. The Game Ravens Fans Think About While Masturbating (2006)
How many Ravens fan sites use this picture or some other shot of Ben getting hit in '06 in every other post? You got it - ALL OF THEM! Admittedly, this is one of the very few times the Ravens lived up to their extensive trash talk. They did for once punish the Steelers completely. In winning 27-0, they sacked Roethlisberger nine times and knocked him out of the game. The Ravens handed the Steelers another big loss later in the season in Pittsburgh, but this was the one that extinguished any lingering hopes that the Steelers would turn around what was a disappointing '06 campaign.
4. The Last Game (2009)
Hey, remember that game from last Thursday? I wish I didn't. You might argue that this one is rated a little high, but then I can't recall a game where the Steelers looked more complacent. Bruce Arians gameplan of throwing out of four and five receiver sets despite 30 mph winds was textbook retardery. Dick LeBeau gets some blame too. Everyone in the stadium knew what Josh Cribbs would be doing in this game. And the Steelers just laid down for it. Disgusting.
3. Not The Actual Choke Game (2004)
Very cute, Masshole. At least the Steelers didn't blow a perfect season.
The 2004 AFC Championship wasn't a choke by the Steelers. They did host the game and had a superior regular season record to the Patriots, though only 15-1 to 14-2. At the same time, the Patriots were the defending champs with a decorated veteran QB under center, while the Steelers had a rookie QB, albeit one who was having the best rookie season by a QB ever. Still, Big Ben showed his age like all rookies do in the postseason. The Steelers were extremely fortunate to have gotten by the Jets the previous week. It stands to reason that you can't hide your quarterback in the postseason, and the Steelers couldn't in this game. Big Ben didn't play well, though the team deserves credit for rallying to make it interesting in the second half, even if Cowher played it far too conservative by kicking an extra point late rather than going for two.
2. The Game That Should Have Gotten Bruce Arians Fired (2007)
Mike Pereira, the NFL's head of officiating, kindly informed the Steelers after this game that the refs neglected to call a holding penalty on James Harrison on a deciding 4th and 2 run by David Garrard. But Steelers fans aren't Ravens fans. The refs didn't screw us. The Steelers had every opportunity to put away this game after coming back from an 18-point 4th quarter deficit to regain the lead. Facing a 3rd and 6, when a first down ices the game for Pittsburgh, Bruce Arians dials up a designed quarterback rollout run by Ben Roethlisberger. Now, Big Ben is fairly nifty in the pocket. He can break free from some pass rushers. But he's not Vince Young. Suffice it to say, the moronic playcall didn't work. Even more tragically, Arians kept his job.
1. The Actual Choke Game (2001)
The special teams struggles of this season harken back to what was a staple of the Bill Cowher era. In two-thirds of the game, the 2001 Steelers were a better team than the eventual champion Patriots. Ah, but they they found that Achilles heel and exploited it for two special teams touchdowns, one a long punt return by Troy Brown, another a blocked field goal by previously mentioned failure Kris Brown that was returned for a score. The Steelers knocked Tom Brady out of the game and useless robot Drew Bledose came in to finish the job. That's how bad it was. And it wouldn't be a Kordell Stewart AFC Championship Game if he didn't throw two backbreaking interceptions in the 4th quarter when the team had a chance to tie the game.
-- Pretty much the entire '03 Season
-- The Chiefs and Raiders games this year
-- 2006 Bengals and Broncos games
-- Losing to the Pats in 2002 season opener
-- Losing to Kellen Clemens and the Jets in 2007