12.16.2009

10 Most Satisfying Steelers Wins of the Decade

The anguish of the Steelers losing to the Browns hasn't quite dissipated and I fear that it may be a while yet. It doesn't help that Troy Polamalu and Chris Kemoeatu have already been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Packers. For now, let's pause to think back to the happier moments of the recent past. Because decade retrospectives are the thing to do with the Aughts coming to a close in two weeks, here are what I consider the 10 most satisfying Steelers wins of the decade that was. Few will argue with the top two, but feel free to do so with the others if you're so inclined.

10. This is How Hell is Unleashed (2005)

The 2005 Steelers were coming off a 15-1 season and had been coasting for most of the year until the Ravens laid a cheap late hit on Ben Roethlisberger, putting on ice for a month. Thanks mostly to Tommy Maddox's bumbling, the team lost three straight to fall to 7-5. They could have responded like this year's team and crap out of contention, but instead they put up on the last old school Steelers grind-out victories we became so accustomed to in the Cowher era. It was the launching point to a title and also Jerome Bettis' final 100-yard game. Oh yeah, and Brian Urlacher got run over by The Bus going into the endzone.

9. Putting Down the Bungles, Again (2006)



While beating Cincy in the '05 playoffs may have been a bigger kick in the nuts, the Carson Palmer injury does take away some of the oomph of that particular victory. 2006, like this season, didn't allow for many happy moments, but this was one of them. The Bengals only needed to beat the Steelers at home to claim a playoff spot. Instead they got eliminated by Pittsburgh for the second straight season. Santonio's biggest moment as a rookie came on the season's final play.

8. The Ravens Are Pathetic (2007)



The Ravens got their only season sweep ever of the Steelers in 2006 (I would say the biggest goal remaining of this season would be stopping them from getting another). Ravens fans were tugging it to their pictures of Bart Scott laying out Big Ben in Baltimore (actually, they still are). The Steelers brought out the legends and the throwback unis and laid a hell-king ass-whipping on Baltimore. "Ben Worthlessberger" as Ravens fans are fond of calling him, threw five first half touchdowns. Better than Mel Blount calling the Ravens pathetic, better than Hines Ward laying out Ed Reed STRAIGHT UP (because he always blindsides people, of course) was Ray Lewis whining after the game that the 35 points didn't mean anything because the Steelers had a short field on a couple of possessions. Class act as always, Ray-Ray.

7. Den-nis North-cutt (2002)


My favorite aspect of the decade in Steelers football (aside from those two titles) is the fact that they went beat each divisional opponent in the playoffs at least once over that span (the Ravens twice). Oddly enough, this is the only Steelers playoff game I didn't get to see live because I was studying abroad at the time - foreigners have bizarre priorities. What's worse is that by a quirk of fate I WAS ABLE to find a place in my small Italian town showing the following game against the Titans, which of course they lost. This one I finally saw not too long ago on NFL Network and I'm kind of glad I didn't get to see it there, because I would have made a scene.

6. 21 and Done (2004)


On the bragging rights ledger, the Pats definitely come out ahead of the Steelers this decade with two wins in conference championship games. Still, it was awfully sweet at the time to end what was then the Patriots record winning streak. At the time, the 2004 Steelers weren't being taken seriously, which made sense. They had a rookie quarterback and their best win was a road victory over a mediocre Dallas team. That changed with back-to-back victories over both the unbeaten Pats and Eagles. The Steelers were a team to take very seriously.

5. Gunfingaz! (2005)

Even after making it past the Colts in the second round, there was no sense that the Steelers had really done anything until they finally got over their conference title game funk. They had lost three straight at home before this one, and it was on the road. The Steelers erased all doubt early on, taking a commanding 24-3 lead at half. To date, this is probably the best performance of Ben Roethlisberger's career.

4. "Super Bowl XLIII! Pittsburgh Might Be Bound For That Thanks to Number 43" (2008)



The Ravens could sweep the Steelers this year. They could sweep them next year. They could sweep them the year after that. It still won't make up for losing the biggest game the two teams could possibly play against one another - the AFC Championship. For all the officiating whining Baltimore fans do, they were kept in this game by two very suspect pass interference penalties that put them at the Steelers' 1. In this game, Troy Polamalu stopped Joe Flacco short on a 4th and 1 and made a game-clinching pick-six. Where was Ed Reed? Backpedaling 20 yards as Santonio Holmes raced into the endzone.

3. The Tackle and Other Tribulations (2005)


Without treading too far into Bill Simmons "Nobody Believed in Us!" territory, there weren't a great many people even considering the possibility that Pittsburgh would even make this game competitive. Not without good reason. The Colts were seemingly unstoppable that year. But even when the Steelers lost to them in the regular season, the announcers were talking about how a lot of the defensive schemes the Steelers were using were flustering Peyton Manning. If the Steelers could get another crack at them, they certainly weren't guaranteed to win, but they would give them a better game. Manning looked dreadful for three quarters. Before he found any semblance of rhythm, it was too late. A mistakenly overturned Polamalu interception and a Bettis fumble gave Indianapolis a shot, but they didn't deserve to win. And they didn't.

2. Ben to 10, The Immaculate Interception and the Sticky Lombardi (2008)



I swear to God, the 2008 season cost me 10 years off my life. As fans, we don't do anything except show up, yell and maybe abide by our superstitions, but I felt like I worked for this title (even though in reality I obviously did nothing). I get chest pains thinking how many times they waited until the last second to win games last year. Then I think how many times they've waited until the last second to lose this year, and that only makes matters worse.

1. One for the Thumb (2005)


Super Bowl XLIII was a vastly superior game to watch from an objective fan's point of view. XL was marked by sloppy effort from both teams. Then there was the endless and ongoing officiating nonsense. Sorry. There was one obviously bad call in the game - the clipping penalty on Hasselbeck after the interception. Is that enough to swing a Super Bowl by itself? If you hate the Steelers enough it does. Everything else - even if you think it was ticky-tack, was the correct call. The fact remains that only one team made all the big plays. As a Steelers fan, flawed as it was, if this isn't your game of the decade, I don't really want to know you.

Other Five-Star Games:
-2001 MNF in Baltimore (The Shannon Sharpe "Plexiglass" game. One of the few fond memories of Plaxico)
- Eliminating Buffalo in Week 17 with backups (2004)
-2006 Saints (A rare display of potential in an otherwise ugly season)
-2009 Vikings (Ditto)
-2005 Wild Card over Cincy
-Dallas victories in 2004 and 2008
-Blanking the Seahawks 21-0 in 2007

5 comments:

Sean said...

Nicely done! This makes me feel so much better about the Steelers than I currently do.

Spatula said...

I agree, nicely done. But I still don't feel better.

Josh said...

December 16, 2000: Steelers 24, Redskins 3. Last game in Three Rivers Stadium.

September 26, 2004: Steelers 13, Dolphins 3. Game moved from 1pm to 8pm because of Hurricane Jeanne. Ben's first start.

BTP said...

Saw that 2004 Bills game in person. The locals did not take kindly to getting thumped by backups. It was a nice coming out party for Parker.

Krystle said...

Awesome post, definitely makes me feel better about this season and hearing Ravens fans chatter this season.