The Top 5 Steelers vs. Colts Games of All-Time

5 of 5

#1. A.F.C. Championship Game

January 14, 1996

“3 More Yards” Finally Achieved

Steelers 20 – Colts 16

On January 15, 1995 I was as crushed as any 7 year old could possibly be over a football game.  My beloved Steelers had lost to the vastly inferior San Diego Chargers in an A.F.C. Championship game that they had controlled virtually the entire time.  The motto of the 1995 Steelers was “3 More Yards.”  This was because the Steelers were 3 yards short of the End Zone and a trip to the Super Bowl when they lost to the Chargers that gloomy January day.

After fighting back from a 3-4 regular season record in 1995, the Steelers secured the #2 seed in the A.F.C. with an 8 game winning streak, and dominated their Divisional Playoff Game against Buffalo.  What made that weekend even better for Steeler Nation was that Kansas City and their “Marty Ball” game-plan backfired and they lost at home to the upstart Indianapolis Colts by a score of 10-7.   The Chiefs loss meant that the A.F.C. Championship would be decided at Three Rivers Stadium!  And let me say ladies and gentlemen, this game would be an instant classic.

I had woke up super early that morning to watch the pregame show and decided that showering and getting ready could wait until the game was over.  Therefore, I watched the entire game in my Sonic the Hedgehog pajamas, no joke.  I’ll still never forget that specific detail of what I was wearing during the game because looking back it is just too funny.

The thought going into the game espoused by most pundits was that the Steelers would simply be too much for the Colts to handle and that Indianapolis would buckle under the pressure.  However, in typical fashion under the Cowher regime, the Steelers came out flat and unprepared to play an underdog opponent, and this showed right after the opening kickoff.

On the second play from scrimmage, Neil O’Donnell’s pass was tipped by Colts DT Tony Siragusa and INT’d by LB Jeff Herrod.  The Colts were set up with cake field position, yet that didn’t intimidate the Steelers one bit.  Ray Seals made a nice play on 3rd and 1 and forced the Colts to rely on their Kicker Cary Blanchard for the Field Goal.  Blanchard’s Kick hit the upright but went through and the Colts took and early 3-0 lead.

The Steelers were able to jump on the board late in the 1st Quarter with a 31 yard Field Goal courtesy of Norm Johnson.  They had to settle for the Field Goal after the Refs. didn’t notice Colts Safety Jason Belser literally mugging Kordell Stewart at the Goal Line on a 2nd Down pass that should have been called Pass Interference.  Regardless, the Steelers stood firm and took the easy three points.

Indianapolis stormed right back and mounted a solid drive of their own in the 2nd Quarter.  The Colts took a 6-3 lead on a 36 yard Field Goal by Blanchard and the Steelers found themselves down again.  But in true champion-like form the Steelers responded.  Midway through the 2nd Quarter the Steeler Offense mounted a 17 play 80 yard drive that was simply a thing of beauty.  O’Donnell hit 8 different receivers and Stewart converted three huge Third Downs.  By the 17th play, it was 3rd and Goal from the 5 yard line.  O’Donnell got oodles of time from his O-Line and found Kordell streaking across the back of the end zone for a TD!  It was now 10-6 Steelers going into the Half.  This scoring play was not without controversy, and it looked like Kordell stepped out of bounds and came back in to make the catch.

Was Stewart out of bounds?  Yup.  Was he pushed?  Maybe, but probably not.  But hey, the Steelers got that call back after the refs. missed Jason Belser’s blatant pass interference penalty against Stewart at the 1 yard line in the 1st Quarter.  Things just simply evened out there and I personally won’t complain.  Regardless the Steelers took a slim 10-6 lead into the locker room and were 30 minutes away from a Super Bowl berth.  I mean, I was so nervous and excited at that point that I didn’t even eat during Half Time.  I was just glued to my t.v. hoping that the game would start back up again and the Steelers would hold on for the win.

Indianapolis proved again to be quite the pesky team and Harbaugh came out guns blazing on the first drive of the 2nd Half.  TE Ken Dilger had a nice 29 yard reception to get the Colts moving and near midfield.  However the Colts quest for 6 was denied when Harbaugh was pressured and sacked by Lloyd, Buckner, and Lake.  Blanchard added his third Field Goal of the day (this time from 37 yards) and the Steelers clung to a 10-9 lead.

After the Steelers went 3 and Out the Colts mounted another drive into Pittsburgh territory.  It went 9 plays for 35 yards but helped the Colts in no way shape or form.  Blanchard missed a 47 yard Field Goal after the drive stalled at the Steeler 30, and Pittsburgh took over with cake field position.  The Steelers didn’t let it go to waste and tacked on 3 more points just before the 3rd Quarter ended on a 36 yard Field Goal by Johnson.

The Colts took the ball into the 4th Quarter but couldn’t find any success and had to punt the ball away.  Pittsburgh got a nice return from Andre Hastings and moved the ball into Indianapolis territory.  This was the point in the game where I specifically remember relaxing a bit and figuring that the Steelers would score a TD there and break the game wide open.  Yet, wish in one hand and crap in the other and tell me which one fills up first?!  The drive stalled and Norm Johnson missed a 40 yard Field Goal that would have put the Steelers up 16-9.  Alas the score remained 13-9 and I was so nervous I couldn’t even sit down on my parent’s couch.  Indianapolis had the ball with good field position and were in a chance to win the game with 10:57 left on the clock.  Then the play happened that literally had me screaming at my t.v. and my folks sending me to our basement to watch the game and calm down.

Harbaugh went for broke at the Steeler 47 yard line and found WR Floyd Turner wide open on a corner route with literally nobody around him!  Seeing images Darren Perry and Myron Bell nowhere near Floyd Turner still makes me nauseous to this day.  The Colts had a 16-13 lead, and all the momentum a road underdog playoff team could want.  The Steelers couldn’t respond on the following drive, and with around 7 minutes left to play in the game, the Colts were just a few First Downs away from icing the game.

Luck almost happened to bounce the Steelers way on the first play of the drive when Lamont Warren fumbled and both Perry and Bell had a shot at fielding it.  However, they couldn’t come up with the ball cleanly and the Colts Joe Staysniak pounced on the loose football.  After a pass to Turner put the Colts at 3rd and 1, the most unlikely of heroes stepped up for the Steelers with 4:09 left in the game: CB Willie Williams.

Instead of playing off the ball and off the line of scrimmage, Williams darted off the corner and towards Warren who got the handoff from Harbaugh.  Had Williams not reacted Warren had not only the 1st Down, but also at least 30 yards of open field ahead of him.  Instead Willie made a shoe-string tackle and Indianapolis was denied the 1st Down and 3:03 was left for the Steelers to mount one final drive after a Chris Gardocki punt.

At their own 33, O’Donnell led the Offense on what I still consider to be one of the most heart-pounding and excitement filled drives I’ve ever watched (excluding Super Bowl XLIII of course).  Disaster almost struck though when with 2:43  left Colts LB Quentin Coryatt dropped a sure Pick-6!  The Steelers couldn’t convert on the next play, so the stage was set for a 4th Down play.  O’Donnell stood tall however, and fired a bullet to Andre Hastings for 9 yards

and a First Down down to the Colts 38!  The very next play the Steelers went for broke and O’Donnell fired a perfect ball to Ernie Mills on a go route that netted 37 yards down to the Colts’ 1 yard line!  I’ll never forget watching that play on the t.v. in my parents basement and seeing what looked like Three Rivers Stadium shaking because of the crowd noise and jubilant atmosphere in the aftermath of that bomb!  On 2nd and Goal Bam Morris took it in for 6 and the Steelers were up 20-16!

Despite the fact that the Steelers had gone ahead with around 1:30 to play, it really didn’t seem to scare the Colts and “Captain Comeback” at all to move over 80 yards for a winning TD.  The Colts moved the ball at will against the prevent the Steelers were playing.  And outside of an almost game winning INT by backup Safety Chris Oldham, Indianapolis looked cool, collected, and calm during the final drive.  With the ball on the Steelers 28 and 5 seconds left on the clock, Harbaugh heaved a Hail Mary to the end zone on what would be the final play of the game.

I’ll never forget just how long that play took to unfold because the ball hung up there for what seemed like an eternity to me.  When it came down in the crowd of Colts and Steelers the ball fell near Colts WR Aaron Bailey and all I could hear was Phil Simms’ voice.


I almost had a stroke because the thought of the Colts winning on a play like that was entirely too much excitement for me to handle.  I thought that there was no way my favorite team in the world could be beaten two consecutive years by inferior teams on their own home turf!  Thankfully the Back Judge was in perfect position to see that Bailey trapped the ball and ruled the play incomplete and that the game was over!  THE STEELERS HAD WON THE A.F.C. CHAMPIONSHIP!

I ran around my house like a whirling dervish ecstatic over what had just taken place.  The Steelers had avenged their loss from the previous year and were now in the Super Bowl!  Sadly, we all know how the following game ended, but that shouldn’t take away from Steeler Nation appreciating one of the best A.F.C. Championship Games ever played.  I will simply never forget how exciting this game was to watch and how much drama that it was filled with.


I hope you enjoyed my countdown.  Feel free to share you thoughts and feelings on the games I chose and your experiences witnessing and watching them.  As I’ve stated before this will be a Wednesday staple for the 2011 season so don’t be shy sending me your reactions and feedback.  Let’s cross our fingers for a Steelers win this Sunday!

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