November 25, 2001
Chad Scott Saves the Day
Steelers 34 – Titans 24
The Steelers had some inner demons to face on that late November day in Nashville. Not only was (7-2) Pittsburgh in need of a win to keep their division lead intact over Baltimore, they were facing a franchise that had beat them 7 times in a row until earlier in the 2001 season. Yet someway and somehow the Football Gods threw the Steelers a bone and told Titans QB and longtime Steeler torturer Steve McNair “Not Today!”
The Steelers looking to capitalize on their Monday Night October win against Tennessee, went right to work on their opening drive. Kordell led a clock eating drive that took up about half of the 1st Quarter. Unfortunately, the drive stalled and Kris Brown booted a 39 yard Field Goal to give the Steelers a 3-0 advantage. But whenever the Steelers put a McNair-led team on the ropes, it only seemed to inspire him.
Tennessee took their first offensive play from scrimmage and McNair hurled a bomb to WR Kevin Dyson for 68 yards and a TD! I’ll never forget watching that throw and going “Shit, here we go again! You bastard McNair.” The Steelers looked to be in a dog-fight and both teams had only had the ball once. No more scoring was seen until the 2nd Quarter, but again McNair killed the Steelers again. Only this time he used another weapon that always seemed to bring his “A Game” against the Steelers: TE Frank Wycheck.
I always despised Wycheck with his smug smile and arrogant attitude, plus the fact that he played for Houston/Tennessee and always did well against the Steelers didn’t make him any more likable in my opinion. In the middle of the 2nd Quarter McNair led the Titans on another TD drive after the Steelers Offense had stalled. McNair capped off the drive with a 4 yard TD pass to Wycheck which I’ll never forget because the string of expletives that came out of my mouth towards Wycheck after that play made me even a tad embarrassed at 14 years old. But hell I was pissed, envision the situation: With just over 4 minutes to go the Steelers were down 14-3, on the road, in a place that was a house of horrors for them, their running game was getting stuffed (Bettis had only 21 carries for 73 yards all day), and the Titans would be getting the 2nd Half Kickoff.
Yet in a regular season that was an arduous redemption journey, Kordell Stewart brought the Steelers right back into the game. After the Titans kicked off, Stewart orchestrated a very efficient and extremely effective drive against one of the better Defenses in the League at the time. The drive finally ended on a Stewart 4 yard TD pass to “Gun Control’s Poster Child” Plaxico Burress with :15 seconds left on the clock! Suddenly the Steelers had momentum on their side and only needed one stop to take the lead in the game.
Tennessee couldn’t manage to score on their opening possession of the 2nd Half, and the Steelers took full advantage. Again it was Kordell who played the hero, and he had one of the most athletic runs I have ever seen made by a QB in my lifetime. At the Titans 48, Stewart took off and didn’t look back weaving his way through traffic and scored the go-ahead TD to put the Steelers ahead 17-14! I can remember just screaming at my T.V. “Run, Run, Run!” In my opinion, that was one of the most heart-stopping plays by Stewart that nobody ever talks about. Regardless, the Steelers needed to hold on to their small lead and really squash any hopes that Tennessee had of getting back into the game. Steve McNair, like always, had some different plans of his own.
McNair led the Titans on another solid drive, but the Steelers’ Defense held firm. Joe Nedney trotted onto the field and kicked a 49 yard Field Goal to even the score at 17. Tennesse had crawled back, but Pittsburgh wouldn’t be denied. Nedney kicked off, and WR Troy Edwards returned the kick 81 yards on a stellar effort by the Steelers’ Special Teams. Suddenly the Steelers were primed to score again. Stewart wasted no time and got a well-designed screen pass off to 3rd Down Back Amos Zereoue who took it 25 yards for a TD behind some excellent blocking! The Titans couldn’t answer after that blow and ended up punting the ball back to the Steelers down 24-17.
As the game moved into the 4th Quarter the Steelers were driving and looking for some insurance points. While the drive stalled, Brown came and booted an extremely important 37 yard Field Goal to increase the Steeler lead to 27-24 with over 14:00 to play in the game. But moments like that, where the odds were against Steve McNair only seemed to make him play better. With 8:23 to go, a Titans drive netted them a TD when McNair himself ran the ball in from 1 yard out. With just over half a Quarter to go, the Steelers appeared to be losing control of the game that they were winning 27-24.
I was crushed when the Steelers couldn’t turn their following possession into points. I just sat on my couch with my head in my hands wondering how the Hell McNair could beat them again because he had done it so many times before. I just kept muttering “Turnover” to myself and hoping that November 25, 2001 would not be Steve McNair’s day and that the Steelers would prevail and continue their magic carpet ride of a season. I knew that if the Steelers were going to do anything that season it would be gut-check time then and there, and I felt a sneaking suspicion that this would be the team to end McNair’s domination. I figured that the 2001 team had too much character to let a game like this slip away, and CB Chad Scott proved me right and made me the happiest Steeler fan in Denver that day!
Down 3 with time melting away, McNair started the game’s most important drive. Near his own 40 yard line, McNair looked and fired a pass towards the sidelines to his sure-handed buddy Wycheck. Then something amazing happened, Wycheck never turned around for the ball! Wycheck’s mistake and an excellent read by Chad Scott allowed Chad to grab the ball and go off to the races! Scott took the INT 45 yards for a TD, and his Pick-6 plus a Brown P.A.T. put the Steelers up 34-24 with 3:23 remaining! It was so freaking awesome seeing those jagoffs McNair and Wycheck fail in such an important spot! What made it even better is that they totally screwed up against the Steelers!
The game was essentially wrapped up when Mike Logan picked off a McNair pass on a desperation drive and the Steelers moved to 8-2. It was a great statistical day for the Steeler Offense as Kordell had an amazing game and went 19-31 for 254 yards and had 3 total TD’s. Hines Ward had 7 catches for 99 yards and Burress had 8 grabs for 114 yards and a TD. It was truly a great day for all Steelers and Steeler Fans alike. The Steelers survived their important gut check, and most importantly they exercised their Adelphia Coliseum demons in one of the best games ever played in this rivalry.