Super Bowls that could have been for the Steelers but did not happen

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 10: Quarterbacks Tommy Maddox (L) and Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers watch from the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns on October 10, 2004 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh defeated Cleveland 34-23. (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 10: Quarterbacks Tommy Maddox (L) and Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers watch from the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns on October 10, 2004 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh defeated Cleveland 34-23. (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /
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Mark Malone #16, Quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers calls the play during the American Football Conference Central game against the Houston Oilers on 16th November 1986 at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, United States. The Steelers won the game 21 – 10. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Allsport/Getty Images)
Mark Malone #16, Quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers calls the play during the American Football Conference Central game against the Houston Oilers on 16th November 1986 at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, United States. The Steelers won the game 21 – 10. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Allsport/Getty Images) /

The Steelers played in only two AFC Championship games over a decade

After the final Super Bowl win of the 1970s, the Steelers did not play in an AFC Championship game until the 1984 season.  That season was really an up and down season, but we made the playoffs and advanced to the championship game against the Miami Dolphins.

We lost by 17 points and the Dolphins went on to play in the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers. In that Super Bowl, the 49ers merged victorious.  While I think we would have performed better on defense than the Dolphins performed, I don’t think we would have beaten the ‘Niners’.  It was their year.

After the 1984 season, it would be a decade before the Steelers played in another AFC Championship game.  After the 1994 regular season, we advanced through the playoffs to face the San Diego Chargers.  We were at home against a good Chargers team but it felt to me like it was our year to go to the Super Bowl.

Alas, it was not meant to be. The Chargers won and went on to play the 49ers in the Super Bowl where they got thoroughly dismantled by the high-powered ‘Niners’ offense.  As much as I would like to think our defense would have risen to the occasion, I don’t think we would have been able to keep up offensively, so let’s say that would have been a loss.

So now that we are 6-2 in our hypothetical Super Bowl discussion, let’s move on to the late 1990s and early 2000s to see how we would have fared.

1 Aug 1998: Quarterback Kordell Stewart #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The Buccaneers defeated the Steelers 30-6. Mandatory Credi
1 Aug 1998: Quarterback Kordell Stewart #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The Buccaneers defeated the Steelers 30-6. Mandatory Credi /

The Steelers hosted two AFC Championship games in the late 1990s and one year into the 2000s and lost both of them

After the Steelers lost to the Cowboys in the Super Bowl following the 1995 season, it would not be long before we were back in the AFC Championship game.  After the 1997 regular season, the opponent this time was the Denver Broncos.

At home again, I figured it would be a close game, but a game that we could win and probably were going to win.  I was wrong. Thanks to 3 INTs thrown by our QB, Denver won the game and subsequently went on to beat the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.

Had we advanced to the Super Bowl instead of the Broncos, I think we would have beaten the Packers, thus notching our seventh Super Bowl victory.  Again, it’s a moot point as we failed to beat the Broncos in a home championship game.

A few years later, the Steelers were once again on the precipice of a Super Bowl appearance.  After the 2001 regular season, we advanced to the AFC Championship game.  Hosting the New England Patriots, we lost by 7 points, but the game was actually not that close.

Once again, our QB turned the ball over 3 times in the form of 3 INTs.  It was too much for us to overcome.  The Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl and beat the St. Louis Rams.  Had we faced the Rams, I think we would have beaten them in a close game to raise our Super Bowl win total to eight.

Let’s now take a look at the final two AFC Championship games.