5 plays that still haunt Steelers fans to this day
January 15, 1996, AFC Championship Game: San Diego 17 Pittsburgh 13
The Steelers had finally returned to the AFC Championship game for the first time in 16 seasons. Fans felt confident they would ground the Chargers and advance to their first Superbowl since 1979. Probably fans, if not the Steelers, did not take Chargers Quarterback Stan Humphries seriously enough. Not for lack of effort, though. The Steelers made the Chargers punt on their first four possession. The Chargers’ first scoring drive did not happen until midway through the second quarter when they had to settle for a field goal on a drive that stalled on the two-yard line. Then on the Chargers’ first drive to open the third quarter Rod Woodson intercepted the ball. The interception set up a 50-yard drive culminating in another Gary Anderson field goal.
Perhaps the Steelers got a bit overconfident. The Chargers then scored seven points on their next drive and forced the Steelers to punt on their next three possessions while they forced the Chargers to punt twice. Thanks to the Chargers’ defensive effort, they put an 80-yard scoring drive together, stunning the Steelers taking a 17-13 lead. The Steelers then had to score a touchdown as a field goal could not tie the game.
The Steelers got the ball with 5:13 remaining on the clock. Starting on their own 17, Neil O’Odonnell orchestrated an 81-yard drive to the Chargers’ three-yard line. It looked like the Steelers might still make their first Superbowl in over a decade despite facing a 4th and three from the three-yard line. O’Donnell dropped back to pass to a wide-open Barry Foster for the game-winning touchdown. Well, it would have happened had it not been for Chargers linebacker Dennis Gibson who managed to tip the pass, causing it to hit the ground.
The tipped pass ended the Steelers bid to advance to Superbowl XXIX and a chance to Face the 49ers in the Superbowl, which would have been the ultimate dream matchup for Steelers fans everywhere. The 49ers had four Championships and had never lost, and the Steelers 4-0 in the big game as well. The dream Superbowl matchup never happened. The following year, not forgetting the dreadful play Steelers them for 1995 was three more yards.