5 plays that still haunt Steelers fans to this day

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Tennessee Titans’ placekicker Joe Nedney (Photo credit should read MATT CAMPBELL/AFP via Getty Images) /

January 11, 2002: Divisional Playoff  Tennessee 34 Pittsburgh 31

When it comes to losses that haunt the dreams of fans, this one is a biggie. There are no shortage of Steelers fans when they rewatch this game on the old VCR or DVR keep hoping if they rewatch enough times, perhaps the result of the play will change; it never does.

The Steelers, fresh off their 36-33 win over the Browns in the wild card game, had to travel to Tennessee. It looked like Tommy Maddox had found new life with the Steelers, and they might make their first Superbowl appearance since Superbowl XXX. Tommy Maddox did not disappoint fans for sure.

Ok, the game did not start as Pittsburgh intended. A quick interception by Tennessee led to a Tennessee touchdown. Then they scored on their subsequent possession, leaving the Steelers in a 14-0 hole at the end of the first quarter. Despite a punt on their first possession in the Second Quarter, things changed quickly. Thangs to Tennesse miscues. First, Eddie George fumbled, leading to the Steelers scoring seven points, then Chad Scott intercepted Steve McNair, which led to a Steelers field goal. By halftime, the Titans held on to a tenuous 14-13 lead.

The third quarter was fast and furious, giving Pittsburgh one touchdown while Tennessee scored two touchdowns, and at the end of the 3rd, Tennesee led 28-20. The Steelers came right back in the fourth quarter. With 10:15 left, Tommy Maddox hit Hines ward for the touchdown and then Plaxico Buress for the 2 point conversion. Then the Steelers and Titans traded field goals leaving them deadlocked at 31, each forcing overtime.

The Titans got the ball back to start overtime and managed to drive to the Steelers 16 yard line. After a three-yard pickup by running back Robert Holcombe, it brought up a 2nd and seven. The Titans opted for the field goal to win. They lined up for the field goal, but the Steelers at the very last second iced the kicker by calling a time out. However, the timeout coincided with the ball’s snapping, and Joe Nedney kicked it through the uprights. The referees waved off the kick as no play. The fans nor stadium personnel realized Pittsburgh called time out and thought Nedney had kicked the winning field goal.

Stadium personnel then ignited the fireworks in case the Titans had won. The fireworks show prolonged the time out for about two or three minutes as the referees informed fans the kick had not counted, and the Titans had to rekick. Talk about pressure on Nedney. So on the ensuing kick, once play resumed, Nedney kicked the ball wide right. The Steelers got the ball back and a chance to knock off the titans. That never happened, though. On the ensuing field goal attempt, Dewayne Washing got flagged for running into the kicker. The penalty gave the Titans five yards and a rekick.

Perhaps the play might not be so haunting except in his attempt to block the kick, Washington never ran into the kicker. Washington hardly brushed Nedney.  After the kick, had both feet he clearly planted on the ground,  then Washington barely brushed into him. Nedney then put on a theatrical display, which could have won him an Oscar. By the time Washington touched him, he had deliberately twisted and did a what appeared to be a fake fall, specifically designed to draw the flag. Coach Cowher let the referees have it. He felt the call was so horrible he was still fuming in the post-game interview.

In any event, waving off the missed field goal was excruciating. Steelers fans felt helpless as Nedney punched through the next kick for the win. Tommy Maddox never really recovered from the loss as the following year, they went 6-10. However, within two seasons, Pittsburgh would have a new quarterback who would bring glory back to the Burgh.