5 Wild Card games the Steelers won’t soon forget
By Brendan Howe
The Pittsburgh Steelers have played in multiple Wild Card Weekend classics. They would prefer to make easy work this Sunday night.
Since the NFL established a 16-game regular-season calendar prior to the 1978 season, also adding a second wild card team, the postseason’s opening weekend has provided a handful of noteworthy contests for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the Wild Card round, squaring off with iconic passers such as Joe Montana and Dan Fouts, the Steelers sport a 6-5 record. If history is any indication, this Sunday night’s clash with Cleveland will remain close. In half-a-dozen instances, Pittsburgh’s Wild Card showings have been decided by a field goal or less.
Mike Tomlin has coached the franchise in nearly half of its Wild Card games, compiling a 2-3 mark in such matchups. In 2008, it was the round that his first playoff outing under a Steelers headset, against Jack Del Rio and the Jacksonville Jaguars, was cut short. In 2012, a year removed from an appearance in Super Bowl XLV, the Steelers were overcome in overtime by the national sensation and bedlam known as Tebowmania.
More encouragingly, many think back to Pittsburgh becoming the first sixth seed to ever be blanketed in confetti. The team embarked on its 2005 playoff march to Detroit and Super Bowl XL as a wild card.
While Baker Mayfield-led Cleveland seeks its first playoff win in over a quarter-century Sunday night, Tomlin and the Steelers plan to notch their third-successive Wild Card conquest. Ahead of the playoff renewal of the Turnpike Rivalry, here’s a look back at five of the Steelers’ most memorable Wild Card Weekend matchups.
The Blond Bomber’s postseason swan song
After defeating the Los Angeles Rams in 1980 and hoisting a fourth Lombardi Trophy, Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers fell short of the postseason in the two campaigns that followed. A strike-shortened season paved the way for Pittsburgh to return in January 1983.
Against Don Coryell’s San Diego Chargers, in what turned out to be his farewell game at Three Rivers Stadium, Bradshaw put together his most prolific postseason performance. Adeptly, he delivered 71.8% of his tosses. He completed 28 passes, enough for the third-most of his career, and his 39 attempts and 325 yards were more than he’d ever thrown in a playoff contest.
Bradshaw, who with 17 scores tied the league lead in passing touchdowns, found both Bennie Cunningham and John Stallworth in the endzone while also sneaking past the goal-line himself.
Although the Steelers held a 28-17 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Bolts’ offense, exhibiting the league’s finest passing attack, rallied. The first-team All-Pro battery of Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow connected twice in the stanza, including a score within the final minute, willing the Chargers to a 31-28 victory.
The bothersome loss to San Diego in many ways signified the expiration of a dynasty. Lynn Swann and Jack Ham, both Pittsburgh icons and future Hall of Famers, retired after the season. As a result of an offseason elbow procedure, Bradshaw would have to sit for Pittsburgh’s first 14 games in 1983, giving way to Cliff Stoudt. The Steelers wouldn’t host another playoff game until 1992.