The time: 1pm
The place: Three Rivers Stadium
Cleveland entered the game boasting that they had beaten themselves in the previous two games with Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won both contests during the regular season, 17 – 10 at Cleveland and 17 – 7 at home.
Below is a recap of the stats of that game, but there is a moment of that game I'll never forget. I was at the time acting in a production of Peter Pan at the Byham Theater. The show was to start at 2:30 pm so I knew that I'd miss most of the game. Even though one of the cast members brought a mini television, I found myself outside walking down the street to the 7-11 to get a Slurpee while the game started.
The path back to the theater would take me out onto Fort Pitt Blvd. The stage door is on that road and it gave me a great view of Three Rivers Stadium. I was outside at the time talking to a fellow cast member who was smoking a cigarette when I heard this loud roar of what sounded like a muffled thunder-clap.
It took me a minute to realize what I'd just heard. I'd heard the collective voices of 58,000+ screaming about a goal-line interception by Darren Perry to thwart a deep ball thrown by Vinny Testaverde.
I rushed back into the theater to watch the game on the mini-television, almost missed my places call, and would run back during my breaks on stage.
I never did see the 4th quarter of the game since I was in Act 3, but I remember seeing Yancey Thigpen's touchdown catch with :16 left in the half and knowing that the Browns were truly the overmatched team that year.
More importantly, there are lessons to be learned from the game for both sides. Looking at the stats, the Steelers possessed the ball an incredible 42 minutes. The Browns had 3 turnovers in the game to the Steelers' 0. The Steelers held the Browns to only 181 yards of total offense and sacked Testaverde twice. By comparison, the Browns didn't register a sack.
But, the big number occurs in the Steelers rushing yards: 238. This number should be what the Steelers gun for this Sunday, for if the Steelers can come close to that number or at least cross the 150 yards of total rushing mark, the Steelers will win. And they'll win easily. If the Steelers aren't able to effectively run the ball, then the Browns may just squeak out a win and put aside their demons of the 1994 playoff fiasco.
The 1994 game proved to be the last great stand for Testaverde's Browns. The Browns would limp out of Cleveland the following year and the Steelers would earn their first of 4 AFC Championship games in the next 8 years to solidify their place as the outright dominant AFC Central team of the 90's.
- First Quarter
- Pit--FG Anderson 39, 9:38.
- Second Quarter
- Pit--Green 2 pass from O'Donnell (Anderson kick), 0:48.
- Pit--J.Williams 26 run (Anderson kick), 5:57.
- Cle--FG Stover 22, 12:23.
- Pit--Thigpan 9 pass from O'Donnell (Anderson kick), 14:44.
- Pit--J.Williams 26 run (Anderson kick), 5:57.
- Third Quarter
- Pit--FG Anderson 40, 12:25.
- Fourth Quarter
- Cle--McCardell 20 pass from Testaverde (point failed), 9:07.
- Pit--Safety, Lake sacked Testaverde in end zone, 12:15.
- INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
- Cleveland: Byner 9-43, Hoard 3-8, Metcalf 5-4.
- Pittsburgh: Foster 24-133, Morris 22-60, J.Williams 2-43, Tomczak 3-2.
- Cleveland: Testaverde 13-31-2-144.
- Pittsburgh: O'Donnell 16-23-0-186.
- Cleveland: Jackson 3-47, McCardell 3-47, Metcalf 2-18, Carrier 2-8, Byner 1-14, Hoard 1-5, Kinchen 1-5.
- Pittsburgh: Mills 5-117, J.Williams 4-20, Green 3-21, Hastings 2-18, Thigpen 2-10.
- Philadelphia – This team may be destined to win it all, with everything they've gone through. Sounds like Pittsburgh last year…
- Oakland – I can't help remembering the thrashing they put on Tennessee earlier in the season.
- Tennessee – The road to the Super Bowl may just end up going through Nashville.
- Pittsburgh – The Steelers look like they could go all the way or be out by Monday.
- NY Jets – Earned this AFC East title the hard way.
- Tampa Bay – Took advantage of the Packers' folly by putting away the Bears.
- Green Bay – The Pack looked awfully lethargic on Sunday. One game at Lambeau won't get them to the Super Bowl.
- NY Giants – They have the best chance of an upset in the Wild Card Weekend.
- Indianapolis – Don't have a prayer on Saturday. But Dungy's brought hope back to Indy.
- San Francisco – Meaningless game Monday Night. Still, they didn't put up a good show.
- Cleveland – The Browns better learn their lesson from 1994 or they'll be knocked out this weekend.
- Atlanta – Limping into the playoffs because someone's figured out Vick.
Missed Prime Opportunity (MPO) Score
Pittsburgh 4 Baltimore 5
An MPO is when a team fails to score while in scoring range or doesn't take advantage of major swings in momentum (i.e. major penalties/turnovers/settling for field goals in successive series/inability to seal a game with first downs). These are killers because a team only gets so many opportunities.
An MPO Score is like golf: It's best to score low. When a team score's low, it usually wins the game. It's remarkable how accurate it can be.
Pittsburgh's 2002 – 03 Final Regular Season MPO record: 9 – 6 – 1
Thoughts Assisted By Yuengling
- Mike Mularkey will be soon be talking with the Bengals organization about the head coaching position. Kordell Stewart may end up in Cincy as the starter even if they draft Carson Palmer. Makes you think doesn't it?
- Now that the dust has settled from the AFC playoff race, Denver, Miami, New England, and San Diego all must be sick in the stomach. All 4 teams held first place in their divisions for more than 2 weeks this year.
- Speaking of Denver, the Steelers play the AFC and NFC West teams next year. The AFC North looks to be even more competitive next season and the Steelers will also visit the NY Jets and host Tennessee to boot. The combined record of next year's opponents (counting the AFC North once)? 103 – 105. Compare that to the combined 2001 record of this year's opponents. 87 – 105. They'll have to play considerably better in the regular season to even have a shot at the playoffs.
- Great Tuesday Morning Quarterback on ESPN's Page 2. If you are a fan of the NFL in general, read this article.
--The Steel Apple