1996 Steelers 31 vs Ravens 17
The Steelers pound the Baltimore "Browns" in their home opener. I attended this game and it was one of the strangest scenes I've ever witnessed... Steelers fans and Browns fans practically arm-in-arm uniting against the Ravens. I'm telling you, it was freaky. There were people at the gates handing out orange arm bands to show solidarity with the Browns (I refused to wear one, but many Steelers fans did). Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would've never believed it possible. Woodson sets the tone by intercepting Testeverde's first pass and returning it for a 43-yd TD, and sets up another score by recovering a Testaverde fumble. Offensively, the Steelers officially begin the "Jerome Bettis Era" in Pittsburgh. Bettis scores a TD and grinds out 116 yds on 21 carries and Mike Tomczak, officially promoted to starter after the miserable Jim Miller experiment in Jacksonville the week prior, looks sharp and tosses a pair of TDs (Hastings and Johnson).
1996 Steelers 24 vs Bills 6 MNF
Blitzburgh converts all 3 of Jim Kelly's 2nd quarter INTs in points, including Carnell Lake's decisive 47-yd pick six on the final play of the 1st half as the Steelers rout the Bills yet again on Monday Night Football. Jerome Bettis pounds Buffalo for 133 yds and 2 TDs and Kordell Stewart in his role as "Slash" turns a seemingly routine screen pass into an electrifying 48-yd gain to set up Bettis' first TD on a 1-yd plunge. Bettis' second score comes on a punishing blast up the middle in which Bettis crashes through the line and simply shrugs off would-be tackles by a LB and both safeties en route to a 43-yd back-breaking TD. Erric Pegram adds 84 yds as the Steelers out-rush the Bills 222-86 and defeat Buffalo in Pittsburgh for the 4th straight year. Video includes lots of postgame content including highlights and interviews with Lake, Kirkland and Bettis and an "Up Close" interview with Rod Woodson.
1996 Steelers 30 vs Oilers 16
One of the chippiest games you'll ever see with multiple brawls and multiple player ejections. One of the more notable scuffles occurs before halftime with the Steelers poised to go up 20-0. Whistles have clearly blown, but Oilers DB Marcus Robertson picks up the ball as if it's live and runs toward Tomczak, who steps in front of him ready to make the tackle just in case. Instead of stopping, Robertson gives Tomczak a little shoulder-to-the-chin shot, so Tomczak flings him to the ground. Mayhem ensues as Roberts gets up, flings Tomczak to the ground and begins to drag him around by his facemask. Benches clear and when the refs finally break it up, Robertson is ejected. The other notable brawl happens in the final 2 minutes of the game when the Steelers take an intentional safety rather than punt. Steelers punter Shayne Edge takes the snap and then takes his time running out of the back of the end zone. As a result, Edge receives a little extra shove out of bounds by a frustrated Oiler. Surrounded by spectators well outside the end zone, Edge retaliates by punching an Oiler in the face with a right hook and you can also see him deliver a two more "right crosses to the solar plexus" as benches again clear and a brawl ensues near the tunnel at the back of the end zone. Bettis gains 115 on 29 carries and also takes probably the hardest shot I've ever seen him take. Includes a postgame interview with Bettis.
1996 Steelers 17 at Chiefs 7 MNF
Mike Tomczak shines in one of his finest performances, hitting 20 of 32 for 338 yds, showing remarkable poise in the pocket and coming up big with on-target throws on 3rd down. Bettis powers for 103 yds and a TD on 27 carries and Pittsburgh moves the ball well all night, piling up 436 yds. But the Steelers trail 7-6 after 3 drives inside the KC 5-yd line yield only 6 points on 2 Norm Johnson FG's (with a 3rd FG attempt being blocked). Pittsburgh finally takes a 14-7 lead with a minute left in the 3rd on a bruising 5-yd Bettis run around right end, capping a long drive keyed by a 45-yd T-zak lob to Charles Johnson. With 7 minutes left, the Steelers seem poised to put the game away until Bettis fumbles at the KC 16. The Chiefs begin a drive of their own, but Myron Bell forces a fumble near midfield (recovered by Lake) and Johnson kicks a 43-yd FG to seal it at 17-7.
1996 Steelers 20 vs Bengals 10
Chad Brown does his best Greg Lloyd imitation with an INT, a forced fumble and 4-1/2 of Pittsburgh's 10 sacks and Rod Woodson scores on a 42-yd fumble return to seal the game (forced by a Kirkland sack on a jailbreak) as the Steelers absolutely terrorize Bengal QB Jeff Blake. Bettis is a wrecking ball as usual, powering his way to 109 yds on 28 carries, but Tomczak has a shaky performance and throws a pair bad picks. As a result, the game is tied 3-3 until late in the 3rd quarter in spite of Pittsburgh's defensive dominance. Video includes some postgame material.
1996 Steelers 13 at Oilers 23
Trailing 13-9 in the 4th quarter of a very evenly matched contest that features tons of trash talk prior to the game, the Oilers score 2 TDs in a span of 2 minutes to break things open. Houston's first TD of the game comes on a 34-yd hitch-and-go from Chandler to Willie Davis that burns Rod Woodson with 5 minutes to play, giving Houston a 16-13 lead. On Pittsburgh's next offensive play, the ball is swatted out of Mike Tomczak's hand as he drops back to pass. John Jackson initially appears to recover it between his knees, but the ball squirts out of the pile and as Bettis stoops to pick it up, he's knocked off the ball by LB Barren Wortham who recovers at the Steelers 5-yd line. Three plays later, Eddie George takes it in from 2 yards out to give the Oilers a 23-13 win. Video features several pregame clips about the brawls and trash talk from the previous Steelers/Oilers game.
1996 Steelers 20 at Falcons 17
Mike Tomczak hits 22 of 27 for 214 yds and a TD (including 11 of 12 in the 2nd half) and Norm Johnson connects on a 20-yd FG as time expires to escape Atlanta with a victory over the winless Falcons. The Steelers trail 10-3 at halftime but score TDs on their first two possessions of the 2nd half on a 12-yd pass to Hastings and a 1-yd plunge by Bettis (26 carries, 126 yds, 1 TD). With the game tied 17-17 in the 4th quarter, the Steelers mount a physical, 12-play 66-yd drive to the Falcon 2 which drains all 5:55 off the clock and sets up Johnson's game-winner.
1996 Steelers 42 vs Rams 6
Bettis gets redemption and revenge, bulldozing through his former teammates mercilessly as the Steelers crucify the Rams. The Steelers outrush St. Louis 248-64 and The Bus gains 129 yds on 19 carries and scores 2 TDs while playing less than 3 full quarters before Cowher decides to rest him (in spite of Bettis' protests to continue his onslaught). Almost as satisfying as Bettis' success is the utter futility of his "replacement" in St. Louis, Lawrence Phillips, who gains an embarrassing 6 yards on 5 carries and is a total non-factor. Tony Banks suffers 2 INTs and is sacked 6 times in an absolute @$$-whipping, start to finish.
1996 Steelers 24 at Bengals 34
The tide turns on the final play of the first half when the Steelers, leading 17-10 in spite of a playing a sloppy, unfocused first half, botch a squib kick with 5 seconds on the clock. Instead of getting a bounce or two out of Norm Johnson's squib attempt, the line drive kick goes straight to Cinci's dangerous returner, David Dunn, who goes to his tiptoes to catch the ball at the 10, streaks up the middle of the field, cuts left as the first half clock hits zero and streaks the remainder of 90 yds for a demoralizing tying touchdown. The Steelers never recover, plagued by costly penalties (including a back-breaking roughing the passer call on Gildon on Cinci's final 9-minute drive), a missed FG and 4 turnovers.
1996 Steelers 28 vs Jaguars 3
Revenge for the season-opener. Jason Gildon has a huge game, tackling runners in the backfield, making great open-field tackles, and nailing Brunell for 2 sacks including one that results in a fumble at the Jags 5 yard line. Mike Tomzcak puts on a pitiful 7 of 24 display, but Thigpen still manages to haul in 2 TD passes. The defense kicks Brunell's butt all over the field with 6 sacks and 2 Ints, highlighted by Carnell Lake's sack, forced fumble and 85 yard return of that fumble for a TD in the 3rd quarter. Rookie Chad Brown also performs well. Pregame includes 20 minutes of "The Bill Cowher Show."
1996 Steelers 24 at Dolphins 17 MNF
Mike Tomczak overcomes a pair of early turnovers (including a 61-yd pick 6) to rally Pittsburgh from a 14-3 deficit, hitting Ernie Mills for the 20-yd game-winner with 2:10 remaining. Dan Marino drives 73 yds in the final 2 minutes to the Steeler 7-yd line, but his 4th-and-1 pass into the end zone with 25 seconds left falls incomplete. Tomcazk connects on numerous long passes and Bettis has another excellent game (27 carries, 119 yds). Meanwhile, Dan Marino and the Miami offense can muster only one TD against the AFC's top-ranked defense. Video features pregame interview with Rod Woodson and some postgame.
1996 Steelers 17 at Ravens 31
Testaverde passes for 259 yds (198 of them to Derrick Alexander) and 2 TDs and former Steeler Bam Morris, playing for the first time against his former team, carries 28 times for 100 yds. Pittsburgh threatens to come back in the 4th quarter, but former Steeler Eric Green snags a 3-yd TD to seal the victory for Baltimore. A special thanks to Gary Beach for contributing this missing game video recorded from Sky Sports, broadcast in the UK on the Monday after the game was played. The game is shortened to just under an hour.
1996 Steelers 16 vs Chargers 3
Not the prettiest of wins with the teams combining for 8 turnovers in the snow and cold, but still enough to wrap up the AFC Central title for Pittsburgh. The Steelers jump ahead 13-0 early on a pair of Norm Johnson FG's and a TD pass to Andre Hastings, then hold the Chargers to 3 points on 4 drives into Pittsburgh territory in the second half. Mike Tomczak and Sean Salisbury each finish with QB ratings of 34 and even Jerome Bettis fails to gain his customary 100 yds. But Pittsburgh's defense shines, forcing 2 fumbles, an INT and a turnover on downs whiles sacking Salisbury 5 times and holding San Diego to just 65 yds rushing and 148 total yds.
1996 Steelers 14 at Panthers 18
With a playoff berth secured and no chance for a first round bye, the Steelers play starters sparingly and then rely on reserves. Carolina scores on their opening drive and adds a safety for a 9-0 lead when former Steeler Kevin Greene (who is held sackless) pressures Tomczak into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone. Darren Perry forces a fumble deep in Carolina territory to set up a short Tomczak to Hastings TD pass. Kordell Stewart sees his first extended action at QB and gives Pittsburgh a 14-9 when he bursts up the middle for an 80-yd TD, setting an NFL record for the longest run by a QB. Carolina adds 3 FGs in the 2nd half to take an 18-14 lead. Stewart drives the Steelers deep into Carolina territory 3 times in the 4th quarter, including twice inside the 10 in the final 4 minutes. But the Panthers survive when Ernie Mills drops a 4th-down pass in the end zone with 3:54 left and DB Chad Cota wrestles an apparent TD pass away Andre Hastings in the end zone for an INT with 29 seconds remaining, earning the Panthers a division title in only their 2nd year of existence.
1996 Post Season
1996 AFC Playoffs Steelers 42 vs Colts 14
A second half slaughter. Anyone hoping for a repeat of the drama witnessed in the '95 version of this game was sorely disappointed... but being a Steeler freak, I was delighted with the outcome. The highlight for me is an incredible play by Rod Woodson at the 50:56 mark where he is unable to get position to tackle Hall of Fame RB Marshall Faulk, so Rod actually picks up Hall of Fame WR Marvin Harrison -- who is attempting to block him -- and uses Harrison's body to slam Faulk to the ground! The Colt's actually lead 14-13 at halftime, but Indy is limited to only 22 total yards while being outscored 29-0 in the second half. The Steelers offense is led by running back Jerome Bettis, who plows for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and when it's all said & done, the total yardage is 407-146 in favor of the Steelers.
1996 AFC Playoffs Steelers 3 at Patriots 28
The infamous fog bowl. Not the Chicago one... the "other one" in which the Steelers are manhandled from start to finish by Curtis Martin. After a Steeler 3 and out, Bledsoe hits Terry Glenn for 53 yds on New England's first offensive snap and Martin scores from 2 yds out a play later. After another Pittsburgh 3 and out, the Patriots need only 4 plays to score again on a 34-yd TD pass to Keith Byars. The teams trade punts, then with 10 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, Curtis Martin bursts up the middle for a back-breaking 78-yd TD and a 21-0 lead. The Steelers replace Tomczak at QB with Kordell Stewart in an effort to jump-start the offense; Stewart goes 0-10. A miserable game in miserable weather with a miserable outcome. Footage includes 30 minutes of pregame.