2006 Steelers 28 vs Dolphins 17 TNF
Joey Porter kisses Bill Cowher (you heard me!) in the season opener. Charlie Batch subs for Big Ben, who recovered remarkably quickly from his summer motorcycle crash but is sidelined by an emergency appendectomy. Trailing 14-17 midway through the 4th, the Steelers put the game away on two gigantic plays. The first comes on a perfectly executed corner route to a WIDE open Heath Miller, who rumbles 87 yds for the go-ahead TD, falling into the end zone after being tripped up inside the 5. Replay shows that Miller was actually out of bounds just shy of the goal line, but Nick Saban's challenge flag fails to catch the attention of the officials before the Steelers kick the PAT, so the TD stands. Miami still has time, but Daunte Culpepper throws INTs on consecutive drives, the first to Troy Polamalu, and the second to Joey Porter, who scores on a 42-yd pick 6. Porter is so excited that he runs to the sideline and kisses Bill Cowher on the cheek, reminiscent of the kiss Cowher planted on Kordell Stewart during a 1997 win over Baltimore. Footage includes pregame, commercials, halftime show and 40 minutes of postgame.
2006 Steelers 45 vs Chiefs 7
The Polamalu "hair tackle" game. For the first time all season, Ben looks like Ben. Roethlisberger is precise and polished, hitting 16 of 19 for 238 yds and 2 TDs. The game is joined in progress due to the previous game running late. With the Steelers already leading 7-0, Ben quickly finds Nate Washington WIDE open on a play-action bomb for a 47-yd TD and a 14-0 first quarter lead. The Steelers just pour it on from there, outgaining the Chiefs 372-47 in the first half alone en route to a 31-0 halftime lead. Willie Parker also shines with 109 yds and 2 TDs on 21 carries. A memorable moment from this game is Troy Polamalu being dragged down from behind by his hair by the Chiefs' Larry Johnson after intercepting a tipped pass in the 3rd quarter. The play draws an unsportsmanlike conduct flag, not for tackling by the hair, but because Johnson appears to hold on and twist Polamalu's hair as he bounces back up.
2006 Steelers 38 at Falcons 41 OT
Big Ben is unstoppable unstoppable in this thriller until he gets knocked out with a scary blow to the head. Ben hits 15 of 20 for 235 yds and 3 TDs in the first half alone, but gets knocked unconscious early in the 3rd quarter on a vicious helmet-to-helmet cheap shot, remaining on the turf for over 5 minutes before being carted to the locker room. The lead changes hands 6 times as the Steelers squander a 17-7 advantage, fumbling 3 times and getting surprised by an onside kick while allowing Michael Vick to throw a career-high 4 TDs. Charlie Batch plays well in relief of Roethlisberger and Hines Ward has a HUGE day (8 catches, 171 yds, 3 TDs). Unfortunately, it's not enough. The Falcons win the toss in overtime, and after Vick scrambles away from Polamalu on 3rd and 9 to hit a long pass play, Morten Andersen finishes it with a 32-yd game-winning FG.
2006 Steelers 20 vs Broncos 31
In a rematch of the 2005 AFC Championship, the World Champion Steelers lose the turnover battle 6-0 and and their 6th game in 7 tries. Roethlisberger plays well, htting 38 of 54 for 433 yds, and although he throws 3 INTs (2 by Champ Bailey), one is a desperation throw at the end of the half and the other a deep 3rd down throw ostensibly equal to a 4th down punt. Ultimately, it's fumbles that kill the Steelers, who cough the ball up twice inside the Denver 15 after falling behind 14-0 less than 4 minutes into the game courtesy of 2 Jake Plummer TD passes, one of them following a Santonio Holmes fumble of a kickoff. Javon Walker scores 3 TDs for Denver; a pair of TD receptions and a 72-yd run on a reverse. Credit the Steelers for not giving up as they go on to win 6 of their next 8 games, but this loss effectively puts them on the clock for the 2007 draft.
2006 Steelers 38 vs Saints 31
Pittsburgh and New Orleans combine for nearly 1000 yds of offense as Willie Parker breaks free on runs of 72 and 76 yds to set up two short 2nd half scoring runs to seal the win. Ben Roethlisberger (17 of 28, 264 yds, 0 Int) throws 3 TD passes as the Steelers jump out to a 14-point lead on TD tosses to Hines Ward and Heath Miller, only to fall behind on Reggie Bush's somersault into the end zone on a reverse before halftime, then rally in the 2nd half on Parker's short TDs to beat the heavily favored Saints. In addition to his scores, Parker slashes his way to 213 yds on 22 carries, finishing just 5 yds short of Frenchy Fuqua's team record. As is so often the case, turnovers are the difference as the Steelers finally play a clean game with no turnovers vs. 3 for New Orleans.
2006 Steelers 24 at Browns 20
Ben Roethlisberger throws for 229 yds and 2 TDs in the 4th quarter alone, jamming 21 points into the final period to overcome 3 first half INTs (all on tipped balls, including a pick 6) and rallying the Steelers from a 10-point deficit, sealing the win with an improvisational 4-yd TD shovel pass to Willie Parker with just 32 seconds left.
This exciting game also features an excellent performance by rookie WR Santonio Holmes, who after dropping his first pass, delivers a clutch performance, keyed by a pivotal 21-yd catch on 3rd and 20 and followed with the first TD catch his career. Holmes' TD comes on another great improvisational throw by Ben, who on 3rd and 6 avoids pressure, scrambles right, sheds a would-be tackler and then fires deep, across his body, to a wide open Holmes, who skips into the end zone for the first of Pittsburgh's three 4th quarter TDs. Probably my favorite game of the difficult 2006 season.
2006 Steelers 0 at Ravens 27
The Ravens sack Big Ben 9 times for 73 yds, including a vicious shot delivered by Bart Scott in the 2nd quarter. Scott comes untouched from the left side and nails Roethlisberger in the chest, driving him into the turf where he lays for several minutes before walking off the field on his own. Amazingly, Ben misses only one play, but he is harassed for the rest of the afternoon as the Steelers' slim playoff hopes go up in smoke. Pittsburgh musters only 21 yds rushing, turns the ball over 3 times and doesn't manage to cross midfield until the 3rd quarter. When the Steelers finally do make their way into Ravens' territory, Roethlisberger gets blindsided and the Ravens scoop up his fumble and return it 57 yds for a TD as the Steelers suffer their worst defeat in nearly a decade.
2006 Steelers 20 vs Bucs 3
The Bucs kick a FG on the final play of the game to avoid a shutout as the Steelers capitalize on repeated mistakes by rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski, who throws 3 INTs, is nailed for 5 sacks (2 by Joey Porter) and is victimized by multiple drops. Pittsburgh's offense isn't great, gaining only 267 total yds. But after an early INT, Roethlisberger bounces back to throw 2 TDs (Heath Miller and Jerame Tuman) and looks like his old self, throwing on the run and making plays outside the pocket while being sacked only once. Willie Parker manages only 61 yds on 22 carries as the running game continues to struggle, but Cadillac Williams fairs even worse with 27 yds on 11 carries in a matchup of the league's two most disappointing teams.
2006 Steelers 27 vs Browns 7 TNF
In a game I attended on a cold, snowy, windy, nasty Thursday night in Pittsburgh, Willie Parker runs wild for a team-record 223 yds on 32 carries, besting Frenchy Fuqua's previous mark of 218 yds and needing just north of 3 quarters to do it. The Steelers out-rush the Browns 303-18 and Big Ben throws for 225 including a 49-yd bomb to Nate Washington to open the scoring on the way to 528 yds of offense. Cleveland never knew what hit 'em. Video includes the halftime show and about 30 minutes of postgame material.
2006 Steelers 7 vs Ravens 31
In Bill Cowher's last home game, Steve McNair throws 3 TD passes to sweep the Steelers, earn a division crown and officially nail Pittsburgh's playoff coffin shut. While Big Ben struggles (15 of 31, 156 yds passing, 1 TD, 2 INT, 5 sacks), Steve McNair (21 of 31, 256 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT) repeatedly takes advantage of good field position provided by Pittsburgh turnovers and poor Chris Gardoki punts. The Ravens don't pile up a ton of rushing yards (103 yds on 33 carries), but they dominate time of possession 35:22 to 24:38 and allow the Steelers to convert just 2 of 14 third downs (both via penalties). A truly miserable loss.
2006 Steelers 23 at Bengals 17 OT
Santonio Holmes 67-yd TD catch-and-run in overtime ends the Bengals season (no playoffs for you!) and sends Coach Cowher out on a high note in his final game as head coach of the Steelers. The defending Super Bowl champion Steelers are already eliminated from playoff contention coming into the game, but the Bengals were still in position to clinch a Wild Card berth with a win. Instead, the Steelers play spoiler as the Bungles miss a 39-yd FG attempt with 8 seconds left in regulation and Big Ben needs just 3 plays in overtime to hit Holmes in stride on a slant. Santonio does the rest, eluding multiple defenders as he sprints down the sideline and finally dives the final few yards into the end zone for the 67-yd game winner.