2002 Steelers 14 at Patriots 30 MNF
A disgusting game. The Steelers come in hungry to avenge their 24-17 AFCC loss and get their @$$es handed to them. The Pats force 5 turnovers and Tom Brady unleashes an aerial assault, at one point throwing 25 consecutive passes while running the ball only 4 times in the 1st half. Nonetheless, the game is locked in a 7-7 tie for much of the 1st half. The turning point comes late in the 2nd quarter when Pittsburgh blows a 1st and goal from the 1 with a mind-boggling string of mistakes. First, a false start pushes the ball back to the 6. Stewart is then tackled for a 1-yd loss. Burress catches a pass in the back of the end zone but can't get both feet down and finally, Amos Zereoue is stopped a yard short of of the goal line on a 3rd-down screen. After the play, Zereoue gives Lawyer Milloy a shove and draws a personal foul making it 4th and goal from the 16, where the Steelers promptly commit another false start. You can guess what happens next: Todd Peterson's 39-yd FG attempt flutters wide left and any air that was left in the Steelers... escapes. The 2nd half is all Patriots as New England rolls to a 30-7 lead before Stewart, who suffers 3 INTs 5 sacks, adds a meaningless consolation TD with 4 seconds remaining.
2002 Steelers 17 vs Raiders 30 SNF
Joey Porter has has an incredible game in losing effort, snagging 2 goal-line interceptions and sacking Gannon 3 times. Despite Porter's Herculean effort (which actually keeps Pittsburgh in the game for 3 quarters), the Steelers' pass defense is torched for the 2nd straight week as Rich Gannon goes 43 of 64 for 403 yds. The Steelers also turn the ball over 5 times including 4 devastating fumbles, 3 of which are recovered by former Steeler Rod Woodson. Throw in a 96-yd kick return for a TD by Terry Kirby and it's simply too much to overcome as the Steelers fall to 0-2.
2002 Steelers 16 vs Browns 13 OT
The bizarre 100th meeting between the Steelers and Browns will forever be known as "The Do-Over." Trailing 13-6 late in the 4th quarter and facing a possible 0-3 start, Tommy Maddox comes off the bench to replace a struggling Kordell Stewart and pull out a MUST win, hitting 11 of 13 passes for 122 yards an a TD in a little less than a quarter of football. After tying the game on a TD pass to Burress to force overtime, Maddox' first pass in OT is picked off by the Browns. But Phil Dawson's 45-yd FG attempt bounces off Kimo von Oelhoffen's helmet and the Steelers have new life. The Steelers drive deep into Browns territory, but Todd Peterson's FG attempt is blocked on 2nd down. The Ball bounces back to Peterson, who in true kicker fashion fumbles as soon as he's hit and after a scramble, Fiala ultimately recovers the ball for Pittsburgh. Because the ball never crossed the line of scrimmage on the blocked FG attempt, the Steelers retain possession and Peterson makes good on his 31-yd "do-over" kick to win the game.
2002 Steelers 29 at Saints 32
Tommy Maddox makes his first NFL start since 1992 and plays well (22 of 38, 268 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT) in relief of benched Kordell Stewart and Bettis gains 84 yds on 19 carries, but the Steeler defense continues to be a sieve -- unable to stop anyone -- allowing Duece McAllister to run wild for 123 yds and 2 TDs. The Steelers threaten late when Maddox hits Terance Mathis for a 14-yd TD and then finds Ward for the 2-point conversion to make it 32-29 with 1:26 left. But the Saints recover the onside kick and run out the clock. A big-time thanks to Gary Beach for providing this game from Sky Sports (UK), broadcast on the Monday after the game was played (UK time)!
2002 Steelers 34 at Bengals 7
The Steelers are nearly flawless as they pound the winless Bengals in embarrassingly easy fashion. Maddox hits Burress on a 31-yd pass to open the game and then uses the Bus like a battering ram on 5 straight plays, capped by a 1-yard burst into the end zone for a 7-0 lead. A Lee Flowers INT leads to a Pittsburgh FG, and a 2nd Flowers just 4 plays later leads to one of the longest runs of Bettis' career, a 41-yd burst off left tackle featuring absolutely PERFECT blocks by teammates Kreider, Faneca and Burress, a remarkable move by the Bettis to fake the safety out of his jock, followed by a perfect finishing block by Ward as Bettis finally rumbles into the end zone, dragging a pair of Bengals along for the ride. Bengals QB Jon Kitna, who suffers 5 sacks and 3 INTs, is hit from behind by Joey Porter on a strip/sack and the ball pops right into the hands of big boy Casey Hampton, who chugs 36 yds to the Cinci 7 to set up another Steelers TD and a 24-0 halftime lead. Adding insult to injury, Antwaan Randle El returns the 2nd half kickoff 99-yds for an electrifying TD, the first of his career. Game features halftime highlights as well as multiple postgame highlights and interviews.
2002 Steelers 28 vs Colts 10 MNF
This what I call an ass-whipping. True, a Colt is not technically an "ass," but it is same genotype as the donkey and mule. Close enough for me. Maddox starts the game 12 of 15 for 151 yds and 1 TD and the game is, for all intents and purposes, over by halftime at 21-3. I attended this game specifically because Terry Bradshaw would be there for a halftime "homecoming" ceremony. This was Terry's first time on the field in Pittsburgh since his retirement in '83. Unfortunately and shockingly, Madden & Michaels make absolutely NO mention of Bradshaw's presence during the game and there is no coverage of the event, which was quite an amazing spectacle. A special thanks to Keith "Crash" Froehlich for digitizing this game!
2002 Steelers 31 at Ravens 18
Tommy Maddox absolutely TORCHES the the Ravens from the get-go. What's more, he does it on the road and in spite of the absence of his Pro Bowl running back and starting center, and in spite of injuring his ankle and having his favorite receiving target taken away. Maddox starts the game 11 of 11 for 125 yards & 2 TDs (both to Burress). So it seems only natural that Plaxico would be ejected from the game after James Trapp stomps on Plax's head and rips his helmet off. After all, with the score 28-3 in the first half, the officials obviously have to step in and do something, ANYTHING, to try to save the Ratbirds' asses. Right?
2002 Steelers 23 at Browns 20
In spite of Cleveland jumping out to a 14-3 lead and the seemingly slim margin of victory for Pittsburgh, this is actually an old-fashioned dawggy butt-kicking. Time of possession is an obscene 42:10 to 17:50 in favor of the Steelers, who also have a 200-yard edge in total offense and a 25-9 advantage in first downs. While Cleveland's leading rusher amasses a pitiful 19 yards, Zeroue piles up 111 yds on 29 carries. The Browns make three big plays -- a Northcutt 87-yd punt return for a TD, a 63-yd pass to Morgan (which sets up a short TD) and a late 31-yd TD pass to Morgan -- but are able to muster little else all day.
2002 Steelers 34 vs Falcons 34 OT
The Steelers somehow snatch a tie from the jaws of victory in spite of holding a 17-point 4th quarter lead, in spite of Tommy Maddox going 28 of 42 for a club record 473 yards and 4 TDs, in spite of Plaxico Burress grabbing 9 passes for a club record 253 yards, in spite of Hines Ward snagging 11 catches for 139 yards and in spite of Amos Zereoue rushing for 123 yards. Horrific kicker Todd Peterson misses 2 FGs and a PAT, and Michael Vick & company take full advantage with a late rally to force overtime. The game ends with Tommy Maddox hitting Plaxico for a 50-yard Hail Mary at the 1-yard line and Burress is tackled just short of the goal line as time expires in OT. So close...
2002 Steelers 23 at Titans 31
Features Tommy Maddox' chilling spinal injury on the last play of the 3rd quarter. Maddox scrambles from the pocket, lunges forward as he's shoe-string tackled by a blitzing Titan, getting off a pass to Randle El for a short gain. As Maddox continues to the turf, Keith Bulluck finishes the tackle. It doesn't seem like a particularly hard hit, but Maddox is motionless afterward and the stadium is deathly quiet during the 15 minutes or so it takes for Maddox to be stabilized and taken from the field in an ambulance. Thankfully, Maddox' recovery in the following weeks is miraculous. Kordell Stewart comes in and plays admirably for Tommy, rallying the Steelers from a 31-7 deficit and making it a game. Stewart hits 13 of 17 for 124 yards & 2 TDs in the 4th quarter, and the Steelers nearly nearly recover the final onside kick.
2002 Steelers 29 vs Bengals 21
With Kordell under center in relief of an injured Tommy Maddox and The Bus finally back from a knee injury after 5 games, the Steelers cruise to an early 17-0 lead against the hapless Bengals, scoring a pair of TDs and a FG on their first three possessions. Stewart plays a nearly flawless game (21 of 26, 236 yds, 1 TD, 11 runs for 40 yds). But as has been the case all season, the Steeler defense repeatedly fails to get off the field on 3rd down, turning what should be a runaway win into a come-from-behind nail-biter. Bettis scores 2 TDs, including a late 24-yd signature run in which the Bus busts it up the middle, breaks several tackles, nimbly cuts outside and takes it to the house to put the Steelers up 29-21. Bettis' TD was set up on the previous play by an aggressive and beautifully executed playaction pass from Stewart to Ward covering 37 yds. Unfortunately, new Steeler kicker Jeff Reed misses the crucial extra point that would've put Pittsburgh up by 9 and the Bengals remain only 1 score down. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, whose fumble of a punt return earlier in the 4th quarter cost Cinci their lead, returns the ensuing kick 44 yds and draws a 15-yd facemask penalty to boot, giving the Bengals fantastic field position at the Steeler 31. Cinci drives the the Steeler 5, but Chad Scott knocks Kitna's 4th down pass out of Chad Scott's hands in the end zone to preserve the Steeler victory. Features TONS of postgame material after the game.
2002 Steelers 25 at Jaguars 23
Rookie kicker Jeff Reed hits 6 for 6 FGs, including a crucial 50-yarder in the 4th quarter, as the Steelers outlast the Jags. In spite of the close score and the fact that only Brunell's failed 2-point conversion in the final minute keeps the game from going to overtime, the Steelers dominate statistically, outgaining Jacksonville 403-226. But settling for FGs instead of scoring TDs almost undoes Pittsburgh, whose only TD comes on a weaving 28-yd Kordell Stewart scramble up the middle. Stewart is efficient passing (16 of 26, 202 yds), but his rushing is even more critical as he gains 84 yds and a TD on 12 carries, just 2 yards less than Jerome Bettis (20 att. for 86 yds).
2002 Steelers 6 vs Texans 24
This HUGE upset is #3 on my list of the most embarrassing Steelers losses of my lifetime (behind only the 51-0 loss to Cleveland in 1989 and the 16-15 loss to the expansion Browns in 2000). The Steelers outgain the expansion Texans 422-47, yet lose BIG on Tommy Maddox turnovers, 3 of which are returned for TDs. The Steeler defense sets an NFL record for fewest yards allowed by a losing team, a record I suspect will NEVER be broken. And really, who would want to break it? Oh, the humanity...
2002 Steelers 30 vs Panthers 14
The Steelers turn a pair of Panther fumbles into Jerome Bettis TD runs to beat Carolina and seize control of the AFC North. Plaxico Burress, who had a horrific game with 6 dropped passes vs. Houston the previous week, hauls in 6 catches for 120 yds and a TD and Hines Ward becomes the first Steeler with 100 receptions in a season. But it's the defense who really spearheads the win, holding the Panthers to 0 yds (6 yards rushing and -6 passing) in the first half and forcing 4 critical turnovers. Video also features 25 minutes of postgame material from Pittsburgh Sports Tonight.
2002 Steelers 17 at Bucs 7 MNF
Features Jerome Bettis shoving Warren Sapp and a big scuffle on the sidelines... and that was during the pregame warm-ups! Maddox starts the game 7 of 7 for 152 yards and a TD and Chad Scott returns a pick for a TD en route to an early 17-0 Pittsburgh lead. Burress snags 5 passes for 127 yds and Ward grabs 6 for 78. Pittsburgh's offensive line dominates Tampa's vaunted defense, converting 50% of their 3rd downs and owning a 9-minute time of possession advantage, once again backing up Lee Flowers' "Paper Champions" comments.
2002 Steelers 34 vs Ravens 31
Despite blowing a 17-7 lead by giving up 3 straight Ravens scores to fall behind 31-20 in the 4th quarter, the Steelers finish the regular season on a high note with a come-from-ahead, come-from-behind victory after a late Maddox to Randle El TD pass. On the winning score, Maddox has Peter Boulware clutching his ankles but hangs in to find Antwaan Randle El for the TD, then hits Burress for the 2-point conversion with 2:29 to go. Jeff Blake, aided by a nifty Todd Heap catch-and-run and a roughing the passer penalty, works the Ravens into chip-shot FG range at the Steeler 10 with 21 seconds left. But the Ravens go for the win and Blake forces an ill-advised pass into double coverage in the end zone. Dewayne Washington comes down with the INT to preserve a Steeler win.
2002 Post Season
2002 AFC Wildcard Steelers 36 vs Browns 33
Add "The Comeback" to the list of Cleveland playoff horrors ("The Drive" and "The Fumble") courtesy of NFL Comeback Player of the Year Tommy Maddox (30 of 48, 367 yds), who spearheads an amazing rally with 3 TD passes in the final 19 minutes as the Steelers overcome a 17-point deficit to defeat the Browns 36-33 in a thriller. In spite of having leads of 17-7 at the half, 24-7 in the third quarter and 33-21 with just over 10 minutes remaining, Cleveland's inability to run he ball and take time off the clock helps doom them. William Green, Cleveland's leading rusher, finishes with an embarrassing 30 yds on 25 carries... even more shocking when you consider that 23 of those yards came on one fluke run. Forced the throw late in the game in spite of their lead, Cleveland leaves Pittsburgh with plenty of time to cram 22 points into the 4th quarter. I've got to give a huge shout out to safety Mike Logan. With Cleveland leading 24-7 and poised to extend their lead inside the Pittsburgh 30, Mike Logan sells out to make a diving interception in which he tears his ACL, yet still gets to his feet an picks up another 15 yards on the return. Logan's pick is Cleveland's only turnover of the day, it prevents the Browns from putting the game out of reach and it leads to a Steeler TD as momentum finally begins to shift in Pittsburgh's favor. I was fortunate enough to attend this amazing game in person (thank you for the tickets, Jeff White!) and I've never heard anything as loud as the roar of the Heinz Field crowd when Chris "Fu" Fuamatu-Ma'afala crossed the goal line on a draw from 3 yards out with 54 seconds remaining. Perhaps my personal greatest moment as a Steelers fan.
2002 AFC Playoffs Steelers 31 at Titans 34 OT
And the Oscar goes to... Joe Nedney. After Pittsburgh fights back from a 14-0 1st-quarter deficit and sends the game to overtime, the Titans find themselves poised to kick the game-winner at the Steeler 13. After Nedney's 31-yd FG goes through the uprights, a shower of fireworks lights up the sky above The Coliseum. But the celebration is premature; Pittsburgh had called timeout before the snap. So Nedney tries again. This time, the ball sails wide right and the Steelers begin to celebrate. But Dewayne Washington is penalized for running into the kicker (aided by one of the great acting performances of all time as Nedney takes an exaggerated dive when Washington grazes him). Nedney's 3rd try splits the uprights and wins the game for Tennessee, but even that was not without controversy as a furious Bill Cowher sprints across the field to confront referee Ron Blum, insisting (as he is restrained by Lee Flowers) that he called timeout before the final kick (which he did). All to no avail as the Titans move on and the Steelers' wild-and-woolly 2002 season comes to an end.