You will seldom see Steel Curtain Rising focus on a non-Steeler. But you will seldom find players who excel in their role as the Steelers nemesis as Steve McNair did.
McNair was drafted in 1995 by the Houston Oilers and saw action as a rookie against the Steelers. The Black and Gold may have had some luck against the Steelers during the franchises final years as “the Oilers” but McNair would grow to become one of the Steelers worst nightmares.
How Good was McNair?
His record starting against the Steelers was 11-5 or a .688 winning percentage. To put that in proper perspective, consider that the Steelers cumulative winning percentage during the seasons where McNair started against them was .594.
Steve McNair simply had the Steelers number. Those 11 wins as a starter do not include the day he ripped the heart out of much of Steelers nation.
McNair Pushes Steelers to 0-3
It was the third game of the 2000 season. The Steelers had already dropped two games, first getting their teeth kicked in by the Ravens, and then losing a heartbreakers against the Browns. The defending AFC Champion Titans were coming for their last visit to Three Rivers Stadium.
McNair could not start. Neil O’Donnell stood in his place. Heavy underdogs, the Steelers went toe-to-toe with the Titans. Pittsburgh and had the upper hand going into the games’ final moments. Jason Gildon slammed Neil O’Donnell to the turf. Number 14 stumbled to his feet with blood streaking down his face.
Steelers Nation cheered, finally sensing they’d finally get revenge against the man who’d cost them Super Bowl XXX and then took the first bus out of town.
Steve McNair had other ideas. He replaced O’Donnell, and with just three passes and two runs brought the Titans from behind and led them to victory.
McNair in Baltimore
Perhaps it’s fitting that the only time that the Steelers present-day rival Baltimore Ravens ever swept the series was 2006, the year they were quarterbacked by Steve McNair.
Steelers Nation did gain a modicum of revenge in 2007, when they thoroughly dominated both McNair and the Baltimore Ravens during the team’s 75th Anniversary celebration.
While Steelers fans did savor that victory, now none of it matters.
McNair, who retired at the end of the 2007 season, was found shot dead in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday July 4th. Although Steel Curtain Rising certainly does not celebrate McNair’s success on the field against the Steelers, we do recognize that he was a true competitor and honor him as a proven winner.
We hope that the rest of Steelers Nation will join us in offering our thoughts and prayers to McNair’s wife Mechelle and his four sons.