´ Steel Curtain Rising: Steelers vs. Packers History - Tales from the NFL's Two Most Storied Franchises

Who gets the game ball for the Steelers win over the Texans?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Steelers vs. Packers History - Tales from the NFL's Two Most Storied Franchises

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers are the NFL’s two most storied franchises. The latter defined winning and excellence in the 1960’s; the former defined the term “Dynasty” for the NFL in the 1970’s. Both franchises were fortunate to hit their respective peaks as the NFL was coming of age.

Yet, due to the conference and division realignment which followed the NFL-AFL merger, these two teams have seldom faced off.

In fact, in the last 20 years, the teams have only met four times, but those meetings have contributed much to the lore of both franchises, including:

Bill Cowher Reveals Himself as a Head Coach
Steelers So Close, Yet So Far
Look What Happens When You Try to Get Smart
Never Under Estimate the Importance of Back Ups
Rookie Mike Wallace is a 60 Minute Man Too
Steelers Fall Short in Quest for 7

Below, you can find a recap of each of those encounters.

Bill Cowher Reveals His Identity as a Head Coach
9/17/92 @ Lambeau Field, Packers 17, Steelers 3
History will long remember this game as Brett Favre’s first NFL start. Conversely, it was also Rod Woodson’s career worst and Bill Cowher’s first loss.

Although the words “Hall of Fame” and “Rod Woodson” were already being collocated in 1992, Woodson fell flat in almost every conceivable way possible on this day.

If you have a strong stomach for memories you’d rather forget, you can watch the game summary from NFL Prime Time.

For Steelers fans the significance of this game is in what Bill Cowher revealed about himself.

Near the end of the game Cowher approached Woodson. Rod turned away fearing a tongue lashing. Instead, Cowher consoled him, saying that “You’ve had a bad day at he office. When that happens, you don’t quit the job, you analyze what went wrong and bounce back.”

Steelers fans loved Cowher for his fire, brimstone and in your face bravado, but…

  • ...in his first loss as a head coach, The Chin showed that he was a head coach who was smart enough to know when to kick a player in the a_s, and when to pat him on the back.

Steelers So Close, Yet So Far
12/24/95, @ Lambeau Field, Packers 24, Steelers 19

The Steelers playoff position was set, while the Packers still had something to play for. Bill Cowher benched many starters – Fred McAfee and Steve Avery were the Steelers starting backfield.

Yet this was a hard-fought, knock down drag out game. Kevin Greene hit Brett Favre so hard that he appeared to be coughing up his brains at one point. Jim McMahon did come in for a few snaps, but Favre refused to stay out long.

The Steelers second string almost pulled it off, as Yancy Thigpen dropped a sure touchdown pass as time expired.

  • It was a metaphor for things to come as the Steelers took Dallas to the brink in Super Bowl XXX, until Neil O’Donnell threw it away…

Look What Happens When You Try to Get Smart...
11/9/98 @ Three Rivers Stadium, Steelers 27, Packers 20

Kordell Stewart and the entire Steelers offense had suffered and struggled under Ray Sherman’s offense all season. That seemed to change on Monday Night Football as Steelers amassed a 27-3 lead in the first three quarters.

As the fourth quarter began, Pittsburgh appeared poised to make it 34-3, until Sherman decided to get cute on the goal line. Sherman thought it would be smart to revive Slash, and sent Mike Tomzack under center with Kordell lining up as a receiver. All went well, until the snap….

A bobbled exchange leads to a fumble, which Keith McKenzie returns 88 yards for a touchdown. The Packers score 17 unanswered points, but Pittsburgh holds on.

  • The moral of the story there is that trick plays can give an already efficient offense a lethal edge, but they can be just as lethal for a struggling unit.

Never Under Estimate the Importance of Back Up
11/6/05 @ Lambeau Field, Steelers 20, Packers 10

Ben Roethlisberger is out, so is Jerome Bettis. Willie Parker suits up, but only lasts for 5 carries. But Bill Cowher a deep bull pen to fall back on. Charlie Batch starts, and while his numbers aren’t pretty, he avoids critical mistakes.

But the star of the day is Duce Staley, who gets his first carry of the year that day, and adds a total of 14 more for 76 yards and including a long run of 17 and a touchdown. He also catches to passes for nine yards.

  • As Bill Cowher said the day Pittsburgh released Stanley, “If we don’t have Duce, we don’t win that game. If we don’t win that game, we don’t make the playoffs, and never get to Super Bowl XL.”

The Steelers signed Duce Staley to a generous contract in 2004, and he only ended up playing 16 games over three season. But in the end, it was money well spent.

This Wallace is a 60 Minute Man Too
12/20/09 @ Heinz Field, Steelers 37, Packers 36

This installment of the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Packers had been billed as the battle of the defensive titans, as the two teams were leading the league in defense. To add an exclaimation point, it pitted Dick LeBeau vs. Dom Capers, the two architects of the Steelers defense of the 1990’s.

But it was anything but a defensive struggle.

The Steelers and Packers combined for 936 yards and the lead changed hands four times in the fourth quarter as Aaron Rodgers passed for 383 yards. Ben Roethlisberger did him better, however, passing for 503 yards and in doing so only becoming only the 10th NFL signal caller to break the half-century mark.

Hines Ward and Heath Miller both broke the 100 yard mark, but the star of the game was Steelers rookie of the year Mike Wallace. Wallace bookended his game with touchdown catches. Taking his first pass for 60 yards to the end zone, and he did it again with his last pass, hauling in a 19 yard grab with 0:03 seconds remaining.

Stairway to Seven Will Have to Wait

And that brings us to Super Bowl XVL and the Steelers ill-fated quest for Lombardi Number Seven.

The Steelers made some early mistakes and, as Mike Tomlin, ever the class act, insisted, the Packers made some tremendous plays that put the Steelers deep in a hole.

The men in Black and Gold fought back furiously and were alive until the game's final minute. But, when the final gun sounded, the Packers simply showed themselves to be the better team and, to their credit, the Steelers acknowledged as much.

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Bill said...

Duce Staley not Duce Stanley.
Also, 1992 game was won by Packers and the 2009 game by the Steelers.

KT said...

Belated Thanks Bill.

I actually saw this shortly after the Super Bowl, but am only now getting time to correct it.

Also thanks for the heads up on the spelling of Staley's name -- it is spelled wrong in the Steelers Media guide.