The Steelers will be facing the New York Jets today in their 15th AFC Championship Game appearance.
What's even more impressive is this will be the 11th time the Steelers have hosted the AFC title game. They are 5-5 in previous championships in Pittsburgh and 7-7 overall.
The Steelers have certainly had their share of memorable and forgettable moments in AFC Championship Games. The following are the five best and five worst moments:
5. What a relief!
Date, site: Jan. 14, 1996, Three Rivers Stadium
Recap: The Steelers, coming off a disappointing AFC Championship loss the previous season, face the Cinderella Indianapolis Colts, led by "Captain Comeback'' quarterback Jim Harbaugh. Neil O'Donnell's 5-yard touchdown pass to Kordell "Slash'' Stewart in the closing seconds of the first half give the Steelers a 10-6 advantage. But after the teams trade field goals, the Colts go up 16-13 with 8:46 left in the game on a 47-yard Harbaugh TD pass to Floyd Turner. The teams trade punts thanks to Willie Williams' shoestring tackle of the Colts' Lamont Warren on third-and-1, and the Steelers get the ball with 3:03 left on their own 33-yard line. They travel to the Colts' 1 with the help of an Andre Hastings fourth-down reception and a 37-yard catch along the sideline by Ernie Mills. Bam Morris' TD puts the Steelers ahead, but Harbaugh gets one final chance. He takes the Colts to the Steelers' 29 with five seconds left, and his Hail Mary pass into the end zone is batted away barely-from Aaron Bailey by the Steelers' Randy Fuller.
Final score: Steelers 20, Colts 16
Footnote: The Steelers lost their only Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks later; the Steelers and Colts met in the playoffs the next season with the Steelers winning, 42-14; Fuller played three seasons (1995-97) with the Steelers.
4. Ice, ice baby
Date, site: Jan. 4, 1976, Three Rivers Stadium
Recap: The Steelers meet the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs for the fourth straight season in a rematch of the AFC Championship Game on an icy field with a 16-degree temperature and strong winds. The hitting is fierce with the Raiders' George Atkinson knocking out Steelers receiver Lynn Swann on a clothesline tackle. The elements contribute to 13 turnovers in the game, eight by the Steelers, who hold a 3-0 advantage heading to the fourth quarter. On the second play of the final quarter, the Steelers' Franco Harris bounces a run outside to the left and scores from 25 yards out to increase the lead to 10-0. The Raiders get a 14-yard TD pass from Ken Stabler to Mike Siani, but Jack Lambert's third fumble recovery sets up a 20-yard TD pass from Terry Bradshaw to John Stallworth. The Steelers nearly give the game back Roy Gerela misses the extra point, Oakland gets a George Blanda field goal and the Steelers fumble the onside kick but time runs out on the Raiders.
Final score: Steelers 16, Raiders 10
Footnote: Some Raiders later claimed the Steelers purposely iced the field to take away Oakland's deep passing attack; the Steelers went on to win their second Super Bowl, beating the Dallas Cowboys.
3. Steelers shock the world
Date, site: Jan. 22, 2006, Invesco Field at Mile High
Recap: The Steelers, trying to become the first sixth seed to advance to the Super Bowl, are coming off an incredible win over the Indianapolis Colts and face the Denver Broncos, who had knocked off the two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The Steelers start the game with a 47-yard field goal by Jeff Reed, and then second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hooks up with Cedrick Wilson for a 12-yard score. Before the first half is finished, the Steelers get a 3-yard TD run from Jerome Bettis and a 17-yard TD pass from Roethlisberger to Hines Ward following an Ike Taylor interception - to build a 24-3 halftime edge. The Broncos try to make a game of it in the second half, cutting the lead to 27-17, but Roethlisberger takes off on a 4-yard run and dives across the goal line to seal the win. The Steelers defense hounds the Broncos' Jake Plummer and forces two fumbles and two interceptions for the team's seventh straight win. Steelers receiver Hines Ward says, "We shocked the world.''
Final score: Steelers, 34, Broncos 17
Footnote: The Steelers went on to beat the Seattle Seahawks for their fifth Super Bowl ring, the first one since 1980; Wilson, who finished with five catches for 92 yards and a TD, was released by the Steelers two years later after being charged with assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
2. Polamalu's pick
Date, site: Jan. 18, 2009, Heinz Field
Recap: The Steelers try to beat their AFC North Division rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, for the third time in one season. They get two Jeff Reed field goals in the first quarter and a Ben Roethlisberger-to-Santonio Holmes 65-yard pass play in the second quarter, but the Ravens cut it to 13-7 on a Willis McGahee touchdown run. The Steelers have chances to increase their lead before half, but Limas Sweed drops a sure touchdown and the clock runs out on them while in field-goal range. Reed boots a 46-yard field goal in the third quarter, but McGahee scores again to make it 16-14 with nine minutes to go. With 4:24 remaining and the Ravens possessing the ball, Troy Polamalu intercepts a Joe Flacco pass and returns it 40 yards for a score as Heinz Field rocks. Ryan Clark then knocks out McGahee on a crushing hit, forcing a fumble, and the Steelers' Tyrone Carter finishes off the win with an interception.
Final score: Steelers 23, Ravens 14
Footnote: Flacco is currently 0-6 in matchups against Roethlisberger; the Steelers later pulled out a victory over the Arizona Cardinals for their sixth Super Bowl win.
1. The first time
Date, site: Dec. 29, 1974, Oakland Coliseum
Recap: The Steelers face the Oakland Raiders, the same team that eliminated them from the playoffs the previous season. After a 3-3 first half, Oakland goes up 10-3 on a Ken Stabler-to-Cliff Branch 38-yard touchdown toss. But the Steelers tie it on the first play of the fourth quarter on an 8-yard Franco Harris run up the middle, and linebacker Jack Ham returns his second interception of the game 24 yards to the Raiders' 9-yard line, setting up a Terry Bradshaw-to-Lynn Swann 6-yard TD. The Raiders cut the deficit to 17-13, but J.T. Thomas intercepts Stabler with a little more than one minute remaining and Harris sends the Steelers to their first-ever Super Bowl with a 21-yard game-clinching touchdown run.
Final score: Steelers 24, Raiders 13
Footnote: The Steelers outrushed the Raiders, 224-29, with Harris rushing for 111 and Rocky Bleier 98; the Steelers went on to beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX for their first Lombardi Trophy.
n The Steelers create nine turnovers in trouncing the Houston Oilers in the 1978 AFC Championship Game
n Mike Renfro's reception is ruled an incompletion in the Steelers' victory over the Houston Oilers in the 1979 AFC Championship Game
5. Imperfect ending
Date, site: Dec. 31, 1972, Three Rivers Stadium
Recap: Coming off "The Immaculate Reception'' victory, the Steelers jump out to a 7-0 lead on the 15-0 Miami Dolphins when offensive lineman Gerry Mullins recovers Terry Brashaw's fumble in the end zone. But the game changes in the second quarter when Dolphins punter Larry Seiple surprises the Steelers with a 37-yard run on a fake punt to set up Larry Csonka's 9-yard TD pass from Earl Morrall. The Steelers gain a 10-7 lead in the third, but Bob Griese replaces Morrall and drives the Dolphins 80 yards for Jim Kiick's go-ahead score. A Miami blocked field goal leads to another Kiick touchdown, and Bradshaw, who returns to the game after suffering a first-quarter head injury, throws a TD pass but is intercepted twice.
Final score: Dolphins 21, Steelers 17
Footnote: The Dolphins went on to beat the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl and finish 17-0; Pittsburgh Pirates baseball star Roberto Clemente was killed in a plane crash hours after the game.
4. Streak busters
Date, site: Jan. 23, 2005, Heinz Field
Recap: The Steelers take a 15-game winning streak into their meeting with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, a team the Steelers beat in the regular season. Rookie Ben Roethlisberger's first pass is intercepted by Eugene Wilson, and the Patriots take a 3-0 lead. After a Jerome Bettis fumble on a questionable fourth-down call, the Patriots' Tom Brady fires a 60-yard touchdown strike to Deion Branch and later adds a 9-yard TD pass to David Givens. The Steelers, down 17-3, reach the red zone late in the second quarter, but a Roethlisberger pass is intercepted by Rodney Harrison, who returns it 87 yards for a score. Down three touchdowns to begin the second half, the Steelers are able to cut the deficit to 11 (31-20) at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Patriots get an Adam Vinatieri field goal and a 23-yard touchdown run from receiver Deion Branch. The Steelers lose in the AFC Championship at home for the fourth time in the last 12 seasons.
Final score: Patriots 41, Steelers 27
Footnote: The game was the third coldest ever for the Steelers with an 11-degree kickoff temperature; it was Roethlisberger's first loss as a starting NFL quarterback; the Patriots went on beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.
3. Doomed by Denver
Date, site: Jan. 11, 1998, Three Rivers Stadium
Recap: The Steelers, hosting the AFC Championship Game for the third time in four seasons, take on John Elway and the Denver Broncos, a team the Steelers beat, 35-24, in early December. Terrell Davis' 6-yard TD run gives the Broncos a 7-0 lead, but the Steelers start running the ball and get a 33-yard Kordell Stewart touchdown run and a 1-yard Jerome Bettis score. They hold a 14-7 lead and are threatening for more points, but Stewart's pass is intercepted in the end zone by Broncos middle linebacker Allen Aldridge. The game changes dramatically as the Broncos score 17 points before halftime Elway throws TD passes to Howard Griffith and Ed McCaffrey to take a 24-14 lead. The Steelers finally score with 2:46 left in the game on a 14-yard TD pass from Stewart to Charles Johnson, but even with all three timeouts, the Steelers can't stop the Broncos. Elway's 18-yard pass to Shannon Sharpe on third-and-6, with linebacker Jason Gildon in coverage, helps the Broncos run out the clock.
Final score: Broncos 24, Steelers 21
Footnote: Stewart turned the ball over four times; the Broncos went on to win their first Super Bowl after losing four times, beating the Green Bay Packers; Sharpe later said the third-and-6 pass was not a play in the Broncos' playbook and should be remembered as "Get Open.''
2. Pats' surprise
Date, site: Jan. 27, 2002, Heinz Field
Recap: The nine-point favored Steelers are bolstered by the return of injured running back Jerome Bettis and face the New England Patriots with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The game starts terribly for Pittsburgh when Troy Edwards is called for illegal procedure, wiping out a 64-yard Josh Miller punt. After the ball is re-spotted albeit on the wrong hash mark according to Steelers coach Bill Cowher the Patriots' Troy Brown hauls in Miller's punt and darts up the middle 55 yards for a score. Then, with the score 7-3 in the second quarter, Drew Bledsoe replaces an injured Tom Brady at quarterback and connects with David Patten on an 11-yard TD right before halftime. Things get even worse in the third quarter when the Steelers' Kris Brown lines up for a 33-yard field goal, but the Patriots' Brandon Mitchell blocks it, Troy Brown picks up the ball at the 40 and runs 11 yards before lateraling to Antwan Harris, who takes it 49 yards for a touchdown. The Steelers rally with two third-quarter touchdowns, but two Kordell Stewart interceptions in the final minutes of the game end the Steelers' season.
Final score: Patriots 24, Steelers 17
Footnote: Bettis was held to 8 yards on nine carries, and the Steelers were held to 58 yards rushing 41 of them by Stewart; Brady returned to quarterback the Patriots in their upset over the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl.
1. What just happened?
Date, site: Jan. 15, 1995, Three Rivers Stadium
Recap: Several members of the Steelers make a Super Bowl video before their meeting with the heavy-underdog San Diego Chargers. The Steelers gain a 10-3 halftime advantage on a 16-yard John L. Williams pass reception and a Gary Anderson 39-yard field goal. Anderson's second field goal in the third quarter has the Steelers up 13-3 before disaster hits. The Chargers, who finish with just 226 total yards to Pittsburgh's 415, get a 43-yard touchdown pass from Stan Humphries to little-known tight end Alfred Pupunu. Then, with less than six minutes to play, on third-and-14, Humphries finds Tony Martin deep behind the Steelers' Tim McKyer for another 43-yard score. The Steelers travel from their own 17-yard line to the San Diego 3. But on fourth-and-goal, San Diego linebacker Dennis Gibson bats down a Neil O'Donnell pass intended for running back Barry Foster in the end zone, and the Chargers run out the clock.
Final score: Chargers 17, Steelers 13
Footnote: O'Donnell attempted 54 passes in the game and completed 32; the Chargers were crushed in the Super Bowl by Steve Young and the San Francisco 49ers.
n Minus injured Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, the Steelers are beaten by the Oakland Raiders in the 1976 AFC Championship Game
n Dan Marino quickly turns the 1984 AFC Championship Game into a rout for the Miami Dolphins