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Ten Most Memorable
Moments of Cowher Era

by McMillen & Wife (5/29/01)

As Bill Cowher approaches his 10th season as head coach of the Steelers, we thought it'd be fun to take a look back at the highs and lows of his tenure. Now, we realize we've left out many a great moment on our list, but that's okay... we're counting on YOU GUYS tell us what we missed and send us YOUR most memorable moments. To get the ball rolling, here are our personal top ten, last to first:

10) Tears of Triumph: 'Ya know, I've never been too big on coaches that start balling like babies after a big game. I mean, guys like Dick Vermeil who run around sobbing uncontrollably every time the team converts a 3rd down make me sick. That guy must own stock in Kleenex. Having said that, there was something magical about watching a teary-eyed, emotional Bill Cowher triumpantly thrust the Lamar Hunt Trophy into the air for the viewing pleasure of an electrified Three Rivers crowd. Cowher's jesture occurred following Pittsburgh's win over the Colts in the 1995 AFC Championship. It was the pinacle of Cowher's success, and a redemptive moment for the team as well as fans who had endured 16 years of Super Bowl drought.

Of course, runner-up for this slot would have to be the very colorful postgame interview with Greg Lloyd that ensued. Before countless millions on live national television, a sneering Lloyd rather matter-of-factly told his shocked interviewer that the Steelers would "win the F---ing Super Bowl." Score: Greg Lloyd, 1... censor-button operators, 0.

9. The Coin Toss: Never has there been a bigger holiday turkey than referee Phil Luckett, author of the infamous 1998 Thanksgiving Day overtime coin toss debacle in Detroit. It's bad enough that the game itself was the most horrendously officiated contest I've ever witnessed, filled with a myriad of ridiculously bogus penalties on BOTH clubs. But how can an ANYONE, even a bungling NFL official, blow the COIN TOSS??? As the teams met at midfield before the overtime period, Jerome Bettis clearly called "tails" before God and creation (as instant replays would later verify) and Phil Luckett somehow heard "heads." The Lions were awarded the football, and predictably, another bogus call by Luckett's crack staff (this time a faux 15-yard facemask) set up the game-winning FG for Detroit. The shell-shocked Steelers, who would've been 8-4 had they won, went into a tailspin following that game, ultimately losing 5 straight. Gobble, gobble, Mr. Luckett... now kindly bend over and get ready for a fistful of stuffing, old man.

8. Kordell's Pirouette: You know the Steelers are not having a good day when ANY Bengals coach -- let alone that waste of carbon and water, Dave Shula -- is standing on the sideline gloating. The setting was the '95 game in Cinci. The Bungles had already embarrased the Steelers 27-9 a few weeks earlier before a stunned Three Rivers crowd, dropping Pittsburgh to 3-4 and threatening to end the team's playoff hopes just midway through the season. This time, the Bengals jumped out to a 21-3 advantage just one series into the 2nd quarter, and still held a 31-13 lead early in the 3rd after they marched to a TD on their opening drive of the 2nd half. Already counting his chickens, Dave Shula was absolutely tickled pink on the sideline, so much so that he was actually taunting Pittsburgh players. His euphoria evaporated rather quickly over the next quarter and a half, however, as he watched his coaching career go down the tubes (you could almost hear the giant flushing sound at Riverfront Stadium), the victim of 36 unanswered points by Pittsburgh.

There were many memorable moments in this pivotal game for the Steelers, but the image that will stay with me till the day I die is that of Kordell "Slash" Stewart's electrifying 71-yard TD grab. On 3rd and long, O'Donnell found a wide-open Stewart over the middle about 20 yards downfield. Slash somehow knifed between two DBs, then turned on the afterburners, completing the play with a 360 degree piroutte as he slipped out of the grasp of a defender en route to the end zone. That play gave the Steelers their first lead of the game, solidified Kordell's superstar status, and ostensibly ended Dave Shula's coaching career. Gotta love that.

7. Pigpen vs Charlie Brown: For those of you who don't know, we live in Ohio in the heart of Browns country, so understandably, several moments on our top ten list have come against our arch-rivals from Cleveland. The first in our trilogy of Cowher-era Browns memories is courtesy of Yancey Thigpen in 1994.

The Steelers (11-3) and Browns (10-4) met at Three Rivers in the midst of a raucous, playoff atmosphere with the division title and homefield advantage on the line. Without question, the stakes were the highest to date for a Steelers/Browns matchup, and the deciding factor would be simple desire... who wanted it more?

On Pittsburgh's opening drive, Yancey Thigpen answered that question. The Steelers had actually been forced into a punting situation on the drive, but when Cleveland special teams ace Bennie Barnes jumped offsides, the Steelers had new life. Pittsburgh wasted no time capitalizing on Cleveland's mistake. O'Donnell immediately went deep for Thigpen down the left sideline. The ball was underthrown and definitely up for grabs... but Thigpen "wanted it more," leaping up and somehow underneath the Cleveland DB to snatch O'Donnell's floater, pulling it down with outstretched hands then gliding into the end zone for an easy 6. It was a gutsy call, and it set the tone. On Pittsburgh's next possession, a pair of O'Donnell passes set up Barry Foster's 1-yard TD plunge, and for all intents and purposes the game was over.

Amazingly, the barrage of trash talk I'd been subjected to by Browns fans at work during the week leading up to the game continued without interuption even after the Steelers won. "Well get you guys in the playoffs." "You guys got lucky." "You'll never beat us three times in one season." But that's another story...

6. What Might Have Been: This is one of those bittersweet moments. If not for a pair of scatter-armed interceptions, this play would've gone down as one of the great coaching calls of all time. I'm talking about the onside kick against the Cryboys in Super Bowl XXX. The call was as daring and brilliant as they come. The Steelers had just kicked a FG, narrowing Dallas' lead to 10 points (20-10). There were nearly 11-1/2 minutes left in the game... clearly, in the minds of the Cowboys, this was neither the time nor place for an onside kick. And yet, for Bill Cowher, it was the perfect time.

Pittsburgh's field goal came at the end of a long, time consuming drive which left the Cowboy defensive unit worn out. If the Steelers could recover the kick, their offense would be facing a winded defense that was back on its collective heels... exactly what the doctor ordered for Pittsburgh's tough, ball control scheme. And so, the call was made... the perfect call at the perfect time. But even more amazing than the call itself was the absolute perfection of its execution. Norm Johnson's kick, which caught the Cowboys completely by surprise, took a short hop, bounced in a high arc toward the sideline, and was plucked out of the air in stride by Deion Figures. It was stunning. And for the first time in the game, anxiety was splashed across the faces of the Cowboys players and staff. They could only watch helplessly as the Steeler offense battered its way through the exhausted Dallas defenders for downright easy TD, narrowing the score to 20-17 with plenty of time remaining. When Levon Kirkland's diving effort resulted in a Troy Aikman sack a few minutes later to force a Dallas punt, the stage was set for QB Neil O'Donnell to engineer one last drive to either tie or win the game. Ah, what might have been...

5.The Gift: Did you ever wonder what must go through the mind of an unfortunate deli worker who loses concentration for a moment and cuts off his fingers in the meat slicer? I'm guessing Neil O'Donnell knows exactly what that feels like.
And did you ever wonder what it would feel like to have your biggest rival give you not one, but TWO lottery tickets, and having then BOTH come up winners? Cowboy CB Larry Brown knows that feeling well.

Of course, I'm talking about Kneel O'Dollar's two gift interceptions to Larry Brown in Super Bowl XXX. The first was bad enough... a floating, end-over-end wounded duck to the only player within 15 yards of the ball, Larry Brown. O'Donnell's gaffe led to an easy Cowboy TD and dug the Steelers deep into a 20-7 hole.

To their credit, the Steelers recovered from O'Donnell's miscue, and even Neil himself seemed to be getting himself under control. But then, with the Steelers poised to win or tie late in the game, O'Dummell struck again, firing a bullet right to Larry Brown standing all alone near the far sideline. Brown didn't even have to adjust to the ball... it came right to him and hit him square in the chest. In my minds eye, Brown even hesitated for a split second (probably in disbelief) before he began racing toward the end zone. The play sealed Pittsburgh's fate, and made the name "O'Donnell" one that will go down in infamy.

Many fans seem to have recovered from this horrific event. I have not. I have neither forgiven nor forgotten, as evidenced by our "tribute" to Kneel O'Dollar titled "Ronald O'Donald's Playhouse." Give it a look... it's pretty dated, but still good for a laugh or two.

4. The Debacle: Have you ever seen the cartoon where Sylvester the Cat takes his son out to teach him how to hunt for birds? You know the one... Sylvester seeks out the scrawniest, sickliest-looking excuse of a bird he can find to hunt... then proceeds to get his ass kicked by the "little squab." His son, witnessing Sylvester's struggles, simply produces a paper bag (from where I have no idea), puts it over his head and says, "Oh, Father... I'm so ashamed."

That was me after Pittsburgh's humiliating loss at home to the expansion Browns in '99. My embarrassment was heightened by the fact that I was now faced with the unenviable burden of spending the next year listening hoardes of Browns fans gloat about their win like it was the damn Super Bowl.

To be honest, it's not the game itself that stands out in my mind as much as the numbness that ensued. I remember calmly standing up, walking over the the phone, and unplugging it from the wall to head off the barrage of phone calls we were about to receive from our Browns-loving friends and co-workers. It was a dark day indeed. As far as embarrsing losses go, perhaps only the 51-0 loss to Cleveland in '89 tops this one, and at least we made up for it by making the playoffs that year.

3. Dawg Neutering: I don't know if I've ever had a more peaceful, satisfying week than I did following the Steelers 1994 Playoff spanking of the Browns (29-9). I mean, how often is it that Browns fans have nothing to say after a Steelers game other than, "You beat us, fair and square."

I have several lingering memories from this game. Browns rookie WR Derrick Alexander setting the tone for Cleveland by dropping two incredibly easy passes (both of which would've resulted in first downs) on the first drive of the game. Barry Foster repeatedly running unmolested down the right sideline with an escort of 2 or 3 offensive linemen for huge chunks of yardage. John L. Williams bursting through the middle of the line on a rare carry for a 25-yard TD to make the score 17-0 in the first quarter. Rod Woodson and Kevin Greene nailing Testeverde in the end zone for a safety on the last play.

Yes, all of these things stand out in my mind... but I just keep coming back to the deafening, unprecedented silence from Browns fans after the game. This is the only occassion I can think of in my lifetime when Browns fans were literally speechless after a game... they simply had nothing to say. Had this game had not been made bittersweet by what happened the following week, it would be my #1 choice... and frankly, this is still the single most gratifying win of Cowher's tenure in my mind, even if the delight lasted for only one glorious week.

2. The Hail Mary: The Hail Mary pass on the final play of the '95 AFC Championship vs. the Indy Colts is such a no-brainer that it's almost not worth elaborating on. But of course, there's a bizarre Mac & Wife twist to it that I can't pass up sharing.

The drama of the game is legendary. Who can forget the agonizing deja-vu effect we all suffered (a la the '94 Championship) when the Steelers, trailing after a long TD pass, faced a do-or-die 4th down and 3 after late in the game. The image of LB Quentin Coryatt dropping a sure O'Donnell interception on that same final Steelers drive still lingers... had Coryatt held on to the ball (which hit him right in the numbers), he would've gone for six and the Colts would've gone to Tempe. And of course, that final Harbaugh Hail Mary pass in which Randy Fuller swatted the ball off the Henry Bailey's lap in the end zone to preserve a Steeler trip to the Super Bowl is etched in even the most casual fan's mind. I'll never forget the moment of terror I felt when TV analyst Phil Simms shouted, "He caught it!" nor the relief of seeing the officials wave the pass incomplete. But then, all of this goes without saying.

What sticks out most vivdly for me is Sandy's reaction to the last nail-biting moments of this game. She literally couldn't watch. The girl was so stressed out that she spent the final few minutes of the game hiding in our master bathroom listening to the radio, and only BETWEEN plays (don't ask me why... I have no friggin' idea what she was hoping to accomplish). I was forced to shout the play-by-play down the hall to her until the end of the game. I assure you, I am NOT making this up!

Which brings me to the mother of all memories...

1. Three More Yards: As long as I live, I will NEVER, EVER forget that sound. That sickening "pop" made when San Diego LB Dennis Gibson smacked down Neil O'Donnell's ill-fated end zone toss to Barry Foster in the '94 AFC Championship. It was a devastating moment... easily the biggest disappointment I've ever experienced as a Steeler fan. The blood just drained out of me. Horrified, I slowly turned toward Sandy, and she looked back at me with this dazed expression of utter disbelief. For a moment, our house was shrouded in a thick, dead silence. Suddenly, Sandy sprung from the couch. Her eyes darted madly around the room until she spotted her prey. I sat motionless on the couch, my tension-whitened knuckles still clutching a limp terrible towel, and numbly watched my near-hysterical wife kick a Steeler popcorn tin across the room, then chase it down and finish it off like a tigress killing a gazelle. When it was over, she looked up, brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes, her bottom lip quivered ever so slightly, and she burst into tears.

'Ya know, come to think of it, I doubt I'll ever forget the sickening "pop" of that popcorn tin exploding, either.

Tim McMillen

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Fan Comments & Responses
The following articles are listed in the order they were received (with the most recent entries at the top). This isn't a "guestbook" format... I read and manually insert every message, so you may not see your submission show up immediately. Thanks a million for your comments, people!
Submitted by "G" Blanston

[Editor's Note from McMillen and Wife: I can't remember the year right off hand... think it was '94, and safety Gary Jones made the hit.]

Submitted by Anonymous
how about all those monday night drubbings of the buffalo bills? take your pick of any of the 3 of them. 23-0 in 1993, 23-10 in 1994, and 24-10 in 1996! not to mention our 41-20 win in the playoffs in 1995.

love your site, btw!

Submitted by Sam-I-Am

Been coming here since late last season. Great site, beautiful wife, and killer top ten list. I tend to agree with most of your picks, but one I think you missed is Kevin Henry's miracle interception in '97 against the Patriots. Remember the one? The Pats were leading 21-13 and were trying to run out the clock but had no running game to pull it off. Bledsoe tried to throw a short pass in the flat and Henry sniffed it out perfectly and picked it off. Kordell hit Thigpen for a short TD and hit him again for the 2 point conversion to send it into overtime. Man it was like a miracle. Thanks again for bringing back all those great (and some not so great) memories.


[Editor's Note from McMillen and Wife: Actually, it was Mark Bruener who caught the final TD in that one. Thigpen did make the sliding grab for the 2-pointer, though. But Thiggy made the play of the game (next to Kevin Henry's INT, of course) when on 4th-and-7, he made an incredible diving grab while barely keeping both feet inbounds at the 4 with a minute to go. That set up the TD to Bruener.]

Submitted by Tommy Coleman
Dear Kordell,

Just in case you read the two posts below, let me say this; I skipped the examples Tim gave to Steelmob as I know most of us who lived them, with you, did. So don't sweat it.


Higher than 1997 (AFC Championship Game).

Higher than 1995 (Super Bowl 30).

Higher than National Champs 5 Downs and all.

Higher than beating arrghhhh... Michigan with an Ava Maria (Ann Arbor Native, You broke our Maise and Blue Hearts).

Let's see that leaves... ahhh... hmmmm... STEELERS Win the Super Bowl Kordell Stewart MVP! Know what I'm talking about?

Note to Steelmob: I'd rather lose and be a Steeler Nation Peasant than win and be you! Stay out of them casinos,they're rotting your brain.


Submitted by SteelMob

[Editor's Note from McMillen and Wife: Rarely do I offer rebuttles to fan posts on our site, but this is one of those rare occassions where the person is so far off base it begs for it..


This "broken record" act of yours is getting old. WAY old. Since you're one of the most prolific posters on our message board, so I've gotta ask you... how many times do you think saying "Kordell sucks" and "the Steelers will be 5-11" can be interesting to readers? I mean, you're entitled to your opinion... I have no problem with that. But receiving the same lame rhetoric from you post after post after post has become downright exhausting bordering on moronic. I'd think you'd be embarrassed that your dislike for Stewart is so intense that you hope the team does poorly just so you can say, "I told you so." That's pathetic.

Aren't there any other aspects to the Steelers you care to comment on? Are you not capable?

Now, as for your statement that I never say anything negative about Kordell, you're flat-out 100% wrong. You oughta consider doing research before you open your mouth... might save you some embarrasment.

For the record, I like Kordell Stewart. He's a Steeler and I wish him nothing but success. Furthermore, he performed well enough last season that the kind of abuse you're heaping on him is completely unwarranted. But lemme tell you something, junior.... I call 'em like I see 'em. When Kordell sucks, I SAY SO. And when he plays well, I SAY SO.

YOU cannot say the same, my friend.

To prove how wrong you are when you say I "never say anything wrong about Kordell" (someone needs to teach you how to string together a cohesive sentence, by the way), here are just a FEW less than glowing reviews I've given Stewart on our site over the years:

Quote #1:

"Thanks to what can only be labeled as a truly pitiful display by Kordell Stewart (along with some absolutely horrendous play calling by Kevin Gilbride), this otherwise abysmal Browns season will always be looked back on with genuine fondness by their fans. Why? Because they beat the Steelers. It doesn't matter if they lose every other game... their season officially became a "success" with their win in Pittsburgh on Sunday."

Quote #2:

"Kordell Stewart has lost this team. He has no confidence in himself, nor do his teammates believe in him. Once he gets rattled, he completely falls apart (a trait that has unfortunately become his trademark). It's his 5th year in the league, his 3rd year as the starting QB, and Stewart seems to be steadily regressing. If the Steelers can somehow pick up a reliable veteran QB in the off-season, Kordell could well be gone next year. And, if cutting him doesn't deal the Steelers a huge blow against the cap, I think he WILL be gone. They ONLY thing that will keep him in Pittsburgh is if the Steelers have no "real" alternative (which is a distinct possibility, given their current QB situation). Any real hopes I had for Kordell as the "quarterback of the future" died Sunday."

Quote #3:

"Let's be honest... some of fits & starts on offense were expected early in the season as the players learned Gilbride's complex system. But 26-0 at halftime? Man, is that pathetic. Kordell stunk (three 1st half interceptions), Bettis stunk (if he had more than 20 yards in the half I'll paint my house brown and orange), the O-line stunk (see Bettis), and I'd if we actually HAD any receivers, I'd say they stunk, too (did we REALLY draft Troy Edwards in the first round?). 26-0???"

Quote #4:

Kordell IS NOT the guy to take this team to the next level. Put Gonzalez in until a real QB is either drafted or signed. Let Kordell carry the board for awhile to get a fresh perspective of the real world, then get rid of him and the big salary. The offensive line absolutely sucks. Dawson is the only talent I see on that line. This is a major project in and of itself. It's going to take big off season money to fix this catastrophe, so start saving money now by dishing Kordell to the f___ing Bungles, or something."

Quote #5:

"Someone tell me I'm wrong, because I never thought in my entire life I'd ever hear myself say that I wish O'Dummell was still the Steelers QB!!!!"

Quote #6:

"Speaking of anemic, Kordell was awful (again). While the intentional grounding penalty resulting in a safety wasn't Kordell's fault (the officials blew the call saying Lyons wasn't eligible and awarded a safety to the Titans), there's no WAY should Kordell should've held the ball for that long standing in the shadow of his own goal post. And like last week, Stewart once again threw a "huh" pass late in the game that was picked off to seal the Steelers fate (a "huh" pass is one where Kordell throws the ball into a crowd of defenders and Sandy & I look at each other and say, "Huh?!"). Compounding Kordell's problems was yet another awful outing by our receivers, and the O-line (by virtue of all those pre-snap penalties) was also a liability. Doesn't leave much room for praise, does it?"

Quote #7:

"Yawn. Another dismal performance from Kordell, who is 1 of 13 for 3 yards, 1 Int and 3 sacks over the last 2 games. Oh, well... I refuse to dwell on it, bruthas. While I haven't given up on praying for a miracle, I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that Stewart will be gone by the time next season rolls around. "

Quote #8:

"Horrible. I hate to blame a loss on any one player, but Stewart was simply pathetic. Kordell was 2 of 11 in the 2nd half, and although his 2 completions both came on the TD drive (the 2nd a 30-yard score to Bruener), Stewart's scatter-armed performance cost the Steelers a game they otherwise played well enough to win, seriously damaging their playoff hopes in the process. Kordell escaped this debacle with only 1 Int, but he could've easily had 4 picks if not for a penalty and a couple of easy drops. I don't mean to just pick on Kordell, because there are other factors, but where was his friggin' head? I think I've seen enough."

I could go on, but I won't. Obviously, I simply got caught up in the heat of the moment on some of these, and I'm ashamed of most of 'em in hindsight. The bottom line? YOU are wrong, SteelMob. I have never coddled Kordell Stewart, and fans are free to criticize him on our site (myself included). But I can do without the kind of constant, mindless bashing you're dishing out.

Until you find something else to talk about, you're banned from posting on our site and our message board.

Wake up and start rooting for your TEAM, bro.

Tim McMillen
Webmaster McMillen and Wife

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