What are the best moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).
5. Big Ben saves ‘The Bus’
It’s bizarre to feature a play as a “best moment” that starts with a Pittsburgh Steelers’ fumble, but then again, everything about this play is bizarre. With Pittsburgh up 21-18 against Indianapolis late in the AFC Divisional round of the 2005 playoffs, and just two yards from a game-sealing touchdown, Jerome Bettis coughed up the ball and Colts safety Nick Harper recovered. Harper had nothing but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger between him and paydirt. In other words, athletic skill-position player vs. immobile quarterback. But somehow, Roethlisberger was able to make a game-saving tackle. The day before, Harper had been stabbed in his right quad during a domestic incident, which may have slowed him down and contributed to his decision to cut left, and therefore toward Roethlisberger, rather than cut right and away from potential contact. In any case, Roethlisberger stopped the Colts from scoring a game-winning touchdown, a few players later Mike Vanderjagt missed a game-tying field goal, and the Steelers survived. They would go on to win Super Bowl XL and birth a new era of success for the dynastic franchise. And they can thank this play.
4. Lynn Swann’s acrobatic catches in Super Bowl X
Lynn Swann caught just four passes in Super Bowl X. So why was he named MVP? Because two of them were all-time examples of athleticism and concentration. The first, which has come to be known as the “Kangaroo Catch,” came midway through the opening quarter and helped set up the Steelers’ first touchdown. Swann cut underneath Dallas defensive back Mark Washington and jumped to place his hands in perfect position to snare Terry Bradshaw’s pass, then tight-roped the sideline to make sure it counted. The second catch, known as the “Levitating Leap,” came late in the first half when Swann leapt near midfield and again triumphed over both Washington and the challenges of hand-eye coordination to haul in a 53-yard pass. As for his other two receptions, well, one was for 12 yards on a 2nd-and-7, and the other was a 64-yard touchdown that sealed the victory. Swann’s performance has taken up residence in the annals of NFL history, which means it’s well worth recognition in Steelers history.
3. 1974 NFL draft
The Steelers had long established the greatest draft acuity in NFL history by the time the 1974 edition rolled around, having taken Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Blount, Jack Ham and Franco Harris by that point. So what could beat five Hall of Famers in three years? Well, how about four Hall of Famers in one year? How about four Hall of Famers in five picks? That’s what Chuck Noll, Art Rooney and company managed with this class, drafting wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth to go along with linebacker Jack Lambert and center Mike Webster, all in the first five rounds. The previous drafts provided the foundation of the Steelers’ homegrown dynasty of the 1970s, but in terms of sheer might, nothing tops Pittsburgh’s 1974 haul. Unsurprisingly, nobody topped those Steelers much on the football field, either.
2. The Immaculate Reception
The NFL itself voted this play the greatest in league history, and it’s become the de facto moment that kicked off the Steelers’ modern-era dominance. Trailing Oakland by a point in the 1972 Divisional playoffs, Pittsburgh faced a 4th-and-10 on its own 40-yard line with 22 seconds remaining. Head coach Chuck Noll called 66 Circle Option, a pass play over the middle intended to target running back John Fuqua. The ball ended up in the hands of a different running back instead. Raiders safety Jack Tatum charged toward Terry Bradshaw’s desperation heave and collided with Fuqua, knocking the ball back about 10 yards and into the hands of rookie Franco Harris, who plucked it from near the turf and smoked Oakland’s stunned defense down the left sideline and into the end zone. It gave Pittsburgh its first playoff win in franchise history, and while the season ended at the hands of the immortal 14-0 Dolphins a week later, irreversible momentum had been established. The play has been steeped in controversy ever since it took place, too. Did the ball only touch Fuqua, which therefore would have nullified Harris’ catch? Did the ball hit the ground first after the deflection? All we know for sure is it counted, and it’s one of the greatest moments in Steelers history.
1. Santonio Holmes’ catch
The Steelers’ unparalleled success in the Super Bowl era culminated on a brisk February night in in Tampa, when Pittsburgh officially became Sixburgh. In arguably the greatest Super Bowl ever played, the Steelers offered football lore several signature moments to line its walls, starting with the longest interception return in Super Bowl history. James Harrison ended the first half of Super Bowl XLIII by picking off Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner on his own goal line, then barreling down the right sideline 100 yards to put the Steelers up 10. But Arizona would rally to take the lead late, setting the stage for one of the most clutch drives in the history of the sport. The offense took over with 2:30 remaining, and while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 6-of-8 passes on the series, Santonio Holmes was the biggest star. He turned a short pass into a 40-yard gain down to the Arizona 6-yard line, and one play later, Holmes walked the tightest of tightropes in the back right corner of the end zone, extending his arms well above his 5-foot-11 frame to snag a pinpoint-perfect Roethlisberger pass for the winning score. The play landed Holmes the MVP award and sealed the Steelers’ sixth Super Bowl title, an unmatched record for the NFL’s peerless franchise.