The 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers. That whole season was basically a summation of the decade. The 1989 Steelers were the worst team in football the first two weeks of the season, they had games later on that year where they appeared again to be the worst team in the NFL. They also had big wins versus teams that were playoff bound and it would leave a fan to wonder, who are these Steelers? The team that gets shut out once a month, or the team that beats everyone by double digits? 1989 was probably the biggest rollercoaster ride of a season in Steelers history.
1989 was pretty much labeled a rebuilding year for Pittsburgh. The Steelers offense consisted of a quarterback named Bubby, Tim Worley was the running back with Merrill Hoge at fullback, Louis Lipps was still the main recieving threat. The Steelers at that time were playing a three four defense, main stars on defense were the secondary players, Rod Woodson, Dwayne Woodruff and Carnell Lake.
The Steelers opened the season with their worst defeat ever in team history, a 51-0 loss to the Browns at Three Rivers Stadium. They followed that effort by getting beaten in Cincinnati the next week 41-10. The Steelers had been outscored 92-10 in the first two weeks of the season, it was beginning to look like they were already on the inside track for the number one pick in 1990, and honestly was there any team in football they could beat?
Weeks 3 and 4, the Steelers played some NFC competition. The Steelers hosted the Vikings week 3 and were to go to the Lions week 4. The NFC was the power conference at that time, if the Steelers could not hang with AFC competition, how could they stack up with NFC teams. Pittburgh won their first game that year by beating the Vikings 27-14 and then went to Motown and beat the Lions 23-3. The Steelers were 2-2 after the dreadful start and the Bengals were next on the schedule.
You have to love the scheduling back then. Weeks 5 and 6 were vs Bengals and at Browns. Done with both of those for the year after week 6, yet to play the Oilers at all. The Bengals had the Steelers number that year they won again but not as much of a blowout 26-16, however the Steelers defense stepped it up against the Browns and won a road game in Cleveland 17-7 to avenge the 51-0 season opening loss they had to Cleveland.
The Steelers again at .500 now go to the Astrodome only to get shutout by the Oilers 27-0. Then they turnaround and beat the Chiefs at home 23-17 on a Bubby Brister to Louis Lipps 64 yard touchdown pass that turned out to be the game winner. Back to .500 again.
The Steelers would not see .500 for long. The next two weeks were back to blowout central. They lost 34-7 at the Broncos and then come home to lose to the Bears 20-0. That was shutout number 3, and that was only the Steelers 10th game. At 4-6 they were playoffs long shots at best.
Week 11 the Chargers came into Pittsburgh with their new Quarterback Jim McMahon. Merrill Hoge had a one yard touchdown run that gave the Steelers a 20-17 win. The next week the Steelers got their first ever win at Miami beating the Dolphins 34-14 in a driving rainstorm. Whenever you see a highlight of the Steelers and Dolphins playing in slush during the daytime, it is from this game. The Steelers back at .500 now get the Oilers at home the following week.
The Oilers came into the Burgh, the game was closer but Houston won 23-16. This put the Steelers at 6-7 with a divisional record of 1-5. However the following week the Steelers get a shutout of their own, 13-0 at the Jets. They followed that up with a 28-10 win vs the Patriots at home. Sitting at 8-7 they could make the playoffs, but would have to get a ton of help and would have to win their final game that year.
The Steelers handled business winning 31-22 at the Buccaneers. As their game went on, things were falling into place. The Colts lost at the Saints 41-6, the Raiders lost to the Giants 34-17, so it was up to the Monday Night game. The Bengals had to lose at the Vikings for the Steelers to be the 5th team to make the playoffs that year. Vikings 29 Bengals 21, Steelers were to go back to Houston on New Year's Eve.
The Steelers were heavy underdogs in this game, basically everyone was looking foward to a Warren Moon vs John Elway showdown the next week. Pittsburgh had other plans. The Steelers kept this game close and fell behind in the 4th quarter 23-13. They managed to tie the Oilers up and sent the game into overtime. Gary Anderson kicked a 50 yard field goal that sent the Steelers onto Denver where again they had no chance to win.
Denver was the end of the road for this team. The Steelers lead this game 23-17 in the 4th quarter but a one yard touchdown run by Mel Bratton gave the Broncos a 24-23 lead and that would be the final score.
The 2009 season will be the 20th anniversary of the 1989 season. Doubt there will be any kind of reunion for this bunch, as with 5 rings the Steelers are not a team that celebrates past improbable playoff wins and/or comeback seasons. The main reflection of this blog was the Steelers could have lost every game that season. Especially after starting out 0-2 versus divisional rivals. The team got it together, and had more bad outings, but they always found a way to get things back on track. It was remarkable they had the Broncos on the ropes in the AFC Divisional Round. I would have to say minus Chuck Noll's 4 Superbowl years, this has to be his best coaching performance he had. If you noticed one thing, when they played someone the second time, the game was closer than the first time, and sometimes it was a win. Also again this was a rebuilding year, and to make the playoffs with that team, especially with the loses they had, he continued to coach them up, and build them up. The Steelers always played hard and came out on top more times than not when their backs were against the wall. The rollercoaster of 1989, which Steelers would show up?