Pittsburgh - In the mid- and late-1970s, the Steelers and their AFC Central-rival Houston Oilers met so many times for the Division crown it prompted former Oilers coach Bum Phillips to coin his phrase about the door to the Super Bowl going through Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh - In 31 seasons at Three Rivers Stadium, the Steelers hosted seven AFC Championship games. The Steelers incredibly won five of those games, but none perhaps in more dramatic fashion than the 1995 Championship against the Indianapolis Colts Jan. 14, 1996, which they won, 20-16.
Even the previous year's AFC Championship game that was decided similarly on the final play of the game did not end with the drama of the 1995 Championship.
The game, which was selected as the third-greatest game in Three Rivers Stadium history as part of the Steelers' Last Season at Three Rivers Celebration, was as thrilling as a game could be and was decided on the very last play of the game-a failed "Hail Mary" attempt that fell incomplete in the end zone for what would have been a game-winning touchdown.
The Colts' scoring came from the foot of kicker Cary Blanchard. Indianapolis added a third field goal on their opening drive in the third quarter to pull within, 10-9. The Steelers countered with a second Norm Johnson field goal, but found themselves behind, 16-13, after Jim Harbaugh hit Floyd Turner for a 47-yard touchdown strike with 8:46 remaining in the game.
The Steelers and the Colts traded punts as the clock slipped to 3:03, and Pittsburgh regained possession of the ball at their 33-yard line. After a fourth-down reception by Andre Hastings, O'Donnell hit Ernie Mills along the right sideline for a 37-yard gain to advance to the Colts' one-yard line. Two plays later, Bam Morris powered his way for the go-ahead touchdown.
However, the Colts did not relent. Starting at his own 16-yard line, Jim Harbaugh led Indianapolis to the Pittsburgh 29-yard line before throwing the "Hail Mary" pass with just five seconds left in the game. Harbaugh's pass intended for Aaron Bailey was batted away by Steelers defensive back Randy Fuller to secure the Steelers victory, sending them to their fifth Super Bowl (XXX), and their first in 16 years.
That's exactly what occurred in Three Rivers Stadium consecutively in the 1994 and 1995 AFC Championships games. The first the Steelers lost, and the second they won.
It was the second decisive play in the 1995 AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts that was selected by fans as the third-greatest game in Three Rivers history.
To set the scene: After constructing a 10-6 halftime advantage, the Colts pulled within a point, 10-9, early in the third quarter. The Steelers countered with a second Norm Johnson field goal, but fell behind, 16-13, after Jim Harbaugh hit Floyd Turner for a 47-yard touchdown strike with 8:46 remaining in the game. The Steelers regained possession of the ball at their own 33-yard line. After a fourth-down reception by Andre Hastings, O'Donnell hit Ernie Mills along the right sideline for a 37-yard gain to advance to the Colts' one-yard line. Two plays later, Bam Morris powered his way for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Colts did not surrender. Starting at his own 16-yard line, Harbaugh led Indianapolis to Pittsburgh's 29-yard line, where with five seconds remaining in the game he attempted a "Hail Mary" pass intended for Aaron Bailey. The pass was deflected by Steelers defensive back Randy Fuller and fell incomplete, securing the Steelers' victory.
Game Notes: Each home game there will be honorary game captains, who played for the Steelers during their 31 seasons at Three Rivers. This week's captains are: linebacker Bryan Hinkle (1982-93), cornerback J.T. Thomas (1973-77, 199-81), offensive tackle Larry Brown (1971-84) and defensive tackle Gabe Rivera (1983).