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Maddox helped ignite a win

Posted Dec 28, 2016

A look back at a memorable win over the Cleveland Browns in 2002.

Steelers 16, Cleveland Browns 13
September 29, 2002
Heinz Field

It was the 100th meeting of two teams that had a storied history, and let’s just say this one might not have been the best of the bunch by a long shot, but it was memorable.

The Browns got off to a 3-0 lead on Phil Dawson’s 28-yard field goal, and he added another 28-yarder in the second quarter for a 6-0 lead.

The Steelers offense struggled in the first half, with Kordell Stewart completing seven of 11 passes for only 80 yards and the ground game mounting just 52 yards.

The offense thought they hit pay dirt on a Jerome Bettis five-yard touchdown run, but the play was challenged and Bettis was ruled down at the one-yard line. On third-and-1, Stewart fumbled the snap, but Alan Faneca recovered. Instead of taking a lead, the Steelers had to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Todd Peterson. Peterson kept them in the game with his second field goal of the day a 6-6 tie at the half.

A defensive battle ensued in the third quarter, and the Browns got the first big break of the game when they blocked a Josh Miller punt and took over at the Steelers 41-yard line. The Browns made it count as Tim Couch drove them to the four yard line, where Jamal White took it in for a four-yard touchdown and 13-6 lead.

Things went from bad to worse for the Steelers when Stewart was intercepted in the end zone just as the offense was getting going.

When the Steelers got the ball back, the offense had a new look as Tommy Maddox took over at quarterback in the hopes of a fourth quarter comeback.

“Kordell played well until the last couple of series,” said Coach Bill Cowher. “We missed a couple of throws and we were in a situation where we had to come from behind. That is what Tommy Maddox’s strength is. We felt at that point that that our best match up was to throw it to our receivers.”

Maddox came out firing, spreading the ball around and energizing a Heinz Field crowd. He engineered a seven play, 77 yard drive that was highlighted by a game-tying 10-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with just 2:02 to play in the game.

The defense shut the Browns down on their final series, sending the game into overtime.

The Steelers won the toss and got the ball, but wouldn’t have it for long. Maddox, who became a hero in the fourth quarter, was intercepted on the first play from scrimmage of overtime and the Browns took over at the Steelers 34-yard line.

The defense once again stepped up, giving the automatic Dawson a chance to win the game. And a game that had a little bit of everything, took yet another turn. Dawson’s kick went off the front of Kimo bon Oelhoffen’s helmet and the 45-yard attempt fell short.

With a second life, Maddox went back to work, driving the Steelers down to the six yard line. And yes, things got even a little stranger at that point. On second down Cowher opted to kick a 24-yard field goal, but Peterson’s attempt was blocked. Peterson recovered the block, picked it up and ran. The Browns Anthony Henry got a hand on it, knocking it out of Peterson’s hands, and while he tried to come up with the recovery it was Steelers special teams captain John Fiala that got his hands on the ball.

In a crazy twist of fate, the Steelers maintained possession and had another opportunity at a field goal because the play didn’t advance past the line of scrimmage, recovered it, and the original kick was on second down.

“The only thing I thought about was a bad snap,” said Cowher. “We were going to definitely kick it on second down. We actually kicked it on second down I believe.  I decided to kick it on second down because it was close. I was planning on a bad snap or something of that nature.  Then we could have Tommy Maddox just fall on it and then kick it on the next down. That was the thinking behind it, not it getting blocked, fumbling it and us recovering it. The only thing that I questioned was running another play so Todd Peterson could regain his composure.  He said he was fine so we kicked it again.” 

When everything was sorted out, Peterson drilled a 31-yard field goal for the 16-13 overtime win.

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Listen to the original radio broadcast of this game. Steelers Time Machine debuts on SNR each Wednesday at 1 p.m. Click here for more information