Some memorable moments at Heinz Field

On Saturday night the Steelers celebrated the team's annual Alumni Weekend with a virtual program, featuring players having roundtable discussions as this year's theme is the 20th season at Heinz Field, which opened in 2001.

Jerome Bettis, Joey Porter, James Farrior and Ike Taylor took part in the discussions, which highlighted some of the top games in Heinz Field history over the years, all selected by a panel of Steelers insiders.

The games are definitely ones that will forever be in the memories of Steelers Nation, and they share that same spot in the heart of Steelers players.

In addition, fans can get involved in the celebration now by bidding or donating to the Steelers Alumni Weekend Auction, which runs through December 11. The auction, which benefits the UPMC Sports Concussion Program and the Cancer Caring Center, will feature unique items and great Heinz Field memorabilia.

Here is a look at five games that were highlighted as part of the program.

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AFC Wild Card Playoff Game
January 5, 2003
Steelers 36, Browns 33
Heinz Field

The Steelers won the AFC North and were rewarded with an AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Heinz Field on a snowy day. And they got a fired-up Browns team, who got into the playoffs with a 9-7 record, to kick off the postseason.

The Browns wasted no time showing the Steelers they weren't going to make it easy. After winning the toss, Kelly Holcomb took the Browns on an opening drive that would cover 80 yards on four plays in 1:16 and finish with a one-yard touchdown run by William Green.

The Browns extended their lead to 14-0 thanks to taking advantage of an opportunity. Antwaan Randle El muffed a punt, and Browns defensive back Chris Akins recovered at the Steelers 32-yard line. Holcomb quickly got the Browns back on the board with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Northcutt.

As the Steelers were driving on their next possession, Tommy Maddox was intercepted by Daylon McCutcheon and he returned it 13 yards to the Browns 31 yard line.

An antsy Heinz Field crowd was looking for some signs of life from the Steelers, and got just that when Randle El made up for his earlier mistake by returning a punt 66 yards for a touchdown, bringing the energy back and pulling the Steelers to within a touchdown at 14-7.

The Browns added a 31-yard Phil Dawson field goal, sending the Browns in at halftime up 17-7.

"Offensively we couldn't seem to get it going," said Bettis. "We were frustrated we weren't able to get it going offensively. As the game went along, you became more nervous because we didn't want to be the team that lost in the playoffs."

Things were looking bleak in the third quarter when Northcutt caught his second touchdown pass of the game, a 15-yarder from Holcomb for a 24-7 lead. The Steelers offense finally got in the end zone when Plaxico Burress caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Maddox.

In the fourth quarter Dawson hit his second field goal of the afternoon for a 27-14 lead, but the Steelers cut into the lead when Jerame Tuman caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Maddox. The Browns fought right back, going up 33-21 when Andre Davis caught a 22-yard pass from Holcomb.

With their chance to advance in the playoffs starting to slip away, the Steelers wouldn't be denied. Maddox hit Hines Ward for a five-yard touchdown with just 3:06 to play to cut the lead to 33-28.

The defense held the Browns on their next possession, forcing a three-and-out without even a minute going off the clock and giving the Steelers one last chance with 2:35 to play from their own 39 yard line.

Maddox hit Burress for 24 yards, then Ward for 10 and back to Burress for 17 yards. Ward pulled in a seven-yard reception to give the Steelers the ball at the three-yard line. Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala took it up the middle on the delay, and the Steelers added a two-point conversion on a pass from Randle El to Tuman, to secure the 36-33 win with just 54 seconds left in the game.

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Steelers vs. Chicago Bears
December 11, 2005
Steelers 21, Bears 9
Heinz Field

Willie Parker got the start, but it was Jerome Bettis who would finish with 17 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns. And it was that second touchdown that is still talked about today and was a testament to what Bettis meant to the team.

"Enough can't be said about Jerome Bettis," said receiver Hines Ward after the game. "He epitomizes what the Steelers are all about. People think he's down and out and he comes out and has a game like he had."
With snow falling and the conditions deteriorating, the Steelers called on Bettis and he answered.

"I remember the lead up to the moment," said Bettis. "We had a must win situation. We had to win the rest of the games to have a chance to get to the playoffs. It was the first game on that stretch. We had to win, and they had a defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL. We knew we had a tough road to get down. It was snowing. I got one yard in the first half and a 100 in the second. It was the one play against Brian Urlacher that gave a sense of who we were as a team and who I was as a football player. It was the play where I was able to run Urlacher over. He has always been upset with me about the play. After the game we switched shoes and he always said he has the shoes that ran over his chest.

"We became a playoff team at that moment. We started our playoff push right there."

The play Bettis is talking about happened in the third quarter. Bettis barreled through the Bears' defense, leveling Urlacher as he tried to hold on to Bettis with no luck as he scored on a five-yard touchdown run.

"We knew who Jerome was in the cold," said Porter. "He is a mudder. That was the perfect situation for him. They were ready, until they weren't ready. I knew that was his type of game. When the whole stadium knows you have to run the ball, and you still run it, that's when we have it."

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2008 AFC Championship Game
January 18, 2009
Steelers 23, Baltimore Ravens 14
Heinz Field

This was the third time the Steelers and Ravens met, the Steelers taking the first two games in the regular season, and many wondered could they possibly win a third game.
"I remember people asking how we could beat a team three times in a row," remembered Farrior. "People didn't believe we could beat the Ravens for a third time. I didn't want to hear all of that noise, so we came to play.

"Being a defensive player, these are the types of games you like to be in. You know it's going to be physical, hard-hitting and they are going to bring everything they have."

That is exactly the way the game was.

The Steelers beat the Ravens, 23-14, behind a stellar defensive effort that limited the Ravens to 198 total net yards. The Steelers defense had three interceptions and three sacks, including two from linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 255 yards and one touchdown, a 65-yarder to receiver Santonio Holmes, to give the Steelers a 13-0 lead.

The Ravens fought back, cutting the lead to 16-14 after two touchdown runs by Willis McGahee. But it would be Troy Polamalu who would seal the deal when he intercepted Joe Flacco and returned it 40-yards for a touchdown and 23-14 win.

When the Steelers needed him the most, Polamalu came through big. With a trip to Super Bowl XLIII on the line, Polamalu had five tackles, four of them solo stops and two passes defensed. Earlier in the same game, Polamalu was also Flacco's biggest foe. The Ravens were going for it on fourth-and-one from the Steelers' 34-yard line. Polamalu fought his way over the pile and stopped any forward progress by Flacco, forcing the Ravens to turn the ball over on downs.

The key play was a fourth quarter interception of Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens pulled to within two on a Willis McGahee one-yard touchdown. The Steelers offense followed with a three-and-out, and Flacco got the ball back looking to take the lead.

"When you needed a play, when you needed a lifeline, when you needed something spectacular to happen, you picked up the phone and called Troy Polamalu," said Taylor. "Troy always sealed the deal. That was throughout his whole career."

On third-and-13 from the Ravens' 29-yard line, Polamalu intercepted Flacco at the 40-yard line and took it all the way back for a 40-yard touchdown and 23-14 Steelers lead, which would secure the win and a trip to the Super Bowl.

"I will never forget the crowd," said Farrior. "That is the loudest and craziest I ever hear the stadium in my whole 10 years playing there. My favorite game at Heinz Field by far."

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2010 AFC Championship Game
January 23, 2011
Steelers 24, New York Jets 19
Heinz Field

"Can't wait."

Those two words uttered by Jets linebacker Bart Scott about playing the Steelers in the AFC Championship came during an emotional post-game interview, but they provided a little bit of bulletin board material for some of the Steelers players.

But for linebacker James Farrior, he didn't need a lot of motivation going against his former team.

"We thought it was funny, but we put it on the bulletin board," said Farrior. "Me being a former Jets player, you didn't have to do anything to motivate me. But it was a little bit helpful for the rest of the guys as locker room material."

It was a cold night at Heinz Field, with game time temperature just 17 degrees and the wind chill 5, but the Steelers heated up fast.

Running back Rashard Mendenhall, who would be the key to the Steelers' offense all day, got the Steelers on the board first with a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. But there was bad news too when center Maurkice Pouncey was carted off the field with an ankle injury. The next man up mentality immediately came into play, and all answered.

"The offensive line has done a great job all year," said Mendenhall after the game. "Guys have been going down. Guys had to step up. They controlled the line of scrimmage all day today. Our run game has been successful all year. It just says a lot about those guys."

The Steelers lead grew in the second quarter after a Shaun Suisham field goal, and two-yard touchdown run by Ben Roethlisberger for a 17-0 lead. After cornerback Ike Taylor sacked Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, forcing a fumble that William Gay recovered and returned 19 yards for a touchdown and a 24-0 lead, it looked like the Steelers would be rolling.

"I remember that game being over when we started," said Farrior. "We jumped out to a big lead. It was pretty much done after that. I remember a slight comeback from them, but most of the game we dominated, especially in the first half."

The Jets got on the board late in the half with a field goal, sending a confident Steelers team into the locker room up 24-3 at the half.

Things changed in the second half when it was the Jets who caught fire. The Jets got the ball to start the second half and drove 90 yards on five plays that was capped by a 45-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to former Steelers' receiver Santonio Holmes to close the gap to 24-10. The Jets got a safety when Roethlisberger fumbled the snap from center Doug Legursky and then had to fall on the ball for a safety. The Jets got the ball and Sanchez connected with Jerricho Cotchery for a four-yard touchdown pass and to cut the lead to 24-19.

The Steelers got the ball back with 3:09 on the clock and did what they needed to, moving the chains twice before Roethlisberger was able to end the game by taking a knee three times for the win.

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Steelers-Ravens Christmas Day Game
December 25, 2016
Steelers 31, Baltimore Ravens 27
Heinz Field

There was no place like home for the holidays when the Steelers and Ravens met on Christmas Day in 2016.

The Steelers were down 27-24, with just 1:18 to play, after the Ravens scored a go-ahead touchdown. Ben Roethlisberger, starting at his own 25-yard line, completed eight of eight passes, and spiked the ball twice, as he drove the offense down the field with incredible precision, completing passes to five different receivers.

But the play of the game, and possibly of the season, was a four-yard pass to Antonio Brown where he wouldn't be denied getting into the end zone for the 31-27 win. Brown, who looked like he was stopped short, extended his arm and got the ball over the goal line.

Fittingly enough, it was the 50th touchdown the two combined for, the most ever by a quarterback-receiver combination in Steelers' history.

"No one stopped believing," said Roethlisberger after the game. "It's pretty special the way we won it. Especially after feeling the way I felt at a certain point in that game and feeling like you let guys down and you blew it. So, to come back and win it is pretty special."

With the win over the Ravens, the Steelers won the AFC North.

"Man, it's great to be AFC North Champs," said Coach Mike Tomlin afterwards. "We tip our cap to the Ravens, they're a tough, tough opponent. I like the mentality that the guys showed. We knew it was going to be a tough football game. It was just great to see the no-blink mentality, the competitive spirit. We helped one another. We were turning the ball over, the defense kept us in it there at the early portions of the second half. And then, we gave a drive up late and the offense responded. And that's just good team ball.

"All of the men are to be congratulated. It's significant. We punched our ticket. And that's an awesome thing."

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