Some pretty special games

As a part of the NFL’s 100th season the league recently highlighted the NFL 100 Greatest Plays, with Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception taking top honors.

Now the league is featuring the NFL 100 Greatest Games and the Steelers are once again featured.

The league revealed the Top 30 games in NFL history, and the Steelers had three games ranked in the Top 30.

Here is a breakdown of the best of the best.

Ranked Game No. 12

February 1, 2009
Super Bowl XLIII
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Florida
Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

It took last second heroics in both halves of Super Bowl XLIII for the Steelers to make history and become the first NFL franchise to win six Super Bowl championships.

The Steelers were holding on to a 10-7 lead near the end of the first half when the Cardinals Karlos Dansby intercepted a tipped Ben Roethlisberger pass at the Steelers 33-yard line. Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner moved his team into scoring position with completions to Tim Hightower, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

With the ball at the one-yard line and just 18 seconds to play in the half, the Cardinals were anticipating Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison blitzing, but Harrison gambled and dropped back in coverage and intercepted Warner’s pass at the goal line.

What happened after that, nobody could ever have expected. Harrison headed up the sideline, following his blockers and evaded would-be tacklers for a 100-yard touchdown return and 17-7 Steelers lead going into the half.

“I got the pick,” said Harrison after the game. “You know we had them matched up and it was kind of like, give it time, and I slid over to the right and he threw it right to my hands, and I took off. I was just trying to get to the other side, and score seven. It was about my teammates helping me get to the other end. Will and determination to try and do what you need to do and help the team win the game.

“It was very tiring, but it was all worth it. I was just thinking that I had to do whatever I could to get to the other end zone and get seven. I just wanted to help my team win, that was it. That was all I was thinking about.”

The Steelers added a third quarter field goal for a 20-7 lead, but the Cardinals mounted a major fourth quarter comeback. Warner connected with Fitzgerald for a 1-yard touchdown to bring the Cardinals within a score at 20-14.

Things continued to go in the Cardinals favor when they pinned the Steelers back at their own one-yard line. On third down, center Justin Hartwig was called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety to close the gap to 20-16.

The Cardinals got the ball right back and scored in just seconds when Fitzgerald caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Warner, taking their first lead of the game, 23-20.

The odds were stacked against them, but the Steelers weren’t going to be denied. With just 2:30 remaining on the clock Roethlisberger took control, completing four passes for 78 yards, including a 40-yarder to Santonio Holmes, to give the Steelers the ball at the six-yard line. With time ticking away, Roethlisberger found Holmes in the corner of the end zone where he remarkably managed to keep both feet in bounds for the 27-23 lead.

“I said to (Ben) that I wanted to be the guy that made the plays for this team,” said Holmes postgame. “I wanted to continue to be great and great players step up in big time games and make great plays.”

The Cardinals had one final gasp at pulling out the win, but when linebacker LaMarr Woodley sacked Warner, forcing a fumble that Brett Keisel recovered, history was made.

Ranked Game No. 13

December 23, 1972
AFC Divisional Playoff Game
Steelers 13, Oakland Raiders 7
Three Rivers Stadium

Let’s just set the stage for that December day back in 1972. Three Rivers Stadium, AFC Divisional Playoff Game vs. the Oakland Raiders. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler had run 30 yards for a touchdown that gave his team a 7-6 lead with just 1:17 to play. Soon afterward, quarterback Terry Bradshaw and the rest of the Steelers offense were looking at a fourth-and-10 from the 40-yard line with just 22 seconds remaining.

Desperately searching for the team’s first ever playoff win, it didn’t look promising. But they never gave up. While under pressure, Bradshaw threw the ball in the direction of Frenchy Fuqua and as it arrived he collided with Raiders safety Jack Tatum, the ball ricocheted back and Franco Harris miraculously scooped it out of the air and took off running for a 60-yard touchdown reception that gave the Steelers the 13-7 win and a wild celebration ensued.

“I don’t think the fans knew what happened,” said Fuqua, who was knocked to the ground after the collision. “Everyone I spoke to after I got up off the ground said what happened, what happened. Someone said it’s a miracle. Then we had to go through that long, long wait when the referees went in there to look at replay and it seemed like an eternity.”

Through the passage of time the excitement of the play has remained and was recently voted the best play in Steelers’ history.

“I have to admit I have not gotten tired of it yet,” said Harris. “It’s still as exciting. If you look at the season, we had in 1972, after the first 40 years of the franchise, and then to have the incredible season, the team’s first playoff win and to win that first one in dramatic fashion really started to change a lot of things. What really made it special and big was the decade that was to come and the importance of the play, setting the tone for winning. We proved that no matter how dire the situation that we can win. All of the things that followed made that play so big and important to Steelers’ history.”

Ranked Game No. 17

January 21, 1979
Super Bowl XIII
Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31
Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida

The Steelers and Cowboys met in Super Bowl XIII marking the first rematch in Super Bowl history. And the game lived up to the hype.

The Steelers jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw to John Stallworth. The Cowboys answered, and then took a 14-7 lead when Cowboys’ linebacker Mike Hegman intercepted Bradshaw and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. Bradshaw got right back at it, and immediately countered with a 75-yard touchdown to Stallworth to tie the game. The Steelers went into halftime up 21-14 after Rocky Bleier pulled in a seven-yard touchdown catch.

The Cowboys appeared poised to tie the game in the third quarter when Roger Staubach found a wide open Jackie Smith in the end zone, but Smith slipped and fell and the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal to pull within 21-17. The Steelers scored two fourth quarter touchdowns, looking like they were going to put the game away up 35-17. The Cowboys wouldn’t quit and answered with 14 points, but time ran out on the comeback and the Steelers won their third Super Bowl.

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