Linebacker Arthur Moats heard the cheers very late in the fourth quarter of the Steelers-Browns game. He saw the Terrible Towels waving. But standing in the middle of the field, waiting for the next snap, he wasn't certain what was going on in the stands, what was causing Steelers fans to erupt the way they did. With the Steelers up 28-12 he was hoping it was good news from Buffalo, where a Bills win over the Jets would send the Steelers to the playoffs. But he didn't know for sure.
"They initially starting cheering while the defense was on the sidelines," said Moats. "But it said two minutes left in the Jets-Bills game, and the Jets had the ball. Then word got down that the Bills had intercepted them.
"So then the defense goes out on the field for the last drive and we knew the Jets had the ball back. In the middle of one of our plays we heard the crowd go crazy. It wasn't a big play or anything like that and we were just looking around, wondering what happened, and knowing we have to stop them on this last play. We got off the field and everybody was hugging us and we are like, 'Are we in?' The guys on the sidelines confirmed what the fans let everyone know."
Will Johnson was on the sidelines when like many of his teammates, he turned around in those final minutes to find out what all the cheering was about. And when word spread that the Bills had won, the smiles spread along the sideline.
"It was a great feeling," said Johnson. "At first I didn't know what was going on up there. When we got word that the Bills pulled it off it was an emotional time for everyone. We were excited to get in the playoffs. It was awesome to have our fans let us know, for our fans to be waving towels and screaming. They were out there in that cold weather in Cleveland, showing support for us."
Coach Mike Tomlin said there was no need for the team to scoreboard watch. They had the fans there to do it for them.
"I thought Steelers Nation in the stands did a great job of giving us the indication of how it was going," said Tomlin.
It didn't surprise anyone, though, that the fans stepped up the way that they did.
"We love it," said Moats. "That is the thing with Steelers Nation. We know how well they travel. We know what the turnout is going to be like. It's not the first time our fans have taken over an away stadium.
"This was different though with everything on the line, the playoff implications. It felt like a home game for us. With them letting us know the Bills had won, that was special."