Dom’s Saturday History Special, Week 1: Steelers vs. Ravens

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The History between these two teams is quite rich, Image Courtesy of steelernation.com

After receiving my undergraduate degree in History last year, I have been looking for an opportunity to undertake a project that deals with the information rich field of sports history.  Since this is my first regular season as a writer for Nice Pick Cowher, I thought that now would be the perfect time to work on such a project.  Each Saturday I will choose some of what I believe are the best games from the all-time series between the Steelers and their upcoming opponent and have a little discussion about them.  The games I will be picking are not only ones that were exciting in terms of their finish, but also must have historical significance in terms of their importance to the Steelers, their opponents, and the N.F.L. in general (ex: postseason games, injuries, players, records set).  Each game will have a page that describes its significance, why I chose it for the list, and my personal memories from the games as well.  Since I am not a total homer and in the effort to be fair and balanced, I will be including games that the Steelers have lost over the years that were still exciting yet heartbreaking as well.

Overall, I want to accomplish three things with my Saturday articles that I hope you the readers can grow to appreciate over the upcoming season.  First, I want to bring back some memories for Steelers fans that may enjoy reading about games, players, and plays in years past that they may have forgotten.  Next, I want to give younger Steelers fans some historical perspective and provide them with a background of some outstanding games that they may not have even heard about.  Finally, I feel that these articles will be a great way to pump up Steelers fans for the week by having them remember the hard fought wins, the tough losses, and the ultimate excitement that the team has brought its fans over the years.  As I say every week: “Any given Sunday a special game could take place before your very eyes.”  So without further ado, here are ten of the best games from the Steelers vs. Ravens series:  Hit more, and let’s bask in the wonderment!

October 5, 1997

The Offensive Outburst

Steelers 42 – Ravens 34

As Week 6 of the 1997 N.F.L. season began, the Steelers were in desperate need of a victory.  They were already a game behind Jacksonville in the A.F.C. Central race and were in even more trouble because one of their two losses was to the division leading Jaguars two weeks prior.  The Steelers entered Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium looking to keep pace with the Jags. and had to face a Ravens team that was 3-2 and showing signs of life.  I honestly had no idea what lied in store for the future of this rivalry and how it evolved into the truly defensive Clash of the Titans matchup we know and love today.  But for one fine day in 1997, the Offenses came to play, and Steeler Nation was treated to one of the most exciting comebacks that almost nobody remembers.

The 1st half was ugly to watch if you were a Steelers fan.  I know I was as pissed as a ten year old could be watching the ultimate dumpster fire of a show that the Steelers were putting on.  The turnovers were plentiful, and the Ravens knew how to capitalize on the Steelers’ mistakes.  Baltimore took advantage of 3 Kordell Stewart INT’s and went up 21-0 by the middle of the 2nd quarter.  What poured even more salt in the wounds and had me enraged to no end was that two of the TD’s were scored by former Steeler underachievers TE Eric “Fatty Arbuckle” Green and RB “Crackpipe” Bam Morris  All looked bleak for the Steelers because they could get nothing going on offense.  Luckily, Baltimore started turning the ball over, and Kordell Stewart was able to score a TD to make the game 21-7.  At the half however, Baltimore added an insurance Field Goal from Matt Stover and took a 24-7 into the locker room.

While Kordell may still be a polarizing figure in the Steel City, nobody can deny his wonderful 1997 season, Image Courtesy of sportsgridnet.com

You know those moments in a game where one play and one player can just turn it all around for a team and swing momentum in their team’s direction?  Well Willl Blackwell decided to be the momentum changer on the opening kickoff of the 2nd Half and set off a chain reaction of positive events for the Black and Gold.  Will faked a reverse to Yancey Thigpen on the return and took off down the sideline 97 yards for a TD.  This razzle dazzle inspired the Steelers’ Offense to wake up.  They scored three more TD’s in a row all on passes from Kordell: two to Charles Johnson with one to TE (Tackle Eligible of course) Mark Bruener sandwiched in between.

The Ravens haven’t ever had the mentality of the Bengals so they didn’t just roll over and wait for the end of the game.  Down 35-24 after the 2nd Johnson TD in the 4th Quarter, Vinny and the Offense mounted a TD drive of their own and cut the deficit to 35-32 after a pass to Derrick Alexander and a 2pt. Conversion rec. by Earnest Byner.  This brought the stunned crowd at Memorial Stadium back into the game and put the Steelers back on the ropes again.

Sadly for the Charm City faithful, the 2nd Half that day belonged to “Slash” Stewart, and he would simply not be denied that warm October day.  If any game defined the character of that team and Kordell Stewart in general during 1997 this was it.  No matter what the odds and what the score was, there was always a thought in my 10 year old mind that Kordell and the Steelers could always come through if given enough chances.  And with the game, division, and maybe even season on the line, Kordell Stewart made one of the most electrifying plays by a Steelers QB ever.

Trying to get some insurance points near the end of the 4th quarter, Kordell ran a fake reverse and took off down the sideline from his own 26 yard line and never stopped.  His 74 yard TD run to make the score 42-32 illustrated his pure athleticism and showcased to the N.F.L. that he was a force to be reckoned with that season. To see him outrun the Ravens’ Defense to salt the game away was simply a thing of beauty.  A late safety where Punter Josh Miller ran out of the end zone made the score 42-34, but it was too little too late for the Ravens.

I couldn’t believe what I just saw that day and was left speechless.  I mean the overall stats. put up by the Steelers were staggering: Kordell had 324 combined passing and rushing yards and 5 total TD’s, Yancey Thigpen went off with 7 catches for 162 yards including an awesome 63 yard rec., and The Bus had a steady yet outstanding day with 28 carries for 137 yards.  The ’97 season in terms of Offensive stats. and big plays highlights the damn fine job that Chan Gailey was able to do as O.C. that year.  Yet what truly mattered though is that the Steelers had come back 21 point on the road to stay in the division race and had done it in dramatic fashion, and Kordell Stewart proved that he could at least lead the team as a full time QB.

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