#4. Big Plays and Barry Foster’s Return
September 18, 1994
Steelers 31 – Colts 21
In what proved to be one of their most successful yet heart-breaking seasons, the Steelers were in some hot water early in 1994. After getting destroyed 26-9 at home by Dallas in Week 1, the Steelers managed to come back from a 10 point deficit and eek out a 17-10 win in Week 2 at the Mistake by the Lake on the strength of three Darren Perry (who is still my favorite Steelers player ever) INT’s. Week 3 would see the Steelers returning home to Three Rivers Stadium play the 1-1 Indianapolis Colts in a game that would really test their mental mettle.
Oddly however, the thing I remember most about this game was the throwback jerseys that the Steelers wore that day. Since the N.F.L. was celebrating its 75th Season, they decided to have teams wear throwbacks. Unfortunately for the Steelers they wore their “Pittsburgh Pirates” (yes they were called the Pirates from 1933-1939) uniforms from the 1930’s that day against the Colts. I can say with full effect that those had to be some of the ugliest uniforms I have ever seen! You’ll understand my point when you take a gander at the pic. I have below.
Anyways, the beginning of the game proved to be about as ugly as the Steelers’ throwbacks. Ronald Humphrey took Norm Johnson’s opening kickoff 95 yards to the house to put the Colts up 7-0 within the first 15 seconds of the game! It wasn’t exactly the way that the Steelers wanted to start the game, but they still had to dig themselves out of the hole that their Special Teams had put them in. After the 1st Quarter ended without anymore scoring, the stage was set for a scoring explosion in the 2nd. However, the fortunes of the Steelers would get worse before they got better.
On the strength of Barry Foster’s nifty running, Neil O’Donnell drove the Steelers deep into Indianapolis territory early in the 2nd Quarter. Unfortunately, the drive netted zero points for the Steelers when O’Donnell fumbled the ball and Rookie LB Quentin Coryatt picked up the ball and raced 78 yards the other direction to make the score 14-0 Indianapolis! Instead of either tying the game at 7 or at least cutting the Colts’ lead to 7-3, O’Donnell’s fumble looked to have killed any chance for a Steeler victory. However, the fumble return proved to be a blessing in disguise, because the Steelers’ Offense scored a barrage of points in the 2nd Quarter.
Three scoring drives where the Steelers just steam-rolled Indianapolis’ Defense netted them 17 straight points. O’Donnell threw a 27 yard TD to Eric “Fatty Arbuckle” Green to cut the Colts’ lead to 14-7. Barry Foster scored on a 29 yard run after that. Then Gary Anderson kicked a 46 yard Field Goal to put the Steelers ahead 17-14 at Half Time. It was truly a roller-coaster of 30 minutes of football, because the Steelers Defense actually held the Colts’ Offense scoreless for 30 minutes but were only up by 3 points. Aside from the horrendous coverage on the opening kickoff and O’Donnell’s fumble, the Steelers were downright dominating the game. Foster and Bam Morris couldn’t be stopped and Indianapolis had no answer! Indianapolis didn’t die easy though.
The 3rd Quarter saw the Steelers go scoreless in a 15 minute stretch that belonged to Indianapolis. Instead of rolling over on Defense, the Colts stood firm and got their Offense the ball back. Jim Harbaugh, who had an awful day overall, directed a Touchdown drive in the middle of the Quarter with some nice passes and runs mixed in that ended in a 19 yard TD pass to Rookie WR Sean Dawkins. By the time that the 3rd Quarter ended, the Steelers were in charge of the game, but found themselves down 21-17 with only 15 minutes left to play. But because the Defense hadn’t thrown in the towel, the Steeler Offense was able to regroup. This set the stage for the 4th Quarter to belong to Barry Foster.
On their first scoring drive of the 4th Quarter, Foster gained 22 yards on 3 carries and the drive culminated on an 8 yard TD pass from Neil O’Donnell to John L. Williams. This made the score 24-21, and the Steelers never looked back. Keeping with the theme of ball control, the Steelers played keep away in the final Quarter with their ground attack led by Foster and Bam Morris. The final score came on a 1 yard TD plunge by Morris to extend the Steelers’ lead to 31-21.
This game was truly where Barry Foster had his comeback performance. After leading the A.F.C. in rushing in 1992, Foster injured his ankle midway through another Pro Bowl season in 1993. After being held in check the first two games of 1994, many thought he would never be the same. Yet this game illustrated that Barry had at least one more season left in the tank and still a lot to prove. Foster’s 31 carries for 179 yards and a TD were indicative of just what an awesome day he had.
In addition to this being Foster’s big day, this was a coming out party for the entire Offense in general. Neil O’Donnell completed passes to 8 different receivers for 254 yards and 2 TD’s. This was also the day that Rookie RB Bam Morris shined gaining over 100 all-purpose yards (56 run, 55 pass) and even had himself a 49 yard catch and run as well. When the day was through, the Offense totaled 500 yards and 4 TD’s in 60 minutes of football!
The Defense as always in 1994 did an incredible job and illustrated how truly special they were that season. They totaled 4 sacks (Ken Greene leading the way with 2.0), and only allowed Harbaugh to complete 9 passes the entire game. What was even more impressive was their limiting of Future Hall of Famer and then Rookie Marshall Faulk to 61 yards rushing. This game really exemplified how special that 1994 Defense was, and how much of a shame it was that they weren’t able to test their mettle in the Super Bowl against the vaunted 49ers Offense.