1999: The 1–7 Collapse Begins With Phil Dawson
After they started the 1999 season with a 5-3 record, Pittsburgh’s nose-dive began the moment they lost on a last second field goal to the Cleveland Browns at Three Rivers Stadium. When Phil Dawson’s (yes, the same Phil Dawson who is still in the league) 39 yard kick split the uprights and dropped the Steelers to 5-4, the sagging began immediately afterwards.
The Steelers proceeded to drop six of their final seven games after they lost to the expansion Browns, and the team looked lost, undisciplined, and rudderless.
The thing I will always remember about the Steelers’ 1-7 end to the 1999 season was how quarterback Kordell Stewart played so poorly that he was benched in favor of Mike Tomczak midway through that stretch. In fact, Stewart was moved back to the wide receiver position and was not even allowed to even play quarterback after he was yanked during Pittsburgh’s Week 12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Outside of their “snow bowl” 30-20 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 16, Pittsburgh looked absolutely atrocious and out of sync over their final seven games, turned the ball over 16 times, and looked primed for another disaster season in 2000 after numbers of big changes were made during the offseason.
Long-time “director of football operations” Tom Donahoe was fired, and Kevin Colbert, the then-Pro Scouting Director of the Detroit Lions was tabbed to replace him. The team lost arguably their best defensive player from that season, Orpheus Roye, to free agency. And ultimately disenchanted with Stewart, the Steelers inked Kent Graham before the 2000 campaign to right the ship at the quarterback position.