Steelers postseason history: Jan. 7 -- The "Ice Bowl," Mile High Heartbreak & Belichick's Browns

Written by Dan Gigler on .

Since the Steelers have the wrong kind of home field advantage this postseason, we'll take a look back at some of the highlights and disappointments of playoffs past ...

Today: Jan. 7 -- The "Ice Bowl," Mile High Heartbreak and beating Belichick's Browns.

1979: AFC Championship vs. Houston


Though the 1978 AFC Championship wasn't much of a game, it has lived in local lore as Pittsburgh's "Ice Bowl."

The Steelers and division rivals Houston Oilers met for the third time that season with a trip to Miami and Super Bowl XIII on the line. The team's split the regular season meetings which had been a pair of slugfests, symbolized by Donnie Shell's thunderous hit on Earl Campbell in the Astrodome just a month prior.

1979_HOUThis time, however, the Oilers seemed to wilt in the miserably freezing mix of rain, sleet and snow that poured down upon Three Rivers Stadium all day long.

A first quarter Franco Harris touchdown was all the Steelers would need, but Rocky Bleier added his own, and Terry Bradshaw found Lynn Swann (right) and John Stallworth for touchdowns and Roy Gerela added a field goal for the Steelers to go up 31-3 at halftime

The freezing wet mess on the Three Rivers turf certainly affected the game, as the Steelers had five turnovers and still won, mostly because Houston turned the ball over nine times -- four lost fumbles and five Dan Pastorini interceptions.

Jack Ham led a smothering defensive effort for the Steelers in front of a raucous home crowd and the Steelers cruised to a 34-5 victory.

Post-Gazette coverage

1990: AFC Divisional @ Denver


[Excerpts from a Gerry Dulac's recounting of this game in a January 8, 2012 Post-Gazette article]

In 1989, in a season that began with back-to-back losses to the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals by a combined score of 92-10, the Steelers were coming off an emotional 26-23 overtime playoff victory in Houston -- a game that resulted in the firing of Oilers coach Jerry Glanville -- when they traveled to Denver for a divisional-round game.

Despite holding leads of 13-0 and 23-17, the Steelers lost when Elway drove the Broncos 71 yards for the winning touchdown with 2:22 remaining in Denver. The game always will be remembered for Steelers receiver Mark Stock dropping a first-down pass near midfield that would have given Gary Anderson a chance to attempt a field goal for the win.

... the player the Broncos could never seem to locate was Merrill Hoge ... 16 carries for 120 yards and eight catches for another 60 yards ...

The Steelers looked like a team on a mission, certainly one deemed for improbable destiny, especially when they grabbed a double-digit lead on the Broncos.

But Stock's dropped pass, and a botched shotgun snap to quarterback Bubby Brister by center Chuck Lanza two plays later, conspired against them. Lanza was playing because Pro Bowl center Dermontti Dawson was out of the game with a concussion.

Post-Gazette coverage

1995: AFC Divisional vs. Cleveland

The 1994 season marked the last truly great year of the Pittsburgh/Cleveland rivalry with the Steelers having beaten the Bill Belichick coached Browns in a pair of narrow, bruising regular season contests (17-10 and 17-7), setting the stage for a third and final showdown in the playoffs. 

This game was never in doubt, as the Steelers ran to a 24-3 lead at half time.

Vinny Testeverde was hectored all afternoon by the Steelers defense, which shut down Cleveland's ground game (55 yards); conversely Neil O' Donnell was an effective 16-23 passing for 186 yards and two touchdowns while the Steelers bowled their way to 238 rushing yards -- 133 from Barry Foster -- and a touchdown on the ground.

The Steelers won, 29-9.

Though he'd led the Steelers to the playoffs in his first two seasons as head coach, this was Bill Cowher's first playoff win and the team's first since a Wild Card win over the Oilers in the 1989 season.

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