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Steelers' postseason history: Jan. 15 -- most dramatic 'date' in team history?

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: January 15th -- A comeback against the Ravens, The Tackle and three more yards ... arguably the most dramatic single 'date' in Steelers postseason history, for better and for worse ...

January 15, 1995 -- AFC Championship vs. San Diego

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The Steelers first trip to a Super Bowl since the 1979 season seemed like a cinch.

AFCCChargersRodAfter all, they were the young, upstart top seed in the AFC with the ferocious Blitzburgh defense and power running game, that a week prior thumped rival Cleveland -- the 1-A team to the Steelers' top dog status -- in the Divisional round. Besides, they were at home facing the lightly regarded San Diego.

And of course, Steelers DT Brentson Buckner had a Super Bowl video rap planned.

Then the game started.

A defensive war of attrition unfolded and Pittsburgh crept to a 13-3 halftime lead. But blown coverages led to an ominous pair of 43-yard Stan Humpries touchdown passes; first to Alfred Pupunu near the end of the third quarter; then to Tony Martin in the fourth sent the Steelers reeling.

Down 17-13 with 5:02 to play, O' Donnell began a drive at the Steelers 17. He completed seven consecutive passes and put the Steelers in a position to win the game -- First and goal from the nine-yard line at the two-minute warning.

First down -- Foster dropped for a loss ... second Down -- incomplete ... third down -- O' Donnell to John L. Williams to the three-yard-line ... Fourth down ...

O' Donnell's pass to Barry Foster -- who would never play another game of football -- is batted to the turf by linebacker Dennis Gibson. And Pittsburgh would wait again for that one for the thumb.

Post-Gazette coverage

Video: The game's final two minutes in entirety:

January 15, 2006 -- AFC Divisional @ Indianapolis

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It is possibly the most thrilling 80 seconds in Steelers history.

After being dominated by the Steelers in the first three quarters half of this 2005 AFC Divisional playoff, Peyton Manning and the potent Indianapolis offense -- trailing 21-3 at the start of the fourth quarter -- crept back into the game via a pair of Manning touchdown passes and a favorable and controversial ruling on a Troy Polamalu incerption that wasn't (the moment when the term 'football move' officially entered household lexicon). The Colts convereted a two-point attempt to make it 21-18.

colts_hinesThen things got really interesting. 

With 1:20 left pinned deep in their own end, Manning was suffocated on a pair of Joey Porter sacks on third and fourth downs that seemingly won the game for the Steelers. After the change of possession, Ben Roethlisberger handed off to Jerome Bettis for the touchdown that would ice the game.

But ...

Linebacker Gary Brackett put his helmet right on the ball which shot out of the sure-handed Bettis's arms like a cannon. Safety Nick Harper scooped the ball up and galloped for what could have been a game-winning touchdown but was brought down by a back-pedaling Ben Roethlisberger who saved the game with an athletic shoestring tackle at the Indianapolis 42-yard line.

With under a minute to play Manning moved the Colts to the Steelers' 28 and handed things over to deadeye kicker Mike Vanderjagt who would send the game to overtime on a 42-yard field goal. 

Except ...

Vanderjagt was way wide, and the "We Ride" Steelers were on their way to Denver for the AFC Championship.

Post-Gazette coverage

Video: America's Game segment on this game

January 15, 2011 -- AFC Divisional vs. Baltimore

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For the second time in three seasons and the third time in a decade, AFC North blood feud rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore would meet in the postseason at Heinz Field. If there was any doubt that Steelers-Ravens was the best rivalry in pro football, it was likely laid to rest by the conclusion of this particular evening's proceedings.

ward_reedEarly on, however, it looked like Baltimore in a romp. Everything that could go wrong for the Steelers did in the first half -- two turnovers propelled the Ravens to a 21-7 halftime lead.

But the Steelers chiseled away the Ravens' lead in the second half. The defense tightened and started hectoring Joe Flacco. The offense clicked, and scored twice -- both on Ben Roethlisberger passes -- to tie the game at 21 as the third quarter drew to a close.

The teams traded field goals and with 3:48 remaining, Roethlisberger begain an 11-play drive at his own 35-yard line -- which included a sensational 58-yard fingertip bomb to Antonio Brown (above) on a 3rd & 19 -- that culminated in a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown run with 1:38 remaining.

The defense held on the Ravens's final possession; the Steelers outscored their rivals 24-3 in the second half en route to a 31-24 win and added yet another chapter to the league's most intense rivalry.

Post-Gazette coverage

Video: Entire 4th quarter of this game in six parts:

Video: This crowd video perfectly captures the energy at Heinz Field on Clark's interception:

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