Since the Steelers have home field advantage in the also-ran postseason, we'll take a look back at some of the highlights and heartbreaks of playoffs past ...
Today: Jan. 1, 1984 -- AFC Divisional Playoff @ Los Angeles Raiders
Though they'd lost a handful of playoff games with him during their magnificent runs of the 1970's, the Steelers also never won one without quarterback Terry Bradshaw at the helm, a trend that would continue at least until the 1984 season.
With Bradshaw on the shelf from off-season elbow surgery, the 1983 Steelers rolled to a 9-2 start behind (although often in spite of) backup Cliff Stoudt before faltering down the stretch. They went 1-4 in their last five games, winning only what would be Bradshaw's final start at the New York Jets in the next-to-last game of the season to finish 10-6.
Bradshaw reinjured his elbow during that game and would never play another down of football.
Stoudt returned for the season finale -- a loss to Cleveland -- and started the divisional game against the Raiders. The Steelers took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, but shortly after Raiders legend and should-be Hall-of-Famer Lester Hayes picked off a Stoudt pass and returned it 18-yards for a touchdown and the route was on.
Eventual Super Bowl MVP Marcus Allen ran for 121yards and 2 touchdowns -- including a 49-yarder -- against the Steelers defense. Stoudt found John Stallworth (top) for a late 58-yard touchdown, but it mattered little in the 38-10 loss, which stands as the Steelers largest margin of defeat in 54 playoff games.
The Raiders went on to win Super Bowl XVIII, but for the Steelers this was a changing of the guard.
Bradshaw dressed for the game but watched from the sideline and it was his final game in a Steelers uniform. This was not entirely unexpected at the time. But unbeknownst to probably everyone involved with the game or watching it, this would also be Franco Harris last game for the Steelers. Harris was famously cut in the offseason after asking for a raise, thereby cementing the Rooney family's reputation as shrewd negotiaters.
It was also the final game in the Hall of Fame career of the great but aging Steelers cornerback, Mel Blount, who came to the Steelers in the same 1970 draft as Bradshaw and likewise was pushing 36 at the season's completion.
P-G coverage of the game:
- Game story by Gary Tuma
- "Massacre in Smogland" Column by Bruce Keidan which references George Orwell and the Sioux Nation in the lead. Columnists by and large simply do not write this well anymore. Take a moment and read this.
- "Frustrated Bradshaw questions own future"
- Blount versus Branch (right) was like 'old times'
- "Hayes vision was Steelers' nightmare" by now-Penguins VP Tom McMillian
- Box Score
- Unrelated but amusing: a column on the Pittsburgh Maulers cheerleaders tryouts (the Flashdancers!) and a preview of the Maulers' options in the USFL draft
Finally, there is a random treasure trove of cool old pics from this game online. Check them out: