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. 6
1996: Divisional Playoff vs. Buffalo Bills
The Steelers began the march to their first Super Bowl appearance in 16 seasons with a methodical dismantling of the Buffalo Bills, who were nearing the end of a decade of AFC dominance under coach Marv Levy and behind quarterback Jim Kelly and DT Bruce Smith, among others.
The Steelers jumped to a 20-0 lead and went into halftime up 23-7. The Bills found some legs in the second half, cutting the Pittsburgh lead to 26-21 after a Kelly to Thurman Thomas touchdown. But the Steelers defense pitched a shutout the rest of the way and Bam Morris scored twice on the ground giving Pittsburgh a 40-21 win and setting up a second consecutive home AFC Championship game, this time against the Jim Harbaugh-led Indianapolis Colts.1985: AFC Championship @ Miami Dolphins
After a surprising road win at Mile High Stadium against John Elway and the Broncos to open the 1984 postseason, the Steelers went to Florida to face the other phenom from the vaunted quarterback class of '83 -- the Pittsburgh kid they famously passed on drafting.
Dan Marino torched his hometown team to the tune of 421 yards and 4 touchdowns to punch his ticket to his first -- and only Super Bowl appearance -- against another Western Pa. gent, Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers (to whom the Steelers issued their only defeat of the season.
After an early Mark Malone pick, Marino converted a 40-yard TD to Mark Clayton; the Steelers responded with a Rich Erenberg touchdown and took the lead on a bomb of their own -- Malone connected with John Stallworth for a 65-yard touchdown to put the Steelers ahead 14-10. But three consecutive Dolphins touchdowns, aided by untimely Malone interceptions gave, the Dolphins and insurmountable lead. Malone hit Stallwaorth again, and later added another to Wayne Capers, but it was too little, too late.
- Bruce Kedian: Danny's song a broken record
- Miami line gave Marino time
- Marino's secret -- he can hand off too
- Steelers two-minute O is X'd by Miami
- Thousands welcome Steelers back
- Lambert doesn't know if he can return in '85
Some YouTube rare cuts of the game:
1980: AFC Championship vs. Houston Oilers
The Steelers rise to power was marked with a controversial call -- the Immaculate Reception -- and so too was the game that advanced them to a then-record fourth Super Bowl.
Playing their division rival Houston Oilers for the second straight year in a frigid AFC Championship game, the Steelers benefited from a non-touchdown call that certainly was one and would've been overturned by replay -- if it existed in the rule book at that time.
The Oilers traded punches all afternoon with the defending and three-time Super Bowl champions before a raucous Three River Stadim crowd and appeared to tie the game early in the fourth quarter on an apparent Dan Pastorini touchdown pass to Mike Renfro. On replays, Renfro clearly gets two feet down, in bounds, but the catch was ruled incomplete -- sucking the life out of Houston. The Oilers settled for a field goal and the Steelers methodically wore them down, winning 27-13.
- Vito Stellino game story
- Renfro's non-TD shades game
- Phil Musick: Vintage Greene bottles up Campbell
- Pressure on Steelers for Super Bowl XIV
Watch the Renfro catch: