Steelers and Chargers have a History

This is a submission from our friends over at

By Gordon Dedman

“One for the thumb” became the call sign of Steeler Nation in the nineties as their team strived to move on from the seventies. Four Super Bowls in six years in that decade spoilt Steeler Nation. It was an inheritance that demanded more.

The 1994 season saw the Steelers go 12-3 before the regular season finale in San Diego. The Steelers had already confirmed their number one seeding for the playoffs so decided to rest some players. Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd and Eric Green didn’t suit up for the game. Three dynamic potential game breaking Pro Bowlers.

With the Chargers challenging for a playoff berth, the game was a hard-fought battle with the lead changing hands several times. The Chargers edged it 37-34 with a last second field goal. “The feeling in the locker room is we’d like to see this team again,” said Steelers safety Darren Perry confident of a rematch.

The teams’ paths crossed again in the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh three weeks later.

Running back Barry Foster rushed for 133 yards the previous week as the Steelers overwhelmed the Browns 29-9. He was supported in the Steelers running game by rookie Bam Morris and veteran John L. Williams. Together, they produced 238 rushing yards against Cleveland. The second-most in the team’s playoff history.

Foster was fired up for the Championship game. “I don’t care if I have to carry 45 or 50 times,” he said. “I just want to get there (Super Bowl). I might never have another chance.”

The Steelers defense was ranked number one in the NFL. They led the league with 55 sacks through an aggressive blitzing corps of Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Ray Seals and Chad Brown.

The City

“Blitzburgh Salutes Our Steelers. AFC Central Division Champions,” signs went up around the city in the unique way that Pittsburgh pays homage to its sports teams. The Steelers were 8.5 favourites and all was looking good for the Steelers to go to another Super Bowl in Miami.

The city was awash with black and gold. One Strip District wholesaler sold a bunch of Steelers shirts in the two weeks leading up to the game.

The Game

A record crowd of 61,545 turned out to a damp Three Rivers Stadium to watch their heroes progress to the big one. By the time the game finished, their dreams had washed away in the rain.

The Steelers running game disappeared against a stout Chargers defense so they turned to Neil O’Donnell who passed and passed. The Steelers quarterback set AFC Championship records with 54 attempts and 32 completions. He also set a franchise postseason record of 349 passing yards. All to no avail.

Despite their dominance, the Steelers only held a 10-3 lead at half-time. The Chargers’ Junior Seau turned in a Pro Bowl performance to keep the Steelers running game quiet.

A Woodson interception at the start of the second half set the Steelers up for another score. They got to their opponents six, but Foster was stopped before O’Donnell threw two incompletions. Gary Anderson kicked the 23-yard field goal to extend the Steelers lead to ten points.

When the Chargers scored on a 43-yard touchdown pass, the fans sensed the shift in momentum. A San Diego drive from their twenty in the final quarter proved to be decisive. Another 43-yard touchdown pass from Stan Humphries put the Chargers in front for the first time.

The Steelers had one last chance to change the result. O’Donnell completed seven straight passes to move the chains to San Diego’s nine. The Steelers had four downs with goal to go to take the team to their fifth Super Bowl.

After three hours of football, it came down to nine yards, but the Chargers held firm and took the 17-13 victory.

After the defeat, Dan Rooney was philosophical, “We have to move on and look positively.” A year later, the team reached Super Bowl XXX.

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