2004 Pittsburgh Steelers season
OwnerThe Rooney family
General managerKevin Colbert
Head coachBill Cowher
Home fieldHeinz Field
Division place1st AFC North
Playoff finishWon Divisional Playoffs
(vs. Jets) 20–17 (OT)
Lost AFC Championship
(vs. Patriots) 27–41
Pro Bowlers
AP All-Pros
  • Alan Faneca (1st team)
  • James Farrior (1st team)
  • Jeff Hartings (1st team)
  • Troy Polamalu (2nd team)
  • Joey Porter (2nd team)
  • Hines Ward (2nd team)
Team MVPJames Farrior
Team ROYBen Roethlisberger

The 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers season was the franchise's 72nd season as a professional sports franchise and as a member of the National Football League. It would be the first season the franchise would have under quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He would play 18 seasons as a Steeler, a franchise record.

The team looked to come back after a disappointing 6–10 season the year before, which saw the team go through the entire season without winning consecutive games.[1]

The team finished with a 15–1 record, topping the 14–2 team record from 1978 and joined the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, the 1985 Chicago Bears, and the 1998 Minnesota Vikings as the only teams in NFL history to that point since the league adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978 to finish with such a record. This also made the Steelers the first AFC team to achieve a 15–1 record, a conference-best at the time (the 2007 Patriots would surpass that by going a perfect 16–0); they are also the only AFC team to do so. Along the way, the Steelers ended the New England Patriots NFL-record 21-game winning streak in Week 8, then defeated their cross-state rival the Philadelphia Eagles the following week to hand the NFL's last two undefeated teams their first losses in back-to-back weeks, both at home.

The season was highlighted by the surprising emergence of rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the team's top pick in that year's draft. Originally intended to sit behind veteran Tommy Maddox the entire season, plans abruptly changed when Maddox was hurt in the team's Week 2 loss to Baltimore. Surrounded by talent, "Big Ben" went an NFL-record 13–0 as a rookie starting quarterback before being rested for the final game of the season, shattering the old NFL record (and coincidentally, also the team record) of 6–0 to start an NFL career set by Mike Kruczek filling in for an injured Terry Bradshaw in 1976.

The Steelers hosted the AFC Championship for the fifth time in eleven years. However, for the fourth time in that same span, the Steelers lost at home one game away from the Super Bowl, and, like in 2001, lost to the Patriots in a rematch from Week 8.[2]

The 2006 edition of Pro Football Prospectus[3] listed the 2004 Steelers as one of their "Heartbreak Seasons", in which teams "dominated the entire regular season only to falter in the playoffs, unable to close the deal." Said Pro Football Prospectus, "In the playoffs, Roethlisberger hit an inconvenient slump, just like the Pittsburgh quarterbacks who came before him.[4] He threw two killer interceptions against the Jets, but the Steelers were bailed out when Jets kicker Doug Brien missed a game-winning field goal. The next week against New England, head coach Bill Cowher was clearly worried about Roethlisberger, letting him throw only once on first or second down in the first quarter. By the time the offense opened up, the Patriots were beating the Steelers by two touchdowns. A Roethlisberger interception was returned 87 yards for a touchdown by Rodney Harrison, and the game was effectively over. For the second time in seven years,[5] a 15–1 team had failed to make it to the Super Bowl." This was the first of, through the 2022 season, 19 consecutive non-losing seasons for the Steelers.


2004 Pittsburgh Steelers staff
Front office
  • Chairman – Daniel M. Rooney
  • President – Arthur J. Rooney II
  • Vice president – John R. McGinley
  • Vice president – Arthur J. Rooney, Jr.
  • Administration advisor – Chuck Noll
  • Director of business – Mark Hart
  • Business accounting coordinator – Jim Ellenberger
  • Human relations/office coordinator – Geraldine Glenn
  • Business operations coordinator – Omar Khan
  • Accounting manager – Jodie Spagnolli
  • Communications coordinator – Ron Wahl
  • Public relations/media manager – David Lockett
  • Information technology administrator – Scott Phelps
  • Football operations
  • Director of football operations – Kevin Colbert
  • College scouting coordinator – Ron Hughes
  • Pro scouting coordinator – Doug Whaley
  • Special assistant/pro and college personnel – Joe Greene
  • Pro/college scout – Phil Kreidler
  • College scout – Mark Gorscak
  • College scout – Bob Lane
  • College scout – Bruce McNorton
  • College scout – Dan Rooney
  • College scout – Bill Nunn
  • BLESTO Scout – Kelvin Fisher
  • Marketing
  • Director of marketing – Tony Quatrini
  • Marketing coordinator – Rick Giugliano
  • Client services administrator – Amy Regan
  • Marketing manager – John Wodarek
  • Producer/broadcasting manager – Rick Fairbend
  • Broadcasting assistant – Pete Gergely
  • Marketing/community relations manager – Lynne Molyneaux
  • Marketing assistant – John Simpson
  • Marketing assistant – Mike Marchinsky
  • Ticket operations
  • Ticket manager – Ben Lentz
  • Season ticket assistant – Libby Patcher

Head coaches

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches

Special teams coaches

Strength and conditioning

  • Conditioning coach – Chet Fuhrman
  • Medical staff
  • Physician, orthopedic – Dr. James P. Bradley
  • Ophthalmologist – Dr. Francis Mah
  • Neurological surgery consultant – Dr. Joseph Maroon
  • Physician, M.D. – Dr. Richard Rydze
  • Physician, consultant – Dr. Abraham J. Twerski
  • Physician, M.D. – Dr. Anthony P. Yates
  • Training staff
  • Head athletic trainer – John Norwig
  • Assistant athletic trainer – Ryan Grove
  • Assistant athletic trainer – Ariko Iso
  • Football staff
  • Player development – Raymond Jackson
  • Equipment manager - Rodgers Freyvogel
  • Field manager – Rich Baker
  • Field/equipment assistant – Kalvin Jones
  • Video coordinator – Bob McCartney
  • Video assistant – Andy Lizanich
  • Video assistant – Rob Brakel
  • Photographer – Mike Fabus


Notable additions include Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker.


2004 Pittsburgh Steelers final roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Practice squad

[7] [8] [9]
Rookies in italics
53 active, 7 inactive, 8 practice squad


The Steelers went into the NFL draft with the eleventh overall pick, their highest selection since selecting Plaxico Burress eighth overall in 2000. Although the team was ready to select Miami University quarterback Ben Roethlisberger if he were to still be available, the team was ready to select other players at "need" positions. However, with Roethlisberger still available, the team snatched him up, making him the third quarterback selected. Alongside Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and J. P. Losman, Roethlisberger was part of the "Class of 2004" quarterbacks. In addition, "Big Ben" became the first quarterback the Steelers selected with their first-round pick since they selected Mark Malone in 1980.

2004 Pittsburgh Steelers draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 11 Ben Roethlisberger *  QB Miami (OH)
2 38 Ricardo Colclough  CB Tusculum
3 75 Max Starks  OT Florida
5 145 Nathaniel Adibi  DE Virginia Tech
6 177 Bo Lacy  OT Arkansas
6 194 Matt Kranchick  TE Penn State
6 197 Drew Caylor  C Stanford
7 212 Eric Taylor  DT Memphis
      Made roster    †   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career


Free agent-wise, the Steelers would sign former Philadelphia Eagles running back Duce Staley. Many thought this signing was the team preparing for a future without Jerome Bettis. However, Staley's injury-prone history from Philly would continue with the Steelers. On the undrafted front, the team signed North Carolina running back Willie Parker. Although Parker would play sparingly his rookie season, he would become a major component of the offense in the future. The team also signed veteran punter Chris Gardocki (releasing longtime punter Josh Miller in the process), who up to that point was best remembered by Steelers fans for flipping head coach Bill Cowher the finger twice on live TV after being leveled by Joey Porter while Gardocki was with the Cleveland Browns. (Porter would be penalized for roughing the punter.) Gardocki was fined $5,000 for the incident, and his signing by the team made him the only player to have played for Cowher and give him an expletive in public.

The most notable releases made in the offseason included releasing veteran defensive players Jason Gildon and Dewayne Washington, who both would subsequently sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars and would both play against the Steelers in Week 13.

In the personnel department, the Steelers went back to the future with the return of "Mean Joe" Greene and Dick LeBeau to the organization. Greene, who along with the entire Arizona Cardinals coaching staff was fired after the dismissal of head coach Dave McGinnis, retired from coaching and returned to the Black & Gold as the "special assistant of player personnel" for the team. Meanwhile, LeBeau, who popularized the zone blitz defensive schemes as the team's defensive coordinator in the mid-1990s (referred to as "Blitzburgh" by fans), returned to the team in that same capacity after a brief stint with the Buffalo Bills, replacing the fired Tim Lewis.

This would also be the final season for longtime Steelers radio color commentator Myron Cope, who missed several games this year due to poor health. It was one of only two times in 35 years that Cope would miss time broadcasting for the Steelers, the other being the 1994 season after the death of his wife. Though Cope would later recover, he felt that it was best to retire, and did so at the end of the season.



Week Date Kickoff (ET) TV Opponent Result Record Game Site NFL Recap
1 August 14 7:30 p.m. KDKA at Detroit Lions L 21-27 0–1 Ford Field
2 August 21 7:30 p.m. KDKA Houston Texans W 38–3 1–1 Heinz Field
3 August 26 8:00 p.m. ESPN at Philadelphia Eagles W 27–21 2–1 Lincoln Financial Field
4 September 2 6:30 p.m. KDKA Carolina Panthers L 13-16 2–2 Heinz Field

Regular season


Week Date Opponent Result Record Game Site NFL Recap
1 September 12 Oakland Raiders W 24–21 1–0 Heinz Field Summary
2 September 19 at Baltimore Ravens L 13–30 1–1 M&T Bank Stadium Summary
3 September 26 at Miami Dolphins W 13–3 2–1 Pro Player Stadium Summary
4 October 3 Cincinnati Bengals W 28–17 3–1 Heinz Field Summary
5 October 10 Cleveland Browns W 34–23 4–1 Heinz Field Summary
6 October 17 at Dallas Cowboys W 24–20 5–1 Texas Stadium Summary
7 October 24 Bye week
8 October 31 New England Patriots W 34–20 6–1 Heinz Field Summary
9 November 7 Philadelphia Eagles W 27–3 7–1 Heinz Field Summary
10 November 14 at Cleveland Browns W 24–10 8–1 Cleveland Browns Stadium Summary
11 November 21 at Cincinnati Bengals W 19–14 9–1 Paul Brown Stadium Summary
12 November 28 Washington Redskins W 16–7 10–1 Heinz Field Summary
13 December 5 at Jacksonville Jaguars W 17–16 11–1 Alltel Stadium Summary
14 December 12 New York Jets W 17–6 12–1 Heinz Field Summary
15 December 18 at New York Giants W 33–30 13–1 Giants Stadium Summary
16 December 26 Baltimore Ravens W 20–7 14–1 Heinz Field Summary
17 January 2, 2005 at Buffalo Bills W 29–24 15–1 Ralph Wilson Stadium Summary

Note: Intra-divisional opponents are in bold text.

Game summaries

Week 1: vs. Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 234Total
Raiders 0 7311 21
Steelers 7 773 24

It was the 22nd lifetime meeting between the two clubs. The Raiders erased a 21-13 Steelers lead in the fourth quarter but Jeff Reed connected on the winning field goal with seven seconds left. With the win, the Steelers started their season 1–0 for the 2nd straight year. Jerome Bettis scored 18 points (3 Touchdowns) on 5 carries, yet gained only 1 yard total for an average of 0.2 yards per carry.

Week 2: at Baltimore Ravens

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
1 234Total
Steelers 0 0013 13
Ravens 7 6710 30

With the loss, the Steelers fell to 1–1 for the 2nd straight year. 0–1 in division games and 1–1 in conference games.

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins

Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins
1 234Total
Steelers 3 037 13
Dolphins 0 003 3

The game was originally to be played at 1:00 pm, but was delayed until evening due to Hurricane Jeanne. The game was not broadcast nationally, it was only shown on local stations in the primary and secondary markets of the two teams. With the win, the Steelers improved to 2–1. The contest marked Ben Roethlisberger's first NFL start and victory.

Week 4: vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 234Total
Bengals 7 370 17
Steelers 7 7014 28

With the win the Steelers improved to 3–1. 1–1 in division games.

Week 5: vs. Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 234Total
Browns 10 337 23
Steelers 14 1370 34

With their 2nd straight win over the Browns, the Steelers improved to 4–1.

Week 6: at Dallas Cowboys

Pittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys
1 234Total
Steelers 7 3014 24
Cowboys 7 3100 20

It was the 29th meeting between the two clubs. The Cowboys jumped to a 20-10 lead following a Keyshawn Johnson touchdown catch in the third, but Ben Roethlisberger led two touchdown drives, the last a Jerome Bettis run with thirty seconds to go. The Cowboys raced to the Steelers 30 but a last-second touchdown attempt was swatted away by Russell Stuvaints. With the win, the Steelers went on their bye week 5–1.

Week 8: vs. New England Patriots

New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 234Total
Patriots 3 737 20
Steelers 21 3100 34

This was the game that ended New England's NFL-record 21-game winning streak. Following an Adam Vinatieri field goal in the first quarter, the Steelers erupted, as Ben Roethlisberger twice hit Plaxico Burress for touchdowns and a Tom Brady interception was run back by Deshea Townsend for a touchdown and a 21–3 Steelers lead after one quarter. Brady was picked off twice and Roethlisberger made no mistakes in throwing for 196 yards and amassing a quarterback rating of 126.4. The Steelers routed the Patriots 34–20 and wound up winning the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs as a result. With the win, the Steelers improved to 6–1.

Week 9: vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 234Total
Eagles 0 300 3
Steelers 14 733 27

The Steelers for the 2nd week in a row face an undefeated team, the 7–0 Eagles. With the win, the Steelers improved to 7–1 while the Eagles dropped to 7–1. The game gained wider notoriety in subsequent days following broadcast of footage from the Eagles sideline where Terrell Owens was angrily barking at Donovan McNabb with McNabb striving to ignore him.

Week 10: at Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
1 234Total
Steelers 7 7010 24
Browns 3 007 10

With their 3rd straight win over the Browns, the Steelers improved to 8–1.

Week 11: at Cincinnati Bengals

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
1 234Total
Steelers 3 772 19
Bengals 7 700 14

The Bengals clawed to a 14-10 lead on two Carson Palmer touchdowns, but Roethlisberger, despite being sacked seven times, tossed a touchdown late in the third quarter to Dan Kreider, then late in the fourth Palmer dropped back to his own endzone and threw an incompletion; it was ruled intentional grounding and the resulting Pittsburgh safety finished off the game.

Week 12: vs. Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 234Total
Redskins 0 070 7
Steelers 3 1003 16

With the win the Steelers improved to 10–1 and went 3–0 against the NFC East.

Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars

Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars
1 234Total
Steelers 7 703 17
Jaguars 7 063 16

For the first time Jerome Bettis was not the all-time active rushing leader in the NFL upon kickoff, as he and Curtis Martin dueled throughout the season for the title, Bettis would retake the title by game's end.

Week 14: vs. New York Jets

New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 234Total
Jets 0 033 6
Steelers 3 0014 17

In an NFL first, both running backs came into the game ready to break the 13,000 career yards mark, Jerome Bettis having a 6-yard lead over native Curtis Martin. After the game Martin would lead Bettis by 9 yards.

Week 15: at New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants
1 234Total
Steelers 10 10310 33
Giants 14 0106 30

This was the first meeting between rookie quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning and was part of a rare NFL Saturday triple-header. The game lead tied or changed seven times as Manning and Roethlisberger combined for 498 passing yards; Antwaan Randle El also got into the act with a ten-yard touchdown throw to Verron Haynes, this atop 149 receiving yards. Jerome Bettis rushed 36 times for 140 yards and the winning touchdown in the final five minutes. With 3:31 to go Eli was intercepted by Willie J. Williams. Giants coach Tom Coughlin challenged the ruling but after review it was upheld, and the Steelers ran out the clock for the 33-30 win.

Week 16: vs. Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 234Total
Ravens 7 000 7
Steelers 7 373 20

Jerome Bettis retook the all-time active rushing record from his season-long duel with native Curtis Martin by a margin of 81 yards, and also pass Eric Dickerson for fourth all-time.

The win also helped the team improve to 14-1. This would tie the team's franchise record in number of wins in a season.

Week 17: at Buffalo Bills

Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills
1 234Total
Steelers 10 6013 29
Bills 7 377 24

With the win, the Steelers finish with a league-best 15–1 record.[11]



Week Date Kickoff (ET) TV Opponent Result Game Site NFL Recap
Divisional Sat. Jan. 15 4:30 p.m. CBS New York Jets W 20–17 (OT) Heinz Field Summary
Conference Sun. Jan. 23 6:30 p.m. CBS New England Patriots L 27–41 Heinz Field Summary

Game summaries

AFC Divisional: vs. New York Jets

AFC Divisional Playoff
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 234OTTotal
Jets 0 10700 17
Steelers 10 0073 20

After a brilliant 15–1 regular season the Steelers pulled one out of the fire in the divisional playoffs against the Jets. Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted at the Jets 14-yard line and Reggie Tongue ran back an 86-yard touchdown in the third quarter. After tying the game at 17 in the fourth the Steelers had to sweat out a Jets drive in the final minutes of regulation. The Jets set up for a Doug Brien 47-yard field goal but the kick missed, hitting the crossbar. On the ensuing possession, Roethlisberger was intercepted again and another Brien field goal was set up, this one from 43 yards away – but it again missed, sailing wide left. In overtime, the Jets won the kick-off but failed to score on their first possession. The Steelers, then, drove down field and Jeff Reed's 33-yard field goal ended a 20–17 Pittsburgh win.

AFC Championship: vs. New England Patriots

AFC Championship game
New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 234Total
Patriots 10 14710 41
Steelers 3 01410 27

Revenge for their Halloween loss drove the 14–2 Patriots back to Heinz Field and the conference championship. The shaky play of the Steelers against the Jets the week before was exploited by New England as Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted almost right away, then on their next possession the Steelers were stopped on downs. The Patriots raced to a 17–3 lead in the second quarter before Roethlisberger drove them down field and threw a back-breaking interception to Rodney Harrison at the Patriots 13-yard line; Harrison ran back the 87-yard touchdown and fans at Heinz began chanting for Tommy Maddox to come in to replace Roethlisberger. The Steelers managed a pair of third-quarter touchdowns (a 5-yard Jerome Bettis run and a 30-yard Roethlisberger pass to Hines Ward) but these only sandwiched another Patriots score (a 25-yard run by ex-Bengal Corey Dillon) and the Steelers simply could not overcome New England's offense as the Patriots finished off Pittsburgh 41–27, the third playoff win in four career tries by the Patriots over the Steelers.

The game is also significant as the final game by the team's radio broadcaster, Myron Cope. Cope had served as the color commentator on the team's radio broadcast for 35 years. He would publicly announce his retirement five months later.[12]


AFC North
(1) Pittsburgh Steelers 15 1 0 .938 5–1 11–1 372 251 W14
Baltimore Ravens 9 7 0 .563 3–3 6–6 317 268 W1
Cincinnati Bengals 8 8 0 .500 2-4 4–8 374 372 W2
Cleveland Browns 4 12 0 .250 1–5 3–9 276 390 W1

Honors and awards

Pro Bowl Representatives

See: 2005 Pro Bowl


  1. ^ Wexell, Jim (2004-08-24). "Steelers looking to bounce back in 2004". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  2. ^ Fleming, Todd (May 17, 2009). "Reflections on the 2004 Steelers: The Year of the Quarterback". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  3. ^ Pro Football Prospectus 2006 (ISBN 0761142177), p. 73–75
  4. ^ The article mentions Neil O'Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, and Tommy Maddox.
  5. ^ 1998 Minnesota Vikings
  6. ^ 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers Media Guide.
  7. ^ 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers Media Guide.
  8. ^ 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers Media Guide.
  9. ^ "2004 Pittsburgh Steelers". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2014-12-27.
  10. ^ Football Database. Retrieved 2014-May-11.
  11. ^ Westhead, Rick (2005-01-03). "Reality of Steelers Puts a Quick End to the Bills' Dream". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  12. ^ "Cope also created Terrible Towel". ESPN.com. AP. June 21, 2005. Archived from the original on October 10, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2011.