In Pittsburgh sports lore history, many extraordinary events have contributed to the city's sports franchises winning — and almost winning — titles. Other events in the city's sports history have been iconic for other reasons.
Mazeroski's Home Run was the home run hit by Pirates second baseman, Bill Mazeroski, in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees, played on October 13, 1960. It gave the Pirates a 10–9 victory, their first World Series title in 35 years, was the first home run to end a World Series, and remains the only one to decide it in the climactic seventh game. Mazeroski has remarked that he was so focused on the play on the field that he had to be reminded he was the lead-off batter in the bottom of the ninth. Coincidentally, Mazeroski, who wore #9 for the Pirates, came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning with the score tied 9-9.
In the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, the Pirates and Yankees were locked in a "teeter-totter battle" that had settled into a 9–9 tie going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry faced the Pirates' lead-off batter for the inning, Bill Mazeroski. With the count one ball, zero strikes, Mazeroski hit a line drive toward deep left field that cleared the wall for a solo home run.
There's a drive into deep left field, look out now…! That ball is going… going, gone! And the World Series is over! Mazeroski… hits it over the left field fence for a home run, and the Pirates win it 10-9 and win the World Series…!
Art Ditmar throws — here's a swing and a high-fly ball going deep to left, this may do it…! Back to the wall goes Berra, it is… over the fence, home run, the Pirates win…! (long pause for crowd noise) Ladies and gentlemen, Mazeroski has hit a one-nothing pitch over the left field fence at Forbes Field to win the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates by a score of ten to nothing…! Once again, that final score…: the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1960 world champions, defeat the New York Yankees, the Pirates ten, and the Yankees nine! It is all over in one of the most dramatic finishes on [sic] history…! Bill Mazeroski has hit his second World Series home run, over the left-field barrier 406 feet away, and the Pirates are the 1960 World's Champions of baseball…!
Main article: 1925 World Series
Facing elimination against the defending World Series champions (the Washington Senators), the Pirates become the first MLB team to recover from a 3-games-to-1 deficit in a best-of-seven World Series contest to claim their second overall World Series title.
Main article: 1979 World Series
Once again facing elimination in the "Fall Classic" and led by the 1978 NL Comeback Player of the Year recipient, Willie Stargell, the Pirates rallied from a 3-games-to-1 deficit to claim their fifth overall World Series title and second within the decade of the 1970s.
With the Pirates on their way to another losing season, manager Lloyd McClendon rallied the team during a June 26, 2001 rivalry game against Milwaukee. He was ejected after arguing a call with the home plate umpire in the 7th inning, and defiantly picked up first base and walked off the field with it, sparking the Pirates go on to win 7–6.
On September 23, 2013, the Pirates' magic number to secure a playoff spot, their first since 1992, was 2. The Pirates needed a win that night against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, plus a loss by the Washington Nationals, in order to clinch a playoff berth.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Pirates were leading 2–1 with two outs and a Chicago runner, Nate Schierholtz, on first. Closer Jason Grilli was on the mound for Pittsburgh. Ryan Sweeney, one of the Cubs' outfielders, singled into right field. Pirates' right fielder Marlon Byrd bobbled the ball as Schierholtz, the tying run, neared third. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who had been backing Byrd up on the play, quickly scooped up the ball and launched it towards home plate. As Schierholtz broke for home, McCutchen's throw, which was clearly off-line, was cut off by first baseman Justin Morneau, who was positioned near the pitcher's mound as the play unfolded. Morneau caught McCutchen's throw, then quickly relayed to catcher Russell Martin. Just as the catch was made, Schierholtz collided with Martin and both tumbled to the ground. Martin rose dramatically with ball in hand, the umpire signaled "out", and the Pirates won. Martin, still kneeling and holding the ball aloft, was embraced by a jubilant Grilli.
Later that night, a loss by the Washington Nationals ensured the Pirates' first playoff berth since 1992, when they lost the deciding game of the NL Championship Series to the Atlanta Braves on an eerily similar play.
Grilli tries to save it for Melancon. The 2–2 pitch. And a fly ball to right-center field, that's gonna drop for a hit... And bobbled...! McCutchen's throw... The runner breaks for the plate! Here's the throw – he is out! The Buccos win it! Raise the Jolly Roger! They waved home Schierholtz! He's thrown out at the plate; the Buccos win their 90th! What a finish! Unbelievable! How about that finish?!
During the bottom of the second inning in the 2013 NL Wild Card Game against the Cincinnati Reds, Pirates' catcher Russell Martin stepped up to the plate to face Reds' ace pitcher Johnny Cueto. The crowd at the park was incredibly intense, having not seen playoff baseball in 20 years, many fans experiencing their first ever playoff game in their lifetimes. A rhythmic chant of "CUE-TO, CUE-TO" began to rise through the cheers, mocking Cueto, who had given up a home run to Marlon Byrd earlier in the inning. The chant grew in volume until the pitcher's name echoed loudly through the entire park. Cueto, visibly rattled, set himself on the mound and began wiping the ball with his hands. Seconds later, he fumbled it and it fell to the ground, rolling a few feet away. The crowd roared with a mixture of laughter and applause, and their chants grew even louder as he quickly recovered the baseball and returned to the mound. Cueto attempted to gather himself, but the next pitch he threw, a fastball over the heart of the plate, would be launched into the left-field bleachers by Martin, giving the Pirates a 2–0 lead and the momentum they would need to secure the win.
The TBS television broadcasting crew of Ernie Johnson Jr., Ron Darling, and Cal Ripken Jr. were impressed by the Pittsburgh fans, saying they had never heard baseball fans chant at that magnitude since Boston Red Sox fans infamously taunted Darryl Strawberry during Game 5 of the 1986 World Series; Darling called it the sound of "21 years of frustration, dressed in black" (Pirates fans had been encouraged by Andrew McCutchen to dress in black for the game).
Just prior to the 2015 All-Star Game, the Pirates played a four-game weekend series at home against their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, whom they trailed by 4.5 games for the lead in the NL Central. After splitting the first two games, the teams prepared to play two nationally televised games on Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12. In the second inning of Saturday's game, A. J. Burnett appeared to strikeout Cardinals' first baseman Mark Reynolds, who swung at a 1–2 pitch in the dirt; however, home plate umpire Vic Carapazza said Reynolds foul tipped the ball (though several replays clearly showed that he didn't), keeping his at-bat alive. On the very next pitch, Reynolds hit a solo home run to left field, giving the Cardinals a 1–0 lead. Pirates' catcher Francisco Cervelli and manager Clint Hurdle were subsequently ejected for arguing the call. The Cardinals opened up a 3–0 lead before Burnett homered in the 6th to cut the lead to 3–1. The Pirates tied the game in the eighth after consecutive RBI base hits by Jung-ho Kang and Pedro Alvarez; the score remained tied heading into extra innings. In the tenth, the Cardinals took 4–3 lead on Reynolds' second solo home run of the game, only to see the Pirates score in the bottom of the inning and tie the game again. After the Cardinals took a 5–4 lead in the 14th, Neil Walker led off the bottom of the inning with a base hit and the next batter, Andrew McCutchen, hit a home run to straight away center off reliever Nick Greenwood, giving the Pirates a 6–5 walk-off victory.
The next night, the game was once again tied at 3 heading into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk doubled home Pete Kozma and Yadier Molina to give the Cards a 5–3 lead. Jordy Mercer led off the bottom of the 10th with a base hit, before Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen were retired by Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal. With two outs, Starling Marte hit a line drive to right field, scoring Mercer. Jung-ho Kang followed with a base hit, as did Francisco Cervelli, allowing Marte to score from 2nd and tie the game at 5. After Travis Ishikawa walked on 4 pitches, Gregory Polanco lined the first pitch he saw into right field, scoring Kang from 3rd, giving the Pirates their second 6–5 extra innings win in as many nights. By taking 3 of 4 games in the series, the Pirates were able to cut the Cardinals' division lead to 2.5 games heading into the All-Star break. Given the high stakes of the series, combined with an incredibly emotional, postseason-like atmosphere and a national audience, many fans consider this to be the best weekend series in the history of PNC Park.
Trailing the Cardinals 5-4… The pitch. High fly ball to center field, it's hit pretty well, toward the wall… GONE! They've won! Andrew McCutchen has won it! They're going crazy! The Pirates have won this game and an incredible game! You can raise the Jolly Roger and call it maybe the best all time in Pittsburgh!— Greg Brown's call on Andrew McCutchen's walk-off home run.
The stretch by Rosenthal, the pitch… SWING AND A LINE DRIVE! THEY'VE DONE IT AGAIN! THE PLACE IS A MOB SCENE…! IT'S CHAOS…! PANDEMONIUM…! THE BUCCOS HAVE COME BACK TO BEAT THE CARDINALS, THEY'RE TWO-AND-A-HALF OUT AT THE ALL-STAR BREAK! RAISE THE JOLLY, JOLLY ROGER!— Greg Brown's call on Gregory Polanco's walk-off single.
Main article: Homer in the Gloamin'
For most of the 1938 season, the Pirates had led the National League and seemed on their way to a pennant. But in the final month of the season, they started to falter, losing a 6.5 game lead in the beginning of September and by the time they played the Chicago Cubs in a three-game series at Wrigley Field late in the month, they were only up by 2. The Cubs won the first game, narrowing the lead to 0.5. The next game on September 28, 1938, was tied at 5–5 in the bottom of the ninth inning. With an 0–2 count, Gabby Hartnett hit a Mace Brown pitch for a home run to win the game for the Cubs. The Pirates lost four of the next five games to close out the season while the Cubs went on to clinch the pennant.
The Cincinnati Reds had overcome a 2-games-to-1 deficit in the 1972 National League Championship Series to force a deciding Game 5 in Cincinnati. The Pirates claimed an early 2–0 lead in the game, then traded runs in the middle innings with the Reds to take a 3–2 advantage into the bottom of the ninth inning. Three outs from returning to the World Series as the defending champs, normally dependable Pirates closer Dave Giusti surrendered a home run to Johnny Bench, tying the game. After allowing two base hits to Tony Pérez and Denis Menke, Giusti was replaced on the mound by Bob Moose. After coaxing the next two Reds batters to fly out, Moose unleashed a wild pitch with runners on second and third, allowing the winning run to score.
For Pirates fans, it seemed that the heartbreaks surrounding this game would continue for almost four years: only two short months later, star right fielder Roberto Clemente was tragically killed in an airplane crash off of the Puerto Rican coast; and four years later, pitcher Bob Moose was tragically killed in an automobile crash en route to a celebrity golf tournament.
One and two… The wind… And the pitch to Bench… Change hit in the air to deep right field, back goes Clemente…! At the fence…! She's gone! Johnny Bench, who hits almost every home run to left field hits one to right. The game is tied.
The stretch… And the 1–1 pitch to McRae… In the dirt — it's a wild pitch! Here comes Foster! The Reds win the pennant! Bob Moose throws a wild pitch and the Reds have won the National League Pennant!— Al Michaels call on the series-ending play.
Twenty years later, history seemingly repeated itself for the Pirates. In the 1992 National League Championship Series (NLCS), the Pirates (who had "three-peated" as division champs) faced the Atlanta Braves in a rematch of the previous year's NLCS. The Game 7 series decider, held on Wednesday October 14, was its most memorable contest. The Pirates' Doug Drabek pitched masterfully for the first eight innings, holding the Braves scoreless. His only real scare came in the sixth, when the Braves loaded the bases with none out. But Jeff Blauser lined into a double-play and Terry Pendleton flew out to end the inning. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh wasn't doing much with Atlanta starter John Smoltz, but they did manage single tallies in the first on an Orlando Merced sacrifice fly and in the sixth on an RBI single by Andy Van Slyke.
The Pirates took their 2–0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, when their season imploded. Drabek allowed an inning-opening double to Pendleton. In what would prove to be a crucial play, normally sure-handed second baseman José Lind then booted David Justice's easy grounder. A walk to Sid Bream loaded the bases, and Stan Belinda replaced Drabek. Ron Gant then plated one run with a sacrifice fly to make it 2–1, and Damon Berryhill walked to reload the bases. Pinch-hitter Brian Hunter popped up to second base with nobody scoring, and it looked like Pittsburgh might escape. But pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera singled to left to score Justice and — just ahead of Barry Bonds' throw — Bream. The Braves piled onto Bream at the plate, the stadium erupted, and Atlanta went back to the World Series. Meanwhile, it took the Pirates twenty-one seasons to return to post-season play — and compile a winning record for a season.
Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is… safe! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!
He hacked at the 2-0, now the 2-1 — Line drive and a base hit! Justice has scored the tying run! Bream to the plate… and he is safe, safe at the plate! The Braves go to the World Series!
At Milwaukee on July 9, 2003, Randall Simon, who played first base for Pittsburgh at the time, was arrested, suspended and fined for swinging a baseball bat from the dugout at the head of a Milwaukee stadium Sausage runner's costume. The tap didn't hit the actual head of Mandy Block, who was wearing the Italian sausage costume, but did knock her over causing a chain reaction that took the "hot dog" costumed runner down with her. The Polish sausage helped the Italian sausage up and all sausages finished the race. The Pirates lost the game 2–1.
Simon later apologized and Block asked only that the offending bat be autographed and given to her. Simon obliged. Later that year, Mandy Block received a complimentary trip to Curaçao, Simon's home island, from the Curaçao Tourism Board. Since the incident, T-shirts and other memorabilia have been sold with the slogan "Don't whack our wiener!" Later that season, Simon was traded to the Chicago Cubs, and when they visited Milwaukee later that season, during the sausage race, his teammates playfully held him back, while manager Dusty Baker guarded the bat rack. At that same game, Simon had also bought a pack of Italian sausages to a random section of fans at the ballpark.
At 2:00 am on July 26, 2011, in the bottom of the 19th inning (the fourth-longest game in franchise history), the Pirates were ironically handed another disheartening loss against the Atlanta Braves, this time in the form of a blown call by home plate umpire Jerry Meals.
Posting their best regular-season record in 19 years and on pace for a wild-card playoff spot, a night game tied at 3–3 in Atlanta dragged on into extra innings. In the bottom of the 19th inning, Atlanta placed runners on first and third with one out. Atlanta's Scott Proctor hit a ground ball to third base which was fielded cleanly by Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez threw home to Pirates' catcher Michael McKenry, who appeared to apply the tag to the Atlanta base runner, Julio Lugo, in plenty of time. To the shock of everyone watching, home plate umpire Jerry Meals indicated that Lugo had somehow avoided the tag by signalling "safe." Pirates manager Clint Hurdle came out to argue the call, but the argument fell on deaf ears, and the Braves won the game 4–3. Meals came under severe criticism from the media and Pirates fans.
While this was only one loss in what was otherwise a winning season to that point, the play seemingly resurrected too many "ghosts of '92", and put the Pirates into a season-breaking tailspin from which they could not recover. After this game, the Pirates lost 10 games in a row, and in no time, fell out of the playoff race while securing their 19th straight losing season.
On May 27, 2021, the Pirates' defense suffered a complete and utter mental and physical meltdown which has since been called the absolute worst display of professional play ever in MLB. With the Chicago Cubs leading 1–0 in the top of the third inning, Javier Báez came to the plate with Willson Contreras on second base and two outs. Báez grounded the ball to third baseman Erik González. González fielded the ball cleanly but his throw to first base was off line, pulling first baseman Will Craig off of the base toward the home plate side — and the runner, Báez. With Contreras continuing to circle the bases, Báez began to slowly retreat back toward home plate in the hopes of drawing Craig along with him to delay the third out of the inning long enough for Contreras to score. The ploy worked. In an attempt to run down Báez rather than simply turning and stepping on first base to end the inning, Craig followed Báez back along the first base line until Báez was effectively trapped between Craig and Pirates' catcher Michael Pérez. But rather than simply finishing the rundown play (Báez was now stuck because he could not safely retreat to home plate) and tagging Báez out to end the inning, Craig elected to lob the ball to Pérez as Contreras was attempting to score, thereby releasing Báez from his self-induced trap. Craig's throw was high, making Pérez's tag on Contreras late, and he was declared "safe" by the home plate umpire — as well as Báez, who was still a live runner and standing near the home plate circle along the first base line. With nobody covering first base (Adam Frazier was inexplicably still covering second base at this time — with no other Cubs runners on base), Báez once again began running unopposed up the first base line. With Frazier now sprinting across the infield in an attempt to beat Báez to first base, Pérez threw the ball behind Frazier and the ball went errantly into shallow right field, allowing Báez to safely reach first base — and the run that Contreras had scored to count — thereby adding further confirmation to Báez's well-earned nickname "El Mago" ("The Magician"). With the ball yet to be retrieved by Pirates' right fielder Gregory Polanco (who, as the play unfolded, had moved into shallow right field along the foul line to back up what he had expected to be a throw to first base), Báez got up and began running for second base — which in the absence of any other Pirates' infielders on the field (based on video evidence of the play, third baseman González and shortstop Kevin Newman were nowhere to be found as the play reached this point; one must assume they had already vacated the field and were sipping Gatorade on the dugout bench...) was being covered by center fielder Bryan Reynolds. Polanco finally retrieved the ball and made a good throw to Reynolds as Báez approached second base, but Reynolds missed the ball in his haste to tag Báez, and Báez wound up safe at second base. Fortunately, pitcher Tyler Anderson was backing up the play near the shortstop's position and fielded the loose ball, bringing the embarrassing fiasco to a conclusion...
It was clear that no player on the field — either Cubs or Pirates — truly understood the rule regarding this two-out situation, which stated quite simply that the batter had to reach first base safely before any run(s) scoring on the play could count. At almost any point — most notably at the beginning of the play when Craig could have simply stepped on first base in possession of the ball, but also by tagging Baez when he was trapped near home plate (and regardless of whether Contreras safely reached home) — the Pirates could have ended the inning and nullified any run scored. Rather than any real magic on the part of Báez, it was instead the Pirates' sloppy play that allowed the inning to continue — and they subsequently paid for it when Báez easily scored from second on a bloop single by Ian Happ, tallying the Cubs' second 'magical' run of the inning...
Main article: Immaculate Reception
In the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Oakland Raiders, The Steelers found themselves trailing in the score, "4th and long", 60 yards from the end zone, and down to their last play. A desperation pass, actually intended for the Steelers' other running back, John "Frenchy" Fuqua, ricocheted to rookie running back Franco Harris, who made an incredible, "shoe-string" catch and ran the ball in for the winning touchdown. The play, soon dubbed the Immaculate Reception, became one of the most famous and controversial plays in the history of sports.
Main article: 1995 AFC Championship Game
January 14, 1996: Trailing by four points (20–16) and with five seconds remaining in the AFC Championship Game, the Indianapolis Colts needed to score a touchdown to defeat the Steelers, with the winner advancing to Super Bowl XXX. With the ball at the Steelers' 29-yard line, Colts QB Jim Harbaugh lofted a pass into the corner of the end zone. The pass seemingly hung in the air forever, and was batted down by Steelers defensive back Myron Bell. However, the ball was knocked straight down onto the stomach of fallen Colts WR Aaron Bailey. On the television camera feed, the view of the ball was lost for a split second, after which Bailey had possession of the ball. The Colts immediately began signalling touchdown, and the Steelers defensive backs vehemently signaled incomplete. The back judge, however, ruled that the ball hit the ground, and after a lengthy discussion, the referee declared the pass to be incomplete – which other camera angles would show was correct.
Trailing by 17 points, a 24–7 disadvantage with 19 minutes left to play, the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Quarterback Tommy Maddox rallied the Steelers, scoring three passing touchdowns in four offensive drives. The Browns managed to score 9 points in the 4th quarter keeping them in the lead (33–28) until a 61-yard drive, culminating in a 3-yard rushing touchdown and a successful two-point conversion by the Steelers. At 36–33, with 54 seconds left in regulation, it was the first time in the game that the Steelers had been leading on the scoreboard. The Browns failed to answer back in their final drive, ending the game in one of the greatest comebacks in NFL playoff history.
Main article: 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers–Indianapolis Colts playoff game
The Tackle or The Immaculate Redemption refers to an event that occurred on January 15, 2006, during the AFC Divisional Round between the Steelers and the heavily favored Indianapolis Colts. Clinging to a 3-point lead, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made a game-saving tackle against Colts cornerback Nick Harper, who nearly returned a fumble by running back Jerome Bettis for the go-ahead touchdown.
With 1:20 remaining in the game, Pittsburgh's Joey Porter sacked Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on fourth down at Indianapolis's 2-yard line. The Steelers, leading 21–18, appeared to have clinched victory as the Colts turned the ball over to them on downs. Since the Colts had all three of their timeouts, the Steelers were forced to try for a two-yard touchdown; they would be unable to run the clock out by simply kneeling on the ball.
On first and goal, Pittsburgh veteran running back Jerome Bettis (who hadn't fumbled throughout the 2005 NFL season) spun to his left near the goal line with the ball cradled in his left arm. Colts linebacker Gary Brackett put his helmet squarely on the ball, and it popped out of Bettis's arm, back behind the line of scrimmage. Immediately, Colts cornerback Nick Harper picked up the ball and headed for the Steelers' end zone with several blockers around him. It very much appeared as if Harper would take the football all of the way for a go-ahead, possible game-winning touchdown, with precious little time left. As Harper was running down the field, Roethlisberger, who had been turned completely around several times desperately trying to stay in front of the speedy Harper, managed to get a hold of Harper's right shin by diving in a backwards twisting motion, and make a shoestring tackle to bring him down at the Colts' 42-yard line.
The tackle would later prove to be the play of the season, as afterward, the Colts, while denied a touchdown return, tried to drive down the field in an attempt to score a touchdown. On 2nd & 3rd and 2, the Colts took deep shots down the left sideline to Reggie Wayne. Both passes were blocked by rookie Bryant McFadden. This playcalling was questioned as a simple running play could have extended the drive. But the Colts were eventually forced into a potential game-tying 46-yard field goal attempt. However, kicker Mike Vanderjagt (the most accurate kicker in NFL history) missed it terribly wide-right and the Steelers held on to win 21–18. Vanderjagt's miss was his last attempt in a Colts uniform. He would sign with Dallas after the season ended.
Vanderjagt was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the kick because he removed his helmet and slammed it to the RCA Dome turf.
Fueled by this play, the Steelers traveled to Denver and dominated the Denver Broncos in a 34–17 upset a week later in the AFC Championship Game, then defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21–10 on February 5, 2006, in Super Bowl XL to claim their first NFL title in twenty-six years.
With 18 seconds left in the first half of Super Bowl XLIII, the Arizona Cardinals were on the Steelers' 2-yard line and threatened to take a 14–10 lead into halftime. The Cardinals sent receiver Anquan Boldin on a quick slant route and Larry Fitzgerald on a quick post route, hoping to shake a defender and allow a quick scoring pass. Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner's pre-snap read was an all-out blitz by its linebackers and defensive line. In order to avoid the impending pass rush, Warner threw the ball to Boldin. However, outside linebacker James Harrison had in fact faked the blitz and dropped back into coverage, right in the passing lane to Boldin. Harrison intercepted the ball on the goal line and started to return the pick. After almost running into fellow Steeler Deshea Townsend, Harrison darted down the sidelines, following his blockers and hurdling Cardinals players down to the goal line. Fitzgerald, after bumping into teammate Antrel Rolle who had wandered from the sidelines onto the field of play, still caught up to Harrison on the Cardinals' 5-yard line. He and fellow Cardinal Steve Breaston grabbed Harrison but were unable to bring him down before he scored on the longest play in Super Bowl history—a 100-yard interception return as the clock ticked down to zero. Harrison, exhausted, lay on the ground for a while before getting up. The play ultimately was a 14-point swing, allowing the Steelers to go to the locker room up 17–7.
In the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIII, the Arizona Cardinals stormed back from a 20–7 deficit to take a 23–20 lead on two touchdowns by All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald as well as a safety caused by a holding penalty against the Steelers in their own endzone. Trailing for the first time in the game, Pittsburgh then marched down the field in impressive fashion to set up a potential go-ahead touchdown with less than one minute remaining. On second-and-goal from the Arizona 6-yard line, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw high to the right corner of the endzone where receiver Santonio Holmes made an incredible diving catch on his toes and miraculously kept both feet in bounds while maintaining control of the ball. The Steelers went ahead 27-23 and proceeded to win their record sixth Super Bowl title.
In a rain-soaked vicious battle between two AFC North rivals at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016, filled with injuries and personal fouls on both sides, the Steelers held a 15–0 lead entering the fourth quarter before the Cincinnati Bengals scored three times to take a 16–15 lead. After briefly leaving the game due to injury and with the ball on his own 11-yard line with 1:23 left, Ben Roethlisberger returned to lead his team 74 yards in nine plays for the game-winning score. After several short completions moved the ball to the 37-yard line, Pittsburgh faced a 4th-and-3, but overcame it on Antonio Brown's 12-yard reception. On the next play, with just 22 seconds left, Roethlisberger threw a pass intended for Brown. The pass was incomplete, but Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was flagged for a personal foul for contact with Brown's helmet. Brown was injured on the play, and as he was being attended and officials were dealing with both teams, Adam "Pacman" Jones was flagged for a personal foul after an altercation with Steelers linebackers coach Joey Porter, giving the Steelers another 15 yards and moving the ball to the Bengals' 17-yard line. On the next play, Chris Boswell kicked a 35-yard field goal with 18 seconds left to win the game.
Burfict received a three-game suspension for his hit on Brown (including the Week 2 matchup between the two teams the following season), while four players and two assistant coaches also received fines. Jones received the most severe fine at $28,000, while Steelers lineman Ramon Foster was fined $17,000. Bengals defensive linemen Wallace Gilberry and Domata Peko each received an $8,600 fine, while Porter and fellow Steelers assistant coach Mike Munchak were fined $10,000 each. In the offseason, the league passed a rule banning any coaches except for the head coach from entering the field of play, and then only to check on an injured player, directly in response to the incident.
On December 25, 2016, the 9–5 Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the 8–6 Baltimore Ravens in a crucial Week 16 matchup of the 2016 NFL season. With a win, the Steelers would clinch the AFC North and eliminate the Ravens from playoff contention. Trailing 10–20 early in the fourth quarter, the Steelers quickly came back to take a 24–20 lead midway through the fourth quarter. However the Ravens went on a long 75-yard that lasted almost 6 minutes. The drive ended with a 10-yard touchdown run by running back Kyle Juszczyk, giving the Ravens a 27–24 lead with only 1:18 remaining. Starting from their own 25-yard line with two timeouts to work with, the Steelers quickly drove down the field with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completing seven straight passes (excluding spikes), although the Steelers had to use both their timeouts during the drive. With just 14 seconds to go, the Steelers had a 2nd down and Goal from the four-yard line. Although the were well within field goal range to tie the score, the Steelers were attempting to take the lead with a touchdown. Roethlisberger took the snap from the shotgun and threw a quick pass to his left to wide receiver Antonio Brown who caught at the Baltimore 1-yard line. Brown was immediately hit by safety Eric Weddle and linebacker C. J. Mosley. Brown's forward progress was stopped, but he remained upright and was eventually able to reach the ball over the goal line with his left hand for the touchdown. The score, along with the extra point, gave the Steelers a 31–27 lead with only nine seconds left. The Ravens were unable to overcome the deficit with time running so short, allowing the Steelers to win the game and the AFC North.
One week after an unforgettable victory over the division rival, Cleveland Browns, the Steelers traveled down to Tennessee to face the second seeded Titans. The Titans were coming off of an 11–5 record, and were heavily favored in the match-up. Early on, it looked as if that were the case. The Titans took an early 14–0 lead over the Steelers. But Titans running back Eddie George fumbled, mid-second quarter, giving the ball to the Steelers in their own territory. Quarterback Tommy Maddox connected with Hines Ward for an eight-yard strike on the second play of the drive. It was a dog fight from then on. The game saw three lead changes during the remainder of regulation. After a failed Steelers drive, Titans quarterback Steve McNair was given the ball on his own 20 with 1:43 to go, and the game tied at 31. He took his team right down the field and set up kicker Joe Nedney with a 48-yard field goal attempt with just three seconds remaining. Nedney, however, missed the kick, and the game went to overtime. The Titans won the toss and McNair was given another shot. After two long pass plays, the Titans offense had set up Nedney with another field goal attempt from 31 yards out. Nedney's initial attempt was good, but was nullified by a Steelers' timeout before the snap. Nedney missed the second attempt wide right. However, it was ruled that Steelers cornerback Dwayne Washington had run into the kicker. A five-yard penalty was enforced, and Nedney went on to make the 26-yard attempt, giving the Titans a 34–31 victory. Subsequent replays of the missed OT kick attempt appeared to show that Nedney had barely been touched.
On January 8, 2012, in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs, the Steelers played the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High as defending AFC Champions. However, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow outplayed the team and eventually scored the game-winning touchdown on a pass to Demaryius Thomas in overtime, in the first NFL game with the modified overtime rules with a final score of 29-23 Broncos. The Steelers would miss the playoffs entirely the next two years and wouldn't win a playoff game until the aforementioned infamous Bengals game four years later.
Having clinched the division the previous week, the Steelers rested their starters in Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won the game 24–22 to clinch a playoff birth for the first time in 17 years. With the Steelers clinching the third seed and the Browns clinching the sixth seed, the two teams would play again just one week later in the 2020 Wild Card Playoffs. Over the subsequent days, the Browns had a small, but impactful COVID-19 outbreak that caused the team to be missing four players and five coaches – including head coach Kevin Stefanski – for the game. That coupled with the Browns previous failures caused some of the Steelers players and coaches to overlook the Browns and assume they would easily win the playoff game and move. JuJu Smith-Schuster famously said in the week leading to the game, "I think they’re still the same Browns teams I play every year. I think they’re nameless gray faces. They have a couple good players on their team, but at the end of the day, I don’t know. The Browns is the Browns." However, on the first offensive play of the game, center Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball over Ben Roethlisberger's head and the Browns' Karl Joseph recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. The game quickly turned into a disaster as their next three drives ended in two interceptions and a punt; the Browns scored touchdowns on all of their drives and led 28–0 by the end of the first quarter. Despite attempting to make a comeback over the subsequent three quarters, which included Roethlisberger setting several passing records, the Steelers were always playing catch-up and the Browns held them off for a 48–37 win. The win gave the Browns their first playoff win in 26 Years and moved on to play the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round. The Steelers finished the game with five turnovers, including four Roethlisberger interceptions.
On December 31, 1988, in a game against the New Jersey Devils at the Civic Arena, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar and future owner Mario Lemieux scored eight points and became the only player in NHL history to score a goal in all five possible game situations in the same game: even-strength, shorthanded, power-play, penalty shot, and empty-net, leaving him one goal short of a double hat-trick. It was later voted by NHL fans as the greatest moment in the NHL's first 100 years.
On April 13, 1991, Penguins backup goalie Frank Pietrangelo made an incredible diving glove save against Peter Šťastný, who was shooting toward an open net, in the first period of Game 6 of a first-round playoff series at New Jersey during the 1991 Stanley Cup playoffs. Pietrangelo's stop helped the Penguins to a 4–3 win and forced a seventh game, where he proceeded to shut out the Devils 4–0. Although shortly thereafter Pietrangelo relinquished the starting goalie job to Tom Barrasso, the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup.
In a bitter Game 6 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the hated Philadelphia Flyers, down three games to two, had jumped out to a 3–0 lead in the second period, and looked poised to force a Game 7 in Pittsburgh. However, after a chippy hit, a fight broke out between Daniel Carcillo and Max Talbot. Although the larger Carcillo manhandled the smaller Talbot, which energized the Philadelphia crowd, as he was being led away to the penalty box, Talbot put his index finger to his lips, facing up at the crowd, making a "shushing" motion. This defiance seemed to energize the Penguins, who scored five-straight unanswered goals, including two from Sidney Crosby to win the series. Talbot was later to be the hero in the Stanley Cup Finals that year, scoring the only two goals in the Game 7 that is mentioned below.
In Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings, the Penguins had the puck frozen in their own zone leading 2–1 with 6.5 seconds remaining. The Red Wings won the ensuing faceoff, and the puck came to Henrik Zetterberg, who shot it at the goal. Goalie Marc-André Fleury made the pad save, and the rebound came to Nicklas Lidström at the opposite faceoff circle, and he shot at the open net. In a play similar to the Pietrangelo save, Fleury dove across the net to knock the puck away as the clock ran out, giving the Penguins their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.
In Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, the Penguins faced the Ottawa Senators with an opportunity to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for a second consecutive year. After a scoreless first period, Chris Kunitz broke the ice with his first goal of the playoffs at 9:55 of the second; the lead was surrendered on a Mark Stone goal just 20 seconds later. A Justin Schultz powerplay goal at 11:44 of the third briefly put the Penguins up 2–1, until Ryan Dzingel scored less than three minutes later to tie the game once again. A tense overtime period, mostly dominated by the Pens, yielded no results as the game drifted into a second overtime period. At 5:09 of the second overtime, Kunitz one-timed a Sidney Crosby pass from the high slot, which fluttered through a Jean-Gabriel Pageau screen, over the right shoulder of Senator's goalie Craig Anderson. With his second goal of the game, Kunitz sent PPG Paints Arena into a frenzy and the Penguins into the Stanley Cup Finals for a second straight year. They would go on beat the Nashville Predators in six games, becoming the first team to win back to back championships in the salary cap era.
In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round, the Penguins faced the New York Rangers to open the playoffs. The Penguins started Casey DeSmith in goal. The Rangers Adam Fox scored the first goal of the game at 9:19 of the first period. The Rangers forward Andrew Copp proceeded to score early into the second period giving the Rangers a 2–0 lead. Penguins forward Jake Guentzel finally put one behind Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin at 4:32 of the second period, and scored again at 11:47 of the same period. Chris Kreider of the Rangers quickly scored after to put the Rangers up one goal. Bryan Rust of the Penguins scored late in second period on the powerplay to tie the game up at 3. After a goaltender interference call that negated a presumed game-winning goal for the Rangers and no scoring in the third period the game went into overtime. Casey DeSmith had to leave the game in the second overtime due to an apparent injury. Desmith stopped 48 of the 51 Rangers shots on goal. Louis Domingue had to come in for relief. Shortly after this game became the longest game in Madison Square Garden history Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin scored the game-winning goal at 5:58 of the third overtime period. Louis Domingue was the winning goalie on record after stopping all 17 shots in relief. In the postgame interview Domingue was quoted saying "I ate spicy pork and broccoli during the intermission".
Flying high after a two-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues in the preliminary round of the playoffs, the Penguins built up a commanding 3–0 lead in their best-of-seven conference semi-final against the New York Islanders, setting up the expectation of an all-Pennsylvania finale in the Prince of Wales Conference against their cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers (who had also swept their semi-final series against the Toronto Maple Leafs). Unfortunately, the Penguins utterly stalled and proceeded to lose four straight games, giving the Islanders the first 0–3 comeback in the NHL since the 1940s.
The Penguins continued to sputter for the next 16 years, not advancing past this stage in the playoffs until winning the Stanley Cup for the 1990-91 season.
Coming off of back to back Stanley Cup victories, the 1992-93 Pens team dominated the league: they recorded 56 wins and 119 points, posted an NHL record 17 game winning streak, and captured the Presidents' Trophy for the first time in franchise history, all despite missing Mario Lemieux for 2 months while he underwent treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Lemieux, despite his medical setback, had one of the best seasons of his career, finishing the regular season with 69 goals and 160 points in 60 games. His abbreviated campaign earned him the Art Ross, Hart, and Masterton trophies, as well as the Lester B. Pearson Award.
Entering the 1993 playoffs, the top seeded Penguins were heavily favored to win a third straight championship. They easily blew past the New Jersey Devils in five games, setting up a second round matchup with the NY Islanders. The Pens jumped out to a 3–2 series lead, but saw the Isles force Game 7. In the deciding game, the Isles clung to a 3–1 lead late in the 3rd, until Ron Francis scored with just under four minutes remaining to cut the deficit to 3–2. With one minute left in regulation, Rick Tocchet deflected a shot from Larry Murphy past Isles goaltender Glenn Healy, sending the game into overtime. At 5:16 of overtime, a David Volek shot off the rush, found its way past Tom Barrasso; the goal, Volek's second, stunned the Civic Arena crowd. Hopes for a three-peat came to a sudden and shocking end, as the Islanders advanced to the Wales Conference Final, where they lost to the eventual Cup champions, Montreal, in five games.
Another famous event in Pittsburgh sports history came in a January 25, 1988 college men's basketball game between Pittsburgh and Providence. During the first half, Pitt went on a fast break off a steal, led by point guard (and current Arizona head coach) Sean Miller. He then found forward Jerome Lane on the wing, who went in for a dunk that shattered the backboard at Fitzgerald Field House, causing a delay of over 30 minutes until a replacement could be found. The incident, nationally televised on ESPN, is also remembered for Bill Raftery's call of "Send it in, Jerome!" shortly after the dunk.
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