Five Biggest Steelers Thanksgiving Moments
By Donny Chedrick
Steelers. Ravens. Thanksgiving. Prime time. Heinz Field. What could have been. Now we wait until Sunday at 1:15. However, I wrote this before the game got postponed so we are going to reminisce anyway.
As the 10-0 Pittsburgh Steelers await the arrival of their division rival, we take a look back on a niche of Steelers’ history. Even with a 2-6 team record on Thanksgiving, the Steelers have had their moments and perhaps the single-most infamous in NFL Turkey Day history.
5. Lev Bell’s First Thanksgiving (Steelers at Ravens 2013)
Don’t worry, that Thanksgiving moment you’re thinking of from this game didn’t get snubbed. However, a certain rookie got his first dose of stuffing with 23 total touches and nearly 150 yards of total offense. That rookie was second round pick Le’Veon Bell, who toted the football 16 times on the ground for 73 yards and a touchdown to go along with seven receptions for 63 of Ben Roethlisberger’s 257 yards, making him the second leading receiver on the team that night, behind fan-favorite Heath Miller, who hauled in eight grabs for 86 yards. Bell was also inches away from scoring his second touchdown of the game when his helmet popped off and the play was ruled dead before the ball crossed the plane. Bell was then removed to be checked for a concussion. It was not a record-breaking day for the Michigan State product, but he accumulated more yards than either Baltimore running back that night (Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice) and gave Pittsburgh a shot to tie or even win the game in the end.
4. First Win (Steelers at Cardinals 1950)
When there are only two wins on Thanksgiving to talk about, you have to include the first one, which came 70 years ago against the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) by way of a 28-17 score. The Pittsburgh Steelers Football Club raced out to a 28-3 lead in hopes to win their first Thanksgiving football game after dropping the first two to Philadelphia roughly 10 years prior. Pittsburgh ran the football 58 times — FIFTY EIGHT TIMES — for 220 yards and all four of its touchdowns. Joe Geri led the way both passing and rushing. Geri was 1-3 through the air for 68 yards and carried the ball 23 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Five different players ran the football for Pittsburgh in the win. The franchise wouldn’t get its next W until 2016.
3. The Killer B’s Turkey Day Feast (Steelers at Colts 2016)
The franchise’s second Thanksgiving victory came 66 years after the first one, this time in Indianapolis against the Colts. Like the first win, Pittsburgh was in complete control. The Colts were short-handed without starting quarterback Andrew Luck and the final score reflected that: 28-7 Steelers as the win moved the team to 6-5. Ben, Brown and Bell balled out and all three enjoyed player of the game honors afterwards. Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown on three touchdowns of 25, 33 and 22 yards as AB finished with five grabs for 91 yards and the three scores. Ben threw all of his touchdowns to Brown, as he finished with an efficient line of 14-20 for 221 yards, no picks and a 146.0 passer rating. Le’Veon Bell, following up with a solid performance in 2013, ran for 120 yards on 23 attempts with the game’s first touchdown. Bell also caught four passes for 22 yards. It was a relief to Steeler fans everywhere to digest their Thanksgiving meal without wanting to throw it up.
2. The Mike Tomlin Slide (Steelers at Ravens 2013)
Glad you stuck with us because here is that moment from the 2013 Thanksgiving night clash with the Ravens. One of the most infamous in NFL Thanksgiving game history. Not quite what number one on our list is, but still up there. With just under six and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter following a Steelers touchdown, Jacoby Jones returned Shaun Suisham’s kick and had a chance to provide a house call and give Baltimore a two-score lead. As Jones got beyond the Pittsburgh 40-yard line, Mike Tomlin stood oddly close to the field of play seemingly watching the action on the jumbotron, which is a few seconds behind the live action. Tomlin slid back in toward the sideline as Jones ever-so-slightly changed his direction and was caught from behind by Cortez Allen. Tomlin was seen with his signature grin afterwards which wasn’t exactly a good look for him in such a pivotal moment in the game. The Ravens would would settle for a Justin Tucker 38-yard field goal on the drive so there was definitely a reason for a gripe since Tomlin may have played a factor in Jones reaching the end zone on the kickoff. Tomlin was defended by Jones himself and Ravens head coach, John Harbaugh, but he was deservingly fined $100,000 by the NFL for stepping onto the field of play during action. It would have been a bigger deal that it was if Baltimore lost the game, but the Ravens held off a late two-point conversion attempt to beat the Steelers 22-20.
- The Coin Toss (Steelers at Lions 1998)
You had to know this would be in the top spot. One of the most notable moments in NFL Thanksgiving history, ranking at number four in the NFL’s countdown of Top 10 Thanksgiving game moments. As our favorite mystery Pittsburgh media member Ralph said in the late 1990’s, “I think Phil Luckett and his staff should be fired.” Veteran NFL official Phil Luckett began his career in the league in 1991 and stayed there until 2005, also serving in 2007. On November 26, 1998, he had perhaps his lowest moment in the black and white stripes when an overtime coin toss gone wrong gave Detroit the football and the win, since the old overtime rules allowed a team to simply kick a field goal and win without the other team receiving a chance. Thankfully those rules have changed a bit. With the score tied at 16 in the Pontiac Silverdome (yes, the same place Hulk Hogan once body slammed Andre the Giant in Wrestlemania III), the captains met at midfield to determine what team would start the extra quarter with possession after Norm Johnson evened the game for Pittsburgh with a 25-yard field goal as time expired. This is when Phil Luckett took centerstage. He asked Steelers’ captain, Jerome Bettis, to make the call in the air. Bettis said “tails,” or did he? Phil Luckett didn’t think so. Luckett thought Bettis said “heads.” In Luckett’s defense, you can hear some hesitation in Bettis’ voice, but you can hear him say “tails” as it echoes into the microphone. The coin landed on tails. To the chagrin of Bettis and fellow captain, Carnell Lake, Luckett gave Detroit the football. Even the Lions’ captains, Ray Roberts and Robert Porcher, were confused by the outcome, as all four players heard Bettis say tails, but the man to make the decision heard heads. The home team got the ball, quarterback Charlie Batch, the Pittsburgh native, drove his team down the field and Jason Hanson blasted the game-winning field goal from 42 yards out. After holding Barry Sanders, possibly the greatest running back in NFL history, to just 33 yards on 20 carries, Pittsburgh lost the game. Final score: Lions 19, Steelers 16.