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Three More Yards: 1994 AFC Title Game Still Draws Bitter Memories

Chargers-Steelers games always bring up the worst memories for me. Yes for younger fans, you may remember the great Monday night win a few years back, but for those a bit older, you remember two painful Chargers-Steelers game. One of which was the 1982 AFC Tournament in which Dan Fouts came into Three Rivers against Terry Bradshaw and beat the Steelers with Kellen Winslow, and no, the dad, not the son.

But it was the game in 1994 that to me always will live in the depths of being the toughest loss I have ever endured as a Steelers follower. That 12-4 team was one of, if not the best Steelers team that I had ever seen. While there offense was nothing special (what else is new?), the defense was simply awesome.

Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Rod Woodson, Chad Brown, Ray Seals, Brenston Buckner, Carnell Lake and others led that top ranked defense to the title game. They led the league in sacks, got turnovers in bunches, and made plays that to this day still make highlight films. If they would have went to the Super Bowl and/or won it, that D would still get props today.

Instead, it was that D in the end and their aggressive nature that let them down in the end. They dominated that Chargers AFC Title game at Three Rivers, yet Stan Humphries, in my opinion the worst starting QB ever in a Super Bowl, made two big plays to beat that D 17-13. If that D just would have made one more play, they would have been Super Bowl bound vs the Niners instead of home.

To relive that game again to this day is very hard. I recall quite well to this day Neil O’Donnell, like him or not, leading the team down the field in a final few frantic minutes, and getting the team within three yards of what would have been a winning score. O’Donnell set records that day, and while to this day many still hate him for the picks the following season in the Super Bowl, it was his play that day that almost won that game for the Steelers.

Tim McKyer. Do you recall his failures that day? If you don’t, let me remind you of the third-down play in which Humphries hit Tony Martin with what turned out to be the game-winning score, and McKyer got burned like toast. Martin made a great leaping catch, and the ball was put right in place by Humphries, who also got slammed by Chad Brown on that play, which also put a personal foul in place for the Chargers, but it didn’t matter.

It physically hurt to live through that game. All that emotion, all that effort as a fan, it was hard to watch that Steelers team fail on that rainy Sunday in early 1995. They should have won that game, and they should have made it to the Super Bowl. Tomorrow, some 13 years later, the teams meet again, and while thoughts of that game are long gone, I will never put totally away the pain of that loss.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.



  1. mark

    November 16, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Matt, you are conjuring up some of the most painful minutes I have ever endured as a Steeler fanatic. I remember vividly that 1982 game wich the Steelers had an early lead in. I had visions of the Steelers playing in another Super Bowl with Terry,John Stallworth, Franco,Lambert..etc..instead it was an aweful loss! Looking ahead, I felt even stronger about a Super Bowl in 1994-95. The Chargers had no business winning that game. Easily the most heart breaking loss I ever felt and I go back over 35 years!I rememeber the Friday before the Steeler-Charger game the host of that weekends Saturday Night Live( I forget who it was) told the tv audience “there are 2 things you can be sure of, one, I am hosting S.N.L and the other is bet your house tomorrow on the Pitssburgh Steelers” My Future father in-law told me “no-problem today” and he is NOT a Steeler fan. I was physically ill at 4p.m that afternoon. How I went to work the next day is a minor miracle.
    Thanks a lot Matt, for bringing those memories up. LOL. “3 more yards” our mantra the following year!! How is this for coincidence, in the 4th Qrtr. the following year against the Colts, the Steelers needed “3 more yards” on the 4th down the play before O’donnell hit Mills with that bomb! I think people might forget that.

  2. Harm

    November 16, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I was there and remember it well. It was the most surreal moment I ever experienced at a live sporting event. After the incomplete pass at the goal line, the only sound you heard in Three Rivers was the Charger bench, just yelling and screaming, on there way to the Super Bowl. I do believe, had those Steelers won that day, they would have shut down Steve Young and the 49ers who demolished the Chargers. I guess we’ll never know.

  3. Michael

    June 29, 2009 at 6:43 am

    That’s what happens when fans get overconfident and the media plays it up. Nobody, but nobody, should ever disrespect a team like people did the Chargers that day. Why else could you ‘hear nothing but the Chargers celebrating’ after Dennis Gibson knocked down that pass?

    That was the problem. Nobody gave the Chargers a chance and, voila, the “impossible” happens.

    The Chargers did the same thing to the Patriots back in ’06. The Chargers were clearly the best team in football that year and had the same sort of hype the Steelers did in ’94, yet oops. They got too cocky. They had a media bandwagon ready to drive to the SB and, well, the rest in history.

    Moral o’ the story? Any given Sunday.

  4. Michael

    June 29, 2009 at 6:47 am

    Ask anybody outside of Steelernation who would’ve won a Steelers-49ers SB that year.

    Nobody, but nobody, would have beaten the ’49ers that day. Nobody. Steve Young and Co. were at the top of their game and they had one mission–exorcise the ghost of Joe Montana.

    You guys should thank the Chargers for winning that AFC Championship and saving the Steelers the embarrassment.

  5. boltBacker

    December 14, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    I hate thinking about that game, because ever time I do i start laughing and can’t stop. Steelers had a great defense, but the Chargers were a decently rounded team that could run the ball and stop the run. Steelers had no business winning that day, otherwise they would have won. Right?

  6. wouldacouldshoulda

    May 4, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    The WORST Steelers memory ever HANDS DOWN! Worse than the next year (LOSING a Super Bowl to DALLAS, mind you) as well as worse than SBXLV. In the end, the Chargers were the more balanced team, had an underrated HC in Bobby Ross, and as for us, we were too reliant on the blitz (live by it, die by it). You’re only as strong as your weakness in the end and despite us having Woodson and Lake, we still had a weak-link in our secondary that was definitely exposed. Chargers deserved the win but I still to this day believe had we played Frisco 2 weeks later we would have matched up quite well. Lloyd & Green would have been in Young’s face all day long and Woodson, if never gambling/baiting, could cover Jerry Rice. I think we most likely would have won. But woulda, coulda, shoulda. Heck, if Jimmy Johnson would have stayed with Dallas 3 more years, THEY would have won in ’94, ’95 (the O’Donnell INTs would have mattered none although I think we still would have given them a respectable game), and also ’96 robbing Favre of a Ring as well as Steve Young two years prior.

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