Big Lead Sports Bar

12/09/2009

THE TOP 50 MOST PAINFUL LOSSES IN PITTSBURGH SINCE 1990



With 2009 coming to a close and another wound fresh in my mind, let me dust off this old friend for a quick refurbish. These would be the games that make you want to throw the remote through the set. And yes, the stakes most definitely play a huge factor in where a game is ranked.

Apologies for the brevity, but I promise to beef this up with extra pics and videos soon when I have a little more time. But if I didn't get this done now, it might not get done for a while. Anyway, on with the list, and please feel free to add what I missed in the comments section.

1. 1992 NLCS Game 7 - Atlanta Braves 3, Pirates 2 - Changed the course of baseball history in Pittsburgh.

2. 1995-96 Super Bowl XXX - Cowboys 27, Steelers 17 - Neil O'Donell's final game as a Steeler made Larry Brown a rich, rich man.

3. 1992-93 Patrick Division Finals Game 7 - New York Islanders 4, Penguins 3 (OT) - David Volek stuns one of the greatest teams in hockey history.

4. 1994-95 AFC Championship - San Diego Chargers 17, Steelers 13 - Stan Humphries, Dennis Gibson and Alfred Pupunu give Bill Cowher his first of many AFCC home losses.

5. 2001-02 AFC Championship - New England Patriots 24, Steelers 17 - Drew Bledsoe steps in for an injured Tom Brady and leads Pats to the Super Bowl to close the Steelers' first season at Heinz Field. Kordell Stewart throws three second-half picks.

5. 1996-97 Wales Conference Finals Game 7 - Florida Panthers 3, Penguins 1 - The year of the rat. Tom Barrasso allows a Tom Fitzgerald goal from the blueline.

6. 2008-09 NCAA Basketball Elite 8 - Villanova Wildcats 78, Pitt 76 - Scottie Reynolds keeps Pitt out of the Final Four, scoring with 0.5 seconds left.

7. 2009 Big East Football Championship - Cincinnati Bearcats 45, Pitt 44 - A botched hold on an extra point is ultimately the difference. Pitt blows a 21-point lead.

8. 2004-05 AFC Championship - New England Patriots 41, Steelers 24 - Steelers become the 2nd 15-1 team to fail to win the Super Bowl. Plaxico Burress drops a TD in the fourth quarter.

9. 1997-98 AFC Championship - Denver Broncos 24, Steelers 21 - As history will always verify, John Elway > Kordell Stewart.

10. 2007-08 Stanley Cup Finals Game 6- Detroit Red Wings 3, Penguins 2 - Pens nearly tie it in the closing seconds.

11. 1999-00 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 4-Philadelphia Flyers 2, Penguins 1 (5 OT) - Keith Primeau finally ends it at 2:35 AM. A truly amazing event that I actually witnessed in person.

12. 1991 NLCS Game 7 - Atlanta Braves 4, Pirates 0 - The forgotten Game 7.

13. 2001-02 Big East Basketball Championship - UConn Huskies 74, Pitt 65 (2 OT) - Talek Brown hits a 35-footer with 34 seconds left to bury the Panthers.

14. 1990 NLCS Game 6 - Cincinnati Reds 2, Pirates 1 - Glenn Braggs robs Carmelo Martinez at the wall in the ninth.

16. 1989-90 NFL Playoffs - Denver Broncos 24, Steelers 23 - The greatest game of Merril Hoge's career. Seriously, he was going crazy that day.

17. 1993-94 NFL Playoffs- Kansas City Chiefs 24, Steelers 23 - An aged Joe Montana bests his hometown team.

18. 2004 Big East Basketball Championship - UConn Huskies 61, Pitt 58 - Ben Gordon hits the winning jumper with 30 seconds.

19. 1998 NFL - Detroit Lions 19, Steelers 16 (OT) - The infamous Jerome Bettis/Phil Luckett heads/tails game on Thanksgiving.

20. 2004-05 BCS Fiesta Bowl - Utah Utes 35, Pitt 7 - Pitt's one and only BCS bowl is a rout at the hands of Urban Meyer and Alex Smith.

21. 2003 NFL Playoffs - Tennessee Titans 34, Steelers 31 (OT) - Joe Nedney's toe and Academy Award-winning dive escort the Steelers from the playoffs a round after their dramatic comeback against Cleveland.

22. 2003 NCAA Basketball Tournament - Marquette 77, Pitt 74 -Dwyane Wade drops 22 on the Panthers and gives us a glimpse of what's to come in the NBA.

23. 2002 NCAA Basketball Tournament - Kent State 78, Pitt 73 (OT) - Antonio Gates flashes some hoops skills before switching to pro football.

24. 2006 Big East Basketball Championship - Syracuse 65, Pitt 61 - Syracuse sophomore Josh Wright nails four free throws in the final 17 seconds.

25. 2007 NFL Playoffs - Jacksonville Jaguars 31, Steelers 29 - A furious Steeler comeback is halted by David Garrard.

26. 2005 NHL - Islanders 3, Penguins 2 (OT) - Jason Blake finally scores in the ninth round of shootouts.

27. 2009 NCAA Football - West Virginia 19, Pitt 16 - Tyler Bitancurt hits a game-winning field goal as time expires in Morgantown.

28. 2006 NCAA Football - UConn 46, Pitt 45 (2 OT) - Dan Murray 1 yard pass from D.J. Hernandez sends it into overtime, where UConn eventually wins on a Hernandez TD run.

29. 2005 NCAA Football - Notre Dame 42, Pitt 21 - Charlie Weis and Brady Quinn annihilate the Wannstache in their respective college coaching debuts.

30. 2005 NFL - New England Patriots 24, Steelers 21 - Adam Vinatieri kicks the winning field goal with 50 seconds left. Tom Brady throws for 372 yards in the win.

31. 2007 NFL - Denver Broncos 31, Steelers 28 - Jason Elam kicks a 49-yard field goal as time expires.

32. 2006 NCAA Basketball Tournament - Bradley 72, Pitt 66 - 13-seed Bradley knocks out 5-seed Pitt behind 28 points from future NBA bust Patrick O'Bryant.

33. 2007 NCAA Football - Navy 48, Pitt 45 (2 OT) - Wanny inexplicably gambles by going for a TD on fourth down instead of a chip-shot field goal that would've forced another OT. Navy runs for 331 yards in the game.

34. 2005 NFL - Jacksonville Jaguars 23, Steelers 17 (OT) - Rashean Mathis scores on a pick-six of Tommy Maddox in overtime.

35. 2006 NFL - Atlanta Falcons 41, Steelers 38 (OT) - Ron Mexico throws for 4 TDs, Morten Andersen wins a wild one in OT. Hines Ward reaches the end zone three times for the Steelers. I think this was the game where he lost his shoe.

36. 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament - UCLA 64, Pitt 55 - Teacher bests pupil as Ben Howland beats Jamie Dixon. Michael Roll's baseline jumper with 51.5 seconds left finished off Pitt.

37. 2003 NCAA Football - Miami 28, Pitt 14 - HUGE game for #20 Pitt with an ESPN audience becomes another letdown against the #10 Hurricanes. Tyrone Moss and Jarrett Payton each topped 100 yards rushing against an awful Pitt rush defense.

38. 2008 Sun Bowl - Oregon State 3, Pitt 0 - Bill Stull 7-for-24 for 52 yards in lowest-scoring bowl game since 0-0 Cotton Bowl in 1959.

39. 1997 NFL - Jacksonville Jaguars 30, Steelers 21 - Chris Hudson returns blocked go-ahead field goal in 4th quarter on Monday Night Football, nearly gets punched by Bill Cowher during the runback.

40. 2002 NCAA Football - Texas A&M 14, Pitt 12 - The infamous "swinging gate" game wastes a 10-catch effort from Larry Fitzgerald.

41. 2005 NCAA Football - Nebraska 7, Pitt 6 - Nebraska's Adam Ickes blocked Josh Cummings’ 46-yard field goal attempt as time ran out.

42. 2009 NFL - Kansas City Chiefs 27, Steelers 24 (OT) - Chiefs knock out two Steeler QBs and possibly kill their shot at the playoffs in the process.

43. 2008 NFL - Indianapolis Colts 24, Steelers 20 - Peyton Manning hits Dominic Rhodes for the go-ahead TD with three minutes left.

44. 2008 NFL - NY Giants 21, Steelers 14 - Lesson learned: James Harrison is not a good long-snapper.

45. 2009 NFL - Chicago Bears 17, Steelers 14 - Robbie Gould field goal with 15 seconds caps 10-point fourth-quarter Bears comeback.

46. 2002 NFL - Houston Texans 24, Steelers 6 - Expansion Texans gains 37 yards rushing, 10 passing, and scores three touchdowns off of Steeler turnovers.

47. 2006 NFL - Oakland Raiders 20, Steelers 13 - Raiders gain 98 yards of offense, but score twice on pick-sixes of Big Ben. One of Oakland's two wins that season.

48. 2007 NFL - NY Jets 19, Steelers 16 (OT) - Inexplicable loss to 1-8 Jets is first NFL win for Kellen Clemens.

49. 1994 NFL - San Diego Chargers 37, Steelers 34 - A 32-yard John Carney field goal sends the Steelers into the postseason, where they would also lose to the same Chargers team.

50. 2008 MLB - Chicago Cubs 6, Pirates 4 (15 innings) - Not too many Bucco games on this list, so why not pick a painful 15-inning affair?

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32 comments:

The Steelers n'at Staff said...

In the 2005 Steelers-Jags OT game, it was actually Tommy Maddox that threw the pick-6 in OT. Maddox started for Ben that day and had 4 turnovers.

Actually, the Steelers had the ball in field goal range in OT and ran a toss-sweep rather than kicking a field goal. They fumbled the toss and Jacksonville recovered. The defense forced a punt, then Tommy came out and threw it right to Mathis.

cordova97 said...

Pitt almost beating #1 Miami in the Orange Bowl in 2002. They were definitely not expected to win but to get so close and lose is something that definitely stuck with me. (I believe they had a shot at the end zone to tie it...Yogi Roth if I can remember correctly)

David Meyer said...

Good list. I'd vote for a couple more Pitt football games. In recent memory, the loss to Gradkowski and Toledo hurt as well as the debacle against Ohio.
Others I can think of include the 1998 Pitt basketball loss to #1 UConn where Kalid El-Amin jumped on the scorer's table after staving off an improbable upset at Fitzgerald Field House, and the second-round NCAA upset at the hands of Vandy in 1988 was a major disappointment.

Jim said...

How about the Pirates-Cubs game this year where Charlie Morton gave up 11 runs in the first two innings. I live in NY and I don't get to see many games on tv. For some reason it was on tv here and it was awful to watch. It was so bad that Cubs fans lost interest in the game and starting cheering for the numerous Air Force flyovers during the middle innings.

Corey said...

i have never seen a more depressing list!

Scott said...

I would have number 4 and number 8 reversed. San Diego was an inferior opponent in '94 and the Steelers should have beaten them, but I don't think we would have had a prayer against the 49ers.

2004 was such a special year: 15-1 including 13-0 with a rookie qb, the return of "The Bus" to Pro Bowl form, a dominant offensive line with 3 pro bowlers, the return of Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator, knocking off undefeated New England and Philly teams in back-to-backs weeks in early November, James Farrior having an MVP-type season, and a young safety named Polomalu bursting onto the scene. The stars seemed to be aligned for an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl and a favorable match-up that would ultimately allow Bill Cowher, Jerome Bettis and company to win their long awaited championship.

Then, the despised New England Patriots with their pompous jerk of a head coach came into our house on a frigid night and jumped all over us in the first half.(Of course now we know they cheated.)

Sometimes it's easy to forget how bad this one was because a year later we had the amazing run that ended with Bettis, Cowher and Hines Ward rasing the Lombardi trophy in The Bus's hometown of Detroit and looking back now the '04 loss made that run even sweeter.

However, at the time none of us new the '05 wild card run was coming and for all we knew Bettis could have retired without ever being a champion. It was an empty feeling for Steeler fans. I also think the Steelers themselves will always feel like they have some unfinished business with the Brady-Belicheck Patriots because of this game as well as the 2001 AFC Championship debacle. (Number 5 on the list.)

Unless we somehow manage to make the playoffs this year and either A. knock New England out of the playoffs or B. somehow manage to win the Super Bowl and tie them with 3 for the decade, the 2000's will ultimately be an unsatisfying decade because the team we hate was just a little bit better than we were. (Even though they cheated)

alex said...

Agreed with The Steelers n'at Staff,
It was Tommy Maddox who threw the pick to Rasheen Mathis in that game. if I do recall Ben was injured prior to that game.

Matt said...

Actually, there's too much Pitt football on that list. That team sells out 1-2 games per year. The interest isn't there to cause enough pain.

How is a shootout loss to the freakin' Islanders No. 26 on the list??? You gotta be kidding me.

And Duquesne's loss to Temple in last year's A-10 championship game should be on this list.

Mike said...

Swap out this year's Chiefs game for this past Sunday's Raiders game. I was about a million times more upset over the Raiders loss.

mondesishouse said...

Corrected #34...apologies to Big Ben for pinning this on him.

AJ said...

I still list the loss to the Browns when Kent Graham took a sack on the final play of the game (while the Steelers were in FG range) as one of the most idiotic losses ever.

It's also amazing the number of games on this list in which I personally was there to witness. I'm surprised that I have never attempted suicide... or at least had my head explode.

Another honorable mention... I was at the Steelers/Falcons game at Heinz Field where the two teams tied 34-34. Steelers gave up something like 17 points in the 4th quarter and it's the only time Mike Vick ever looked like a real quarterback. Cowher choked in OT and played for the tie. Everybody was stunned walking out of the stadium that day, it felt like a funeral.

bohica said...

What about Cal U losing 28-24 to eventual champion Valdosta State in 2006 after leading 21-7 late in the third quarter, and then marching the ball down to the 10 yard line on the last drive of the game to have the pass picked off in the end zone?

Sorry, I went to Cal, and after their last two trips to the national semis, that one is stsrting to hurt even more...

Max said...

Just what we need after four straight losses including two to the Chiefs and Raiders.

Pretty good (terrible) list, but I would rank the AFC Championship loss in 2002 as more disappointing that the loss to the Boys in the SB. Yes, the stakes were higher, but the 'Lers were favored by I believe two TDs against that Pats, while we were underdogs against the Cowboys. The way the games played out were both excruciating, but my pre-game expectations somewhat altered my final disappointment.

Plus, I think the loss to Cinci last Saturday should be higher up based on the way the game played out. To squander a 21-point lead at home... I'm about to puke.

Joe said...

@Jim, I was at the 17-2 beat down at Wrigley Field this summer. It was one of the most depressing things I've ever seen. Driving all that way to our Bucs shit the bed like that...just horrible

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

41. 2005 NCAA Football - Nebraska 7, Pitt 6 - Nebraska's Adam Ickes blocked Josh Cummings’ 46-yard field goal attempt as time ran out.
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Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Pitt attempted a field goal on third down before the block. I think the long snapper launched the ball off the holder's head as he wasn't paying attention. That ended up making the fourth down kick 10+ yards longer. These are the things that happen when your coach rocks a mustache.

Someone Somewhere said...

I think the 2002 AFC Championship is among the most painful for me. That was the Kordell's feel-good return to prominence where he finished 3rd in the MVP vote(?!??!), Kendrell Bell emerging as the next coming of Jack Lambert (he was defensive ROY), plus the Steelers had absolutely dismantled the defending champs in Baltimore and then again in the Divisional round.

Troy Brown returned a re-punt right up the gut for a touchdown after right after he was stopped on the first punt for a minimal gain. I believe the rekick was the result of a horrible penalty by Troy Edwards. Then in the second half the Patriots blocked a field goal and returned that for a score as well...arrrgh, I feel like punching something.

Dallas Mike said...

@Scott you are correct. 3rd down snap right off the holder's facemask.
________________

Mondesi, these lists make the site great. Although I graduated from Penn State, I have watched nearly every Pitt game and can create a list of 50 just with them. Since the list dated back only to 1990, here are some more Pitt games that merit some consideration in no particular order. If my memory doesn't serve me on some of these, I stand corrected.

1) 1994 Backyard Brawl. A poor Pitt team in the 2nd Majors era rallies from a 31-6 deficit and converts a 2-point conversion with less than 1 minute left to take a 41-40 lead. Inexplicably a WVU wide receiver gets behind the defense for a 60 yard completion with seconds left.

2) 1995 Pitt vs. Miami. The canes are a 25 point favorite to another poor Majors-led team. Pitt controls the game with sophomore Pete Gonzales and leads 16-10 in the 4th quarter. Pitt's special teams rough the Miami punter in the end zone and the Canes drive the length of the field and win 17-16.

3) 1996 Pitt vs. Ohio St. 72-0 painful. OSU scores on first 10 possessions. Side note - Pitt also loses 34-0 to WVU, 60-6 to Notre Dame, 45-0 to Miami, and 55-7to Syracuse in same year.

4) 2001 Pitt vs. South Florida (pre-Big East USF) USF, after making the transition to D-1, goes on the road to beat pitt 35-26.

5) 2003 Pitt vs. Toledo Pitt is ranked in the top 25 with expectations only to have them vanish 35-31 in the Glass Bowl in Toledo, OH.

6) 2005 Pitt vs. Ohio U. Wannstedt's first road game results in Palko throwing 2 pick sixes and a loss to the Bobcats 16-10 in OT.

Honorable Mention: How about the 4 losses to Temple since 1990? I can't think of anything more painful than losing to the Owls.

Koz said...

An impressive compilation.

I don't give a hoot about Pitt football so I totally forgot they lost a bowl game 3-0. I assume it wasn't raining to the point where punts were sticking in the mud in that game?

I wish ESPN Classic would run a FAIL marathon. I bet that would air right after the 6-3 Cleveland win over the Bills from earlier this season.

Broke But Still Drinking said...

The most painful loss was losing Sonni Abatta to Florida.

That was a sad day in the burgh.

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

The 2002 AFC Title game will resonate in my memories forever. Not 1, not 2, but 3 2nd half INTS.

Also, You're In Steelers Country! And I'm not paying Don $40 to past that either.

NickDawg said...

Broke but still drinking - I couldnt agree with you more...losing that piece of a$$ was by far the worst loss :). As a matter of fact, she was the only reason to watch the new at the butt crack of dawn

ukraine_train said...

Scott - I think the 7-6 loss to Nebraska was during Walt Harris's last season. The stache arrived in '06.

David - Thanks for the reminder of the Kalid El-Amin game. That was a loaded UConn roster - Rip Hamilton, Jack Voskal, Ricky Moore to name a few. Pitt actually had the ball with 5 seconds left and Ike Hawkins through the inbounds pass to no one and the ball rolled out of bounds with no time taken off the clock. Probably a blessing in disguise - Ralph Willard eventually fired, enter Ben Howland.

Jim said...

"11. 1999-00 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 4-Philadelphia Flyers 2, Penguins 1 (5 OT) - Keith Primeau finally ends it at 2:35 AM. A truly amazing event that I actually witnessed in person."

I was there too -- sitting in the F-deck above right above the f'n goal Primeau scored into. Then I had to call my then-wife to come pick me up at the arena because the buses had stopped running for the night.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

Pitt's had more than their share the last 15 years. It just seems like they can't get over the hump in either sport to bigtime success.

92 Bucs/Braves is unquestionably the best choice for #1.

For some reason the 04 AFC title game just crushed me at the time. There were other AFC title game losses, but that was the 4th one AND with a 15-1 team during a season that truly seemed magical (as someone posted earlier). It seemed like the Steelers had finally gotten rid of some of the old blood that was holding them back, and guys like Ben and Troy were ready to take back what was rightfully ours.

Basically after that 04 AFCC I thought "If we couldn't break through and win a championship this year with this team, it's never gonna happen."

I just felt the Steelers were going to be one of those Red Sox/Cubs "cursed" teams after that one.

And when we were 7-5 the next year my despair got even worse. That's why the tear we ended 05 with to win the Super Bowl was extra special IMO. Now 5 years removed from that AFC title loss, and two Lombardis later, the things I thought after that game seem pretty ridiculous.

Jeff said...

For me the 1992 NLCS Game 7 will never be topped in term of pain. I don't think anything even comes close - mainly because there's been not even a hint of success since. The ultimate painful loss :(

Adam said...

As a Penn State fan, I'm amazed the Pitt-Cincinnati loss ranks so high.

Pitt had two losses, and Cincinatti was undefeated. The only thing on the line for Pitt was the Big East and a BCS bowl. Whoopee. If you read my piece on BSD earlier this week, you know how I feel about the BCS, and the Big East championship is the pro equivilent of winning the AFC North.

Penn State lost two games this year that cost them a comparable amount to what Pitt lost, and if you asked me to include those on this list they'd be much lower than where Pitt's loss is ranked. Losing the conference to the better team presumably happens ever year, and that's what happened to Pitt. What's the big deal?

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

Oh my God, Adam is incapable of talking about anything but Penn State.


And yes, I'd say about half of what makes the 92 loss so bad is what's happened to the Pirates since then. It actually gets worse over time because of how terrible the team has become.

The 04 AFCC game crushed me at the time because I just thought the Steelers would never get over the hump after that. But the events of 05 and 08 have really helped me forget that one.

ukraine_train said...

I was wrong...Wanny was the coach for the 7-6 loss to Nebraska. I was thinking of the A&M game where pitt lost 14-13 on a missed extra point.

Adam said...

OK Lipps, just make fun of me. You're cool.

Papa Eo said...

God this list made me cringe HARD. Some of these are OJ Verdict/ 9-11/ Big Ben Motorcycle Crash kinds of games where you will never forget where you were when they happened.

I would put the AFC Title game loss to San Diego #1. (I'm a little too young for the Buccos/ Braves to hurt THAT bad) I was at the Chargers game, and the atmosphere was so electric. It may have been my first Steelers game. And when they lost when O'Donnell's pass to Barry Foster got batted away, it felt like we had all witnessed a live execution. EVeryone just got silent. I remember grown men crying on the Gateway Clipper ride back to where we had parked. At that point in my life, I had never lost a family member, so without a doubt, that loss to the Chargers was the saddest day of my life to that point.

Can we get a list of 50 sweetest wins? Maybe reverse some karma for the slumping black and gold?? Oddly enough, #1 and #2 for me would be the 2006 AFC Title Game over Plummer's Broncos, because it got us over the elusive hump of the that semifinal, and everyone knew we would torch Seattle, and then last June's Game 7 win over Detroit. Just an awesome ending for a special team.

Shamus said...

You have two number 5s.

So, it'd be Top 51 most painful losses.