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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Washington (Redskins: An Odd History


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Right before the season started, I decided I wanted to bring back the historical/retrospective threads I created for a number of years on ES. I was going to mix it up with a different look back each week based on something pertinent to the opponent that week, the time of the year, etc.. Well, 11 games in and I'm finally getting around to one of them. I find our history with the Steelers to be pretty unique, so here are just a few nuggets for everyone to chew on as they get ready for what is a legitimately big game for us on Monday: 

 

--Younger fans may not realize that we had a pretty long and rich history playing the Steelers due to the fact that we are two of the most-tenured franchises in the NFL. The teams played twice a year for many years. 

 

--Both teams also had LONG lulls where they were dominated by the other. Hard to believe given their success as a franchise now, but the Steelers were REALLY bad for the first half of their existence. They really didn't get consistently good until they hired Chuck Knoll and had their dynasty run in the 70's. Then they were really average to below average in the 80's before solidifying as a top NFL organization in the early 90's under Cowher. They have had THREE, yes THREE head coaches over the past 51 years.... that is unreal.

 

--From the time the Redskins arrived in DC until Noll was hired in 1969, the Redskins held a 34-24 series advantage (some ties mixed in too). This included 12 wins in a row for Washington between 1938-1945 and an 8-0-1 stretch for Pittsburgh between 1959-1963. 

 

--The merger and the Steelers split to the AFC more or less ended the consistent series history. Between 1970-1991 the teams only played five times. Two of those games were played in the 70's at the height of the Steelers dominance. Both games were played at Three Rivers and won by the Steelers-- 21-16 in 1973 and 38-7 in 1979. Keep in mind our team was quite good in 1979, but the Steelers would go on to win their fourth (and final) Super Bowl of that era. 

 

--The teams then played three times in the Gibbs era... Washington went 3-0 in those games. A 30-23 win in 1985 at Three Rivers that helped keep our playoff hopes alive (we wound up missing the playoffs despite going 10-6). A side note from this game would be that John Riggins scored his final TD of his career; and a 30-29 win at RFK in week two of the 1988 season. 1988 was the only "bad" season under Gibbs I -- the team went 7-9 and never seriously contended that year. The only year where there really wasn't some sort of high to point to. You could see it a bit in this game as they struggled with a pretty mediocre Steelers team.  In 1991, the Redskins improved to 11-0 by dismantling the Steelers 41-14. I remember this game quite well. 

 

--A somewhat crazy side note... between 1969-2007, Pittsburgh made ONE trip to Washington-- the aforementioned game in 1988. 

 

So through 1991, our history vs the Steelers maybe couldn't be called "one sided," but it was certainly pretty heavily shaded towards us. Then, it goes downhill 

 

--We've played Pittsburgh six times since that beating in 1991 and we are 0-6 in those games. The average margin of victory has been 14 points (and that includes a one-point loss). 

 

A quick rundown of those six losses: 

 

1997: I've often said 1997 is my most frustrating season as a fan-- 2000 isn't too far behind, but 1997 takes the cake still. We wound up 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs on the last day of the season when the Jets failed to beat the Lions in the Silverdome which would have put us in. But it should NEVER have come to that. It's easy to say all close losses "should" be wins and I generally don't think that's fair-- but in 1997, we ABSOLUTELY let games get away that should have been wins. Losses to the Steelers, Ravens, Rams, and at Dallas SHOULD have been wins-- at least three of those. And the tie against the Giants should have easily been a W as well. The 1997 Redskins should have gone 11-5 or even better. It's a crying shame they wound up 8-7-1. The first of those "shoulda" games was week 2 at Three Rivers. We were coming off a surprising win in week one over the Panthers in Carolina. I didn't have real high hopes for the Pittsburgh game and kind of viewed it as a house money game. So it was a bit of a surprise to me how close the game was--- we wound up losing 14-13. But Gus threw TWO interceptions deep in Steeler territory-- one in the end zone and another around the 5 yard line, which ended for sure scoring drives. Then, he threw another pick while driving for the winning FG late. One of those games where I went in with low expectations, but still left frustrated because the game wound up being right there for us. 

 

2000: One of the only games in the past 30-ish years I made zero attempt to watch. As mentioned above, 2000 compares only to 1997 for me in terms of overall disappointment and frustration. We were eliminated the week before and I just couldn't stand to watch that team anymore. My wife (at the time fiance') was graduating from college that day (it was a Saturday) so it was gonna be tough on me anyway, but it wound up being a non-issue. The game was on at the bar we went to after the ceremony so I kinda sorta had to watch it, and it was really gross. A total lay-down effort. A 24--3 loss in the final game played a Three Rivers-- we were a willing participant in their celebration that day. 

 

2004: Blech. We were long done by the time this game rolled around at Pittsburgh in 2004 and the game wound up being a lot like many in 2004-- a good defensive effort combined with a woeful offensive performance. We scored a TD late in the third to make it 13-7, but Pittsburgh kicked a FG and the game ended mercifully, 16-7. 

 

2008: This is remembered by most as the Terrible Towel game at FedEx. Funny, going back on youtube it's not as bad as I remember-- maybe I'm just used to it happening so often now that the 2008 takeover doesn't seem so bad. Anyway, what I do remember was that we really had many opportunities early in the game to build a substantial lead and didn't take advantage. As you'd expect from a good team playing a fraudulent team (we were 6-2 going into that game I believe) the Steelers got hold of us after a slow start and squeezed the life out. Leftwich replaced Big Ben, but it didn't matter. A 23-6 loss. 

 

2012: This 27-12 loss at Pittsburgh isn't quite as bad as it looks. We actually had chances in this game, but just couldn't punch it in the end zone.

 

2016: Semi-similar to the 2008 Monday Night game.... another Monday Night game, another decent start for us that was mixed with missed opportunities. This was one of those games where i felt pretty good about how it was going and then BOOM-- it was over just like that. A 38-16 loss 

 

So the tail of the tape in our last six meetings: 

 

0-6

 

Point totals of 13, 3, 7, 6, 12, and 16 for an average of 9.5 points per game 

 

The four games at Pittsburgh we've only scored a total of 2 TD's with our highest point total being 13 

 

Average margin of victory is 14 points for the Steelers... it's 17 points if you take away the one point loss in 1997 

 

So... looking at the series history, we are in a familiar pattern of one team dominating the other for stretches... perhaps we remain in the stretch of dominance and extend our 29 year losing streak or perhaps we being a stretch of our own...

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@kleese

I disagree that we were never in contention in 1988.  10 games in, we were 6-4 and Joe Gibbs was known for finishing strong.  Finishing 1-5 was a surprise in the NFL, especially as it looked like only the Bears were the only real good team left on our schedule.  Yes, the Bengals did end up in the dance but Gibbs beat AFC teams.

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I saw the 2000 game in person.  My then wife (now ex-wife) was a huge Steelers fan and wanted to see the last game at Three Rivers in person.  Was a miserable day all around for me.  Weather was atrocious.  33 degrees and alternating cold rain and sleet.  I recall my wife saying at halftime we could go inside to dry off and I sternly told her "I'm drying off once today."  But I said I would stay with her as long as she wanted as it was the last game there.

 

As for the game, we had great seats down low behind the Redskin sideline and I was saddened by what I saw from the demeanor and play of the Skins that day.  It was a team that had clearly quit for the year.  Was one of the first times I had seen that from a Redskin team.  That was the season that Terry Robiskie  finished out the last 3 games of the season as head coach after Norv was fired following the NYG sending Eddie Murray out to kick a FG he had no chance of making debacle.  (I'm convinced that was Norv pulling a George Costanza pulling the World Series trophy around the parking lot behind his car trying to get fired.)  If memory serves, this was also the game where the Steelers sacked Jeff George and dragged him along the ground and no Skin came to his defense.  Just a complete debacle on the field.

 

Oh, and at halftime I went to the restroom wearing my Redskin jacket and actually had a group of agitated and drunk Steeler fans threaten to beat my rear end.  They were raising their voices and trying to get the whole restroom involved (I was the only Skins fan in there at the time.).  The Steeler fan at the urinal next to me leaned over and whispered, "You're coming with me.  I'll get you out of here safely."  And he actually did just that.  He hustled me through the crowd elbowing people out of the way.  Was thankful for his help as I was greatly outnumbered.

 

Glad they tore that stadium down.

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5 hours ago, Darth Tater said:

@kleese

I disagree that we were never in contention in 1988.  10 games in, we were 6-4 and Joe Gibbs was known for finishing strong.  Finishing 1-5 was a surprise in the NFL, especially as it looked like only the Bears were the only real good team left on our schedule.  Yes, the Bengals did end up in the dance but Gibbs beat AFC teams.


I guess that for me it’s because after the 6-4 start we got destroyed by the Bears and 49ers. Back then with just the two wild cards we were more or less toast at 6-6 with a 1/4 of the season remaining. 

1 hour ago, LightningBuggs said:

I saw the 2000 game in person.  My then wife (now ex-wife) was a huge Steelers fan and wanted to see the last game at Three Rivers in person.  Was a miserable day all around for me.  Weather was atrocious.  33 degrees and alternating cold rain and sleet.  I recall my wife saying at halftime we could go inside to dry off and I sternly told her "I'm drying off once today."  But I said I would stay with her as long as she wanted as it was the last game there.

 

As for the game, we had great seats down low behind the Redskin sideline and I was saddened by what I saw from the demeanor and play of the Skins that day.  It was a team that had clearly quit for the year.  Was one of the first times I had seen that from a Redskin team.  That was the season that Terry Robiskie  finished out the last 3 games of the season as head coach after Norv was fired following the NYG sending Eddie Murray out to kick a FG he had no chance of making debacle.  (I'm convinced that was Norv pulling a George Costanza pulling the World Series trophy around the parking lot behind his car trying to get fired.)  If memory serves, this was also the game where the Steelers sacked Jeff George and dragged him along the ground and no Skin came to his defense.  Just a complete debacle on the field.

 

Oh, and at halftime I went to the restroom wearing my Redskin jacket and actually had a group of agitated and drunk Steeler fans threaten to beat my rear end.  They were raising their voices and trying to get the whole restroom involved (I was the only Skins fan in there at the time.).  The Steeler fan at the urinal next to me leaned over and whispered, "You're coming with me.  I'll get you out of here safely."  And he actually did just that.  He hustled me through the crowd elbowing people out of the way.  Was thankful for his help as I was greatly outnumbered.

 

Glad they tore that stadium down.


That sounds like a crappy day... but the Jeff George game being dragged like a carcass was the week prior at Dallas. 

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Great history lesson Ed!  I've missed these, particularly since I recall these games you mention, when I can't even remember the score of the game we played two weeks ago 😀

 

1991 was a magical year watching the Skins dominate, but the Steelers game that got us to 11-0 was one I missed, as I was driving back to DC from a weekend visit with my grandma who lived in NC.  From the highlights, remember Gary Clark made a ridiculous one-handed diving catch deep down the right side, IIRC.  Then a friend convinced my to go down to RFK and get scalped tickets (paid $125 for lower deck seats, which at the time seemed like a LOT of cash to me) for the Dallas game, and we know what happened ☹️

 

I think the 2000 game was the one where Steelers PBP guy Myron Cope was criticizing Snyder during the broadcast, it got back to Snyder who, thru an intermediary, asked Cope to knock it off, and Cope famously said "If that little twit thinks I'm going to stop, he can go stick his head in a can of paint!"

 

I went to the 2008 game with my mom, and got to the stadium early, and sitting in the seats pregame my mom notices all these people waving yellow towels, and says "did we miss them giving those away when we came in?"  Unfortunately, no.  The attendance at that game did really puncture the myth of the Redskins fanbase being one of most hardcore in the league. Of course, I think a few weeks later, well-travelled Steelers fans also took over Invesco Field in Denver, another supposed rabid fanbase.

 

With all the people from western PA who come down here from jobs, its gotten to the point (and probably has been like this for a while), where many of us probably personally know more Steelers fans than Skins fans. I'll probably watch next Monday with a friend who is a fan of the black and gold. 

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12 minutes ago, TD_washingtonredskins said:

Great job...your threads always spark great memories of a simpler and better time being a Redskins fan. 

Simpler for sure... considering I spend a lot of time looking back at the Norv era, I’m not sure “better” applies 😁

2 hours ago, hail2skins said:

Great history lesson Ed!  I've missed these, particularly since I recall these games you mention, when I can't even remember the score of the game we played two weeks ago 😀

 

1991 was a magical year watching the Skins dominate, but the Steelers game that got us to 11-0 was one I missed, as I was driving back to DC from a weekend visit with my grandma who lived in NC.  From the highlights, remember Gary Clark made a ridiculous one-handed diving catch deep down the right side, IIRC.  Then a friend convinced my to go down to RFK and get scalped tickets (paid $125 for lower deck seats, which at the time seemed like a LOT of cash to me) for the Dallas game, and we know what happened ☹️

 

I think the 2000 game was the one where Steelers PBP guy Myron Cope was criticizing Snyder during the broadcast, it got back to Snyder who, thru an intermediary, asked Cope to knock it off, and Cope famously said "If that little twit thinks I'm going to stop, he can go stick his head in a can of paint!"

 

I went to the 2008 game with my mom, and got to the stadium early, and sitting in the seats pregame my mom notices all these people waving yellow towels, and says "did we miss them giving those away when we came in?"  Unfortunately, no.  The attendance at that game did really puncture the myth of the Redskins fanbase being one of most hardcore in the league. Of course, I think a few weeks later, well-travelled Steelers fans also took over Invesco Field in Denver, another supposed rabid fanbase.

 

With all the people from western PA who come down here from jobs, its gotten to the point (and probably has been like this for a while), where many of us probably personally know more Steelers fans than Skins fans. I'll probably watch next Monday with a friend who is a fan of the black and gold. 


You are spot on with the Clark catch, crazy diving one-handed snag down the sideline. Monk also had an exceptional effort getting both feet down on a TD earlier in the game. Sanders rounded it out by catching a TD from Jeff Rutledge after Gibbs pulled Rypien (it was the one TD pass for Rutledge that year). 

 

As for Steelers fans, this is just what they do everywhere now. They take over just about every stadium in the league— especially stadiums where they don’t play as often (NFC teams, out west, etc). 

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4 hours ago, kleese said:


I guess that for me it’s because after the 6-4 start we got destroyed by the Bears and 49ers. Back then with just the two wild cards we were more or less toast at 6-6 with a 1/4 of the season remaining. 

 

You said 'never seriously contended that year' which would mean you cannot look ahead beyond that point referenced.

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 The Redskins used to hold training camp at Dickenson College in Carlisle Pennsylvania. Because the Steelers trained in Latrobe, relatively close by, they would often scrimmage each other during during the preseason.  I remember going up there as a kid and watching those two teams go at it on what was a glorified high school football field.

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2 hours ago, Ghost of Nibbs McPimpin said:

I recall at least a few preseason games vs. Pittsburgh as well, even attended one, I think.

My first ever in-person NFL game was a preseason one against the Steelers at RFK in either 1974 or 1975. 

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For the last 15-20 years the Steelers have always been a tough match up for a team like the WFT that is trying to rebuild and still finding themselves.  The Steelers always play smart sound football, don't make a lot of mistakes, and usually capitalize on their opponent's mistakes.  Even during their seasons where they aren't "contender level" good, they still usually end up being solid. 

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23 hours ago, Dan T. said:

 The Redskins used to hold training camp at Dickenson College in Carlisle Pennsylvania. Because the Steelers trained in Latrobe, relatively close by, they would often scrimmage each other during during the preseason.  I remember going up there as a kid and watching those two teams go at it on what was a glorified high school football field.

 

I remember when Fox (I think) would televise the scrimmages in either the late-80s or early-90s. Back then, it was really the first glimpse at the new team!

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