Plays That Broke Steelers Fans’ Hearts: Say It Ain’t So, Joe (Montana)

Pro sports have the power to produce the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We can all recall moments from our favorite teams that shaped our lives and brought us tremendous joy or painful heartache. As ABC’s Wide World of Sports once reminded us weekly, sports consist of the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Pittsburgh Steelers fans have certainly experienced their share of victory and celebration with the team winning six Super Bowls. But they have also experienced those excruciatingly painful moments that broke hearts and shattered dreams. This series looks back at five devastating plays that crushed the souls of the die-hard Steelers fans.

No. 5: Joe Montana dagger slays Steelers

The background: Jan. 8, 1994, AFC Wild Card game in Arrowhead Stadium An aging Joe Montana led the 11-5 Chiefs against the 9-7 Steelers and Neil O’Donnell. The first quarter saw the two teams trade touchdowns. First, the Steelers scored on a strike to TE Adrian Cooper. The Chiefs then scored on a Dave Krieg (who briefly replaced Montana because of an injury) to J.J. Birden connection to close the first quarter at 7-7.

The Steelers owned the second quarter scoring 10 unanswered points on a Gary Anderson field goal and an Ernie Mills touchdown. The half ended with the visitors up 17-7. Not much happened in the third quarter. The only score was a Chiefs field goal to make it 17-10 heading into the final quarter. The Steelers were 15 minutes away from moving on.

In the fourth quarter, Montana once again reminded the world that he was indeed one of the best QBs to ever play the game. He led a scoring drive built on some big pass plays to set up a Marcus Allen 2-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17. O’Donnell fired back with an Eric Green 22-yard strike to retake the lead 24-17. Then it happened. In the final minutes of regulation, the Steelers were forced to punt. Little-known Chiefs TE Keith Cash blocked the punt and Fred Jones returned it 31 yards to the Steelers’ 9-yard line.

 The play: On fourth down from the Steelers’ 7-yard line, Montana etched his name in Steeler infamy by hitting WR Tim Barnett for the game-tying score with 1:43 remaining in regulation. It was a devastating blow to Steelers faithful even though the touchdown only sent the game into overtime. After a punt by each team, Montana drove the Chiefs into field goal range and kicker Nick Lowery delivered the knockout blow. The Steelers lost a heartbreaker 27-24.

Why it stung: Sure, the Chiefs were 11-5 and the Steelers were 9-7 but Montana was old. He was done. The Steelers were up and coming and it was supposed to be their time to shine. They held the old man to 17 points for over 58 minutes. It was fourth down. One more play and the Steelers were moving on. Steelers fans could taste it. Every yinzer watching was on the edge of their seat waiting to celebrate. Then the four-time Super Bowl winner did what he did so many times and broke hearts. Seeing Barnett standing in the end zone with the ball in his hands was like an arrow to the heart of the Steelers faithful. You almost knew that even though the game would go to overtime, the Steelers blew their chance and Montana would put the final nail in the Steelers’ coffin. Devastating.

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