Stephen King once wrote a story called “The Mist.” It’s about a thick New England fog that rolls in from the sea. A group of large men arrive for a visit to the region and encounter the fog. They discover it harbors some very nasty surprises. One surprise comes in the form of a young man named Curtis Martin.
Oh, wait, that wasn’t fiction, it was real life. It happened 20 years ago this month, in a divisional playoff game against New England at the old Foxboro Stadium. King’s make-believe fog brought horror in the form of grotesque monsters. The horror in Foxboro on Jan. 5, 1997 came in the form of the Steelers’ play. They were awful.
The game remains a painful memory for Steeler fans. On New England’s first play from scrimmage, rookie wide receiver Terry Glenn smoked legendary Steeler cornerback Rod Woodson, caught a Drew Bledsoe pass and picked up 53 yards. Running back Curtis Martin scored on the next play.
Martin grew up a Steeler fan. He graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School, then became one of the best running backs in Pitt’s history. On this day, he was a nightmare for his hometown team. In the second quarter, Martin broke free for a 78-yard touchdown run and the rout was on. Martin trampled all over the Steeler defense, picking up 166 yards on 19 carries and setting a team playoff record.
Actually, the fog was a bit of a blessing for those of us watching the game on television. The mist obscured our view of the slaughter. Steeler running back Jerome Bettis had crashed his way through defenses all season long, but on this day he was held to just 43 yards on 13 carries. He was hobbled, in large part, by a painful groin injury.
The Patriots won 28-3, then defeated Jacksonville in the AFC Championship game before losing Super Bowl XXXI to Green Bay.
We’re trusting this year’s AFC Championship game against New England will be less like a Stephen King story and more like, say, a fairy tale. Something like Jack and the Beanstalk. You know, the good guy slays the evil giant and makes off with the prize, then twerks and is fined by Roger Goodell.
— Steve Mellon