(Post-Gazette archives)
The Decade That Was:
By Joe Starkey

Dec. 23, 2019

Any decade that ends without a championship is a decade gone wrong for the Steelers. One that also includes playoff losses to Tim Tebow and Blake Bortles — and very nearly AJ McCarron — is something else altogether.

The 2010s are headed that way, pending this season’s outcome. It has been a tumultuous decade, to say the least, for Mike Tomlin’s team. It began with star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sidelined by a four-game suspension. It will end with Roethlisberger sidelined by the worst injury of his career.

In between, there was plenty of winning. The team’s .650 regular-season winning percentage is second best in a decade in franchise history, behind only the dynastic 1970s crew, and in 2010 the Steelers appeared in their eighth Super Bowl.

But when the biggest games arrived, they fell short, often with key players injured. If they fail to make the playoffs this year, it will be the fourth time in eight years.

If a word could describe the decade, it might be the same one the NFL chose for that infamous Jesse James play: Incomplete.

College football
College basketball

In the course of 10 years, we witnessed the decline of a dominant early 2000s defense, the emergence of the “Killer B’s” on offense, the departure of legendary figures such as Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward and Dick LeBeau, the opening of the team’s Hall of Honor and the deaths of franchise icons Dan Rooney and Chuck Noll.

We also witnessed the very public meltdown of star receiver Antonio Brown, a bitter contract dispute with star running back Le’Veon Bell and a national anthem debacle in Chicago, where the Steelers sought to avoid the storm but instead became the center of it.

In the end, there was way too much bad news and way too many bad endings. Maybe this year’s team will write a different one, though it seems likely no one will remember the 2010s as a great decade in Steelers history.

That does not mean it failed to captivate.

Click a category below.

Pallbearers carry Dan Rooney's casket into St. Paul's Cathedral in Oakland. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

Five biggest stories

Ryan Shazier is carted off the field after suffering a spinal cord injury. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
1 April 13, 2017: Team chairman Dan Rooney, overseer of Steelers' transformation from perennial loser to six-time champion and one of the seminal figures in NFL history, dies at age 84.
2 June 13, 2014: Chuck Noll, architect of the 1970s dynasty, dies at age 82.
3 Feb. 6, 2011: Steelers stall on "Stairway to Seven" as Aaron Rodgers leads the Green Bay Packers to a 31-25 victory in Super Bowl XLV.
4 Dec. 4, 2017: Linebacker Ryan Shazier suffers a severe spinal cord injury tackling Bengals receiver Josh Malone in a "Monday Night Football" game in Cincinnati.
5 Dec. 30, 2018: Star receiver Antonio Brown mysteriously misses season finale against the Bengals, setting off a chain of events that leads to an ugly divorce between Brown and the team.

All-decade team, years played are in parentheses


QB: Ben Roethlisberger (2010-present) Remarkably tossed six TD passes back-to-back weeks in 2014.
Ben Roethlisberger stiff-arms the Browns' Briean Boddy-Calhoun in Cleveland. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
RB: Le'Veon Bell (2013-17) Can't help but wonder what might have been if healthy for playoff games vs. New England, Denver and Baltimore.
Le'Veon Bell sat out the entire 2018 season before signing with the New York Jets. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
WR: Antonio Brown (2010-18) 841 catches, 11,263 yards, 75 TDs.
No doubt, Antonio Brown was one of the NFL's best in the 2010s. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
WR: Mike Wallace (2010-12) 26 TDs in three years; maybe the fastest player in Steelers history.
Mike Wallace scores against the Denver Broncos in 2012. (Getty Images)
WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster (2017-present) Youngest player in NFL history to reach 200 catches.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is still only 23 years old as he enters 2020. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
TE: Heath Miller (2010-15) Career-best 8 TDs in 2012, effective to the end.
Heath Miller was a consistent option for Ben Roethlisberger throughout his career. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
RT: Marcus Gilbert (2011-18) At his best, a devastating run blocker.
Marcus Gilbert talks with teammates as they warm up during practice. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
RG: David DeCastro (2012-present) Two-time first-team All-Pro.
David DeCastro earned another Pro Bowl nod in December 2019. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
C: Maurkice Pouncey (2010-present) Eight-time Pro Bowl selection.
Maurkice Pouncey and linebacker Anthony Chickillo lead their teammates onto the field in Glendale, Ariz. (Getty Images)
LG: Ramon Foster (2010-present) Mr. Dependable, solid team leader.
Ben Roethlisberger speaks to Ramon Foster in the second half of a game against the Bengals. (Associated Press)
LT: Al Villanueva (2014-present) Two-time Pro Bowl selection.
Al Villanueva: much more than football. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)


DE: Stephon Tuitt (2014-present) Injuries keeping him from stardom.
Stephon Tuitt had another season shortened due to injury in 2019. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
NT: Javon Hargrave (2016-present) Edges Steve McLendon on pass-rush ability.
Javon Hargrave forces an Alex Collins fumble. (Getty Images)
DE: Cam Heyward (2011-present) First-team All-Pro in 2017.
Cam Heyward: captain of the Steelers defense in recent years. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
OLB: T.J. Watt (2017-present) 27.5 sacks in first 39 games.
T.J. Watt is introduced before the start of a game against the Dolphins at Heinz Field. (Getty Images)
OLB: James Harrison (2010-12, 2014-16) Faded but still had 41 sacks between 2010-17.
James Harrison: who could forget him?(Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
ILB: Ryan Shazier (2014-17) Two-time Pro Bowl selection was headed for much bigger things when disaster struck.
Ryan Shazier pumps up the defense during a game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
ILB: Lawrence Timmons (2010-16) Started 111 of a possible 112 games.
Lawrence Timmons tackles Packers quarterback Matt Flynn.(Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
CB: William Gay (2010-11, 2013-17) Returned NFL-record five consecutive interceptions for touchdowns between 2013-15.
Steelers coach Joey Porter celebrates with William Gay after Gay's interception against the Bengals in Cincinnati. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
CB: Joe Haden (2017-present) Solidified a position of long-term need.
Joe Haden reacts after his interception in the fourth quarter against the Patriots on Dec. 16, 2018. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
SS: Troy Polamalu (2010-14) NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
Troy Polamalu could very well start 2020 with a Hall of Fame nod. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
FS: Ryan Clark (2010-13) 396 tackles vaults him past Mike Mitchell.
Ryan Clark tackles Cleveland's Josh Cribbs in 2011. (Getty Images)

Special teams

P: Jordan Berry (2015-present) Apologies to Mat McBriar, but nobody else did it long enough to be considered here.
Jordan Berry hangs in the air after a punt against the Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo. (Getty Images)
K: Chris Boswell (2015-present) At 86.%, Boswell is the seventh-most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history.
Return man: Antonio Brown (2010-18) Between kicks and punts, he had 2,932 yards, 4 TDs and one memorable karate kick to a punter's face.
Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger in better times.(Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)


Best play "The Immaculate Extension." Christmas Day 2016, Antonio Brown gives Steelers fans a gift for the ages, miraculously squeezing between C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle and stretching the ball over the goal line with nine seconds left to beat the Baltimore Ravens and clinch the AFC North.
Antonio Brown scores the winning touchdown against the Ravens in the fourth quarter.(Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
Best player Antonio Brown — The fact he quit on teammates in 2018 nearly forfeits award to Ben Roethlisberger, who had a stellar decade, but come on: Brown did things no one had ever done, such as becoming the first player in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards and 1,000 return yards in a season.
(From Steeler Nation Highlights via YouTube)
MVP Roethlisberger. OK, we'll give him this award, since his teammates never do. Inarguably their most important player — and if one game springs to mind, it's going 44 of 66 for 506 yards, two TDs and no interceptions in 39-38 victory over the Ravens.
Ben Roethlisberger celebrates after scoring a 2-yard touchdown against the Jets in the second quarter of the AFC championship in 2011. (Lake Fong/Post-Gazette)
Best game Steelers 39, Ravens 38, Dec. 10, 2017. Emotions overflowed, given what was at stake and what had transpired a week earlier in Cincinnati — Ryan Shazier's devastating injury. The Steelers stormed back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit and dedicated the win to Shazier. Several visited him in the hospital afterward.
(From The Comeback via YouTube)


Worst game Patriots 55, Steelers 31, Nov. 3, 2013. Most points and yards (610) ever allowed by the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger greets Patriots QB Tom Brady after the Steelers' 2013 loss in Foxborough, Mass. (Getty Images)
Worst play Does the name "Tebow" ring a bell? Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas, 80 yards, first play of overtime, Jan. 8, 2012. Ike Taylor's still chasing him (although Ryan Mundy getting caught out of position didn't help).
Worst player (relative to expectations) Donte Moncrief — Signed for millions to catch the football, but he literally forgot how.
Donte Moncrief didn't last long in Pittsburgh. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

Biggest blunders

(From CharmCity Wire via YouTube)

Fumble category

1 Rashard Mendenhall, in Dallas, fumbles away the Super Bowl.
2 Fitzgerald Toussaint, in Denver, fumbles away trip to AFC title game.
3 JuJu Smith-Schuster, in New Orleans, fumbles away playoff spot.
4 Xavier Grimble, in Denver, fumbles away sure TD then admits he was more interested in goal-line collision than, you know, scoring.
5 Jeremy Hill, in Cincinnati, fumbles the Steelers toward a miracle win (Ryan Shazier with the strip, Ross Cockrell the recovery).

Non-fumble category

1 Antonio Brown goes Facebook Live from locker room after playoff win in Kansas City.
2 Steelers fail to execute national anthem plan in Chicago.
Al Villanueva stands in the Soldier Field tunnel during the national anthem Sept. 24, 2017. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
3 Mike Tomlin steps onto the field during Ravens kick return in Baltimore, NFL fines him $100,000.
4 Roethlisberger throws game-losing interception to nose tackle in Denver.
5 Christina Aguilera botches anthem lyrics at Super Bowl XLV.

Best comebacks

1 May 3, 2019: Ryan Shazier, dances at his wedding.
(From NBA Scoop via YouTube)
2 Jan. 15, 2011: Steelers roar back from 21-7 halftime deficit in playoff game to defeat Ravens, 31-24.
3 Dec. 20, 2015: Steelers stage third-biggest comeback in franchise history, turning 27-10 deficit against Broncos into 34-27 victory.
4 Dec. 4, 2017: Another 17-point comeback, this one against Bengals after Shazier injury.
5 Dec. 3, 2018: Los Angeles Chargers erase 16-point deficit to beat Steelers, 33-30, marking the first time Steelers lose a home game after leading by at least 14 at halftime.

Forgettable tenures

Jacoby Jones
Felix Jones
Josh Harris
Josh Scobee
Justin Gilbert
Ladarius Green
Alameda Ta'amu
Dri Archer
Ben Tate
Donte Moncrief
J.J. Wilcox
Brandon Boykin


Kevin Greene (2016)
Jerome Bettis (2015)
Dermontti Dawson (2012)
Jack Butler (2012)
Dick LeBeau (2010) Yes, he technically went in as a Detroit Lions player; just don't tell that to the entire Steelers team, which took a day off from training camp to attend the Steelers-themed induction. Dick LeBeau goes in to Hall of Fame like a Lion


1 Vontaze Burfict
Vontaze Burfict was a constant thorn in the Steelers' side in the 2010s. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
2 Myles Garrett
Myles Garrett: a late addition to this list after hitting Mason Rudolph with a helmet in November 2019. (Associated Press)
3 Al Riveron
4 Ryan Succop
5 Bill Belichick
Patriots coach Bill Belichick: one of the best, one of the most disliked. (Associated Press)

Super-human feats

1 About 50 Antonio Brown catches, notably bomb against Baltimore that he pins against his helmet.
(From Steeler Nation Highlights via YouTube)
2 Vance McDonald stiff-arms Chris Conte into oblivion.
(From Steeler Nation Highlights via YouTube)
3 Troy Polamalu jumps Joe Flacco in Baltimore.
4 Troy Polamalu jumps Kerry Collins in Tennessee.
5 Troy Polamalu jumps for amazing interception in Buffalo.

Ten scary hits

1 (tie) Myles Garrett on Mason Rudolph (with Garrett using Rudolph's helmet as the weapon) and JuJu on Vontaze Burfict
(From ESPN via YouTube)
2 Earl Thomas on Mason Rudolph
(From ESPN via YouTube)
3 Terence Garvin on poor Kevin Huber
(From NBC via YouTube)
4 Courtney Upshaw on Ben Roethlisberger
(From CBS via YouTube)
5 David DeCastro on Burfict (noticing a theme here?)
6 Antonio Brown on Spencer Lanning
(From CBS via YouTube)
7 James Harrison, Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith on Vince Young
8 Bud Dupree on Matt Moore:
(From Steeler Nation Highlights via YouTube)
9 James Harrison on the entire Cleveland Browns organization (namely, Josh Cribbs, Colt McCoy and Mohamed Massaquoi)
(From CBS via YouTube)
10 Le'Veon Bell at goal line in Baltimore
(From NBC via YouTube)

Big deals

1 March 13, 2019: Antonio Brown traded to the Oakland Raiders for third- and fifth-round picks.
Antonio Brown was a late scratch against the Bengals after going AWOL during the week. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
2 Sept. 16, 2019: Steelers trade three picks, including first-rounder in 2020, to the Dolphins for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and picks. It's the first time in 52 years the team parts with first-round pick.
3 April 11, 2010: Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes traded to the New York Jets for 5th-round pick.
4 April 25, 2012: Steelers trade first rounder (20th overall), plus second- and third-round picks, to the Broncos for 10th overall pick and select Devin Bush.
5 April 26, 2019: Troubled receiver Martavis Bryant traded to the Oakland Raiders for third-round pick.

Coaching calls


1 Going for it on last play in San Diego (Le'Veon scores).
(From Steeler Nation Highlights via YouTube)
2 Putting Roethlisberger back into game in playoff game at Cincinnati (Chris Boswell scores).
3 Sticking with Boswell through horrendous year in 2018.
4 Pushing team to draft Le'Veon Bell in second round.
5 Kicking to Ravens to start overtime in 2019 (even if some of us didn't agree, and even if JuJu Smith-Schuster fumbled the game away).


1 Every challenge from 2017 and '18.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin tries to get a play out to his team as it takes on the Browns at Heinz Field. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
2 Joey Porter going to The Flats on East Carson Street after a game.
3 Todd Haley going to Tequila Cowboy after a game.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley injured his hip and was escorted out of Tequila Cowboy after his wife, Christine Haley, was in a "minor scuffle" at the establishment. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
4 Taking delay of game and punting from Baltimore 34 to set up Joe Flacco for game-winning (and essentially division-winning) drive. If this turns out differently, Tebow never happens.
5 Zero coverage vs. Tebow.

Draft cards


1 Antonio Brown, sixth round, 2010
2 Le'Veon Bell, second round, 2013
3 T.J. Watt, 30th overall, 2017


1 Jarvis Jones, 17th overall, 2013
2 Dri Archer, third round, 2014
3 Artie Burns, 25th overall, 2016

Never thought you'd see

1 James Harrison/Antonio Brown on the Patriots
Antonio Brown played precisely one game for the New England Patriots. This was it. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
2 Michael Vick on the Steelers
3 Steelers breaking out the Bumblebee uniforms from 1933 (they went 4-2 in them)
4 Devlin "Duck" Hodges starting (and winning) on "Sunday Night Football"
5 Big Al Villanueva scoring a touchdown (and Chris Boswell throwing for one)

A final goodbye (RIP)

Bill Austin
Jack Butler
Lynn Chandnois
Sam Davis
Darryl Drake
Ron Erhardt
L.C. Greenwood
Ron Hughes
John Henry Johnson
Chuck Noll
Chuck Noll at training camp in 1985. (Post-Gazette archives)

Bill Nunn
Gabe Rivera
Dan Rooney
Bobby Walden

Ten fantastic names

Guy Whimper (and he did go quietly)
Zoltan Mesko
Jesse James (robbed own team of No. 1 seed)
Hebron Fangupo
Flozell Adams
Jordan Dangerfield (still gets no respect)
Ulysees Gilbert
Stevenson Sylvester (shouldn't it have been Sylvester Stevenson?)
Al-Hajj Shabazz
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi (just call me "Ola")

Calls on the field


1 Gene Steratore says yes, Roethlisberger fumbled at the goal line in Miami, but no, we don't know who recovered, so ... Steelers win!
2 Troy Polamalu assures his wife, via cell phone, from the bench, during a game, that he is OK after big hit. NFL fines Polamalu $10,000.
3 Refs slap Vontaze Burfict and "Pac Man" Jones with consecutive personal fouls to hand Steelers a playoff win.
Cincinnati's Vontaze Burfict puts a hit on Antonio Brown during the second half of an AFC wild-card playoff game Jan. 10, 2016, in Cincinnati. (Associated Press)
4 Linebackers coach Joey Porter decides to join the trash talk that leads to Pac Man penalty, which leads to Jones' epic postgame Instagram rant: "You got [expletive] 'Jerry' Porter on the middle of the [expletive] field talking [expletive] to everybody."
5 Art Rooney II steps in and removes Bruce Arians from offensive coordinator position, or at least strongly recommends move.


1 Joe Haden pass interference in New Orleans
2 Le'Veon Bell smokes pot before a trip to an exhibition game, then tells police, "I didn't know that you could get a DUI for being high."
3 Steelers make special plans to keep useless Antonio Brown five-catch streak alive at 21 games. "I am not always a fan of doing things like that because bad things can happen," Ben Roethlisberger says. "But a guy like that deserves it."
4 LaMarr Woodley's contract extension.
5 Refs miss Chargers tackle jumping snap by a full second.

Won't forget

In a good way

1 Charlie Batch beating Ravens in final start.
2 Emotion at Heinz Field in the first home game without Dan Rooney.
Ben Roethlisberger carries a flag honoring Dan Rooney onto Heinz Field. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
3 Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown fake spike TD pass against Cowboys. [video]
4 All the times a Steelers win over the Browns directly preceded the Browns firing their coach (six in a row, if you're scoring at home: Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, Mike Pettine, Hue Jackson).
5 Three touchdowns in 67 seconds vs. Texans (including a pass from Antonio Brown to Lance Moore).

In a bad way

1 Chris Boswell falling on his rear end on last-second kick in Oakland.
Chris Boswell slips on the turf while attempting a field goal against the Oakland Raiders. (Associated Press)
2 Emmanuel Sanders dropping critical two-point pass in Baltimore.
3 Roosevelt Nix celebrating a failed fake punt in New Orleans.
4 Terrelle Pryor going 93 yards untouched.
5 Dick LeBeau defense giving up 55 points.

Good and bad

Entire stadium, including players, watching Browns-Ravens on Heinz Field Jumbotron after win over Bengals and rooting for Browns — only to see them reliably blow the game and keep Steelers out of playoffs.

Courageous performances

1 James Harrison continues to play against Texans despite broken eye socket.
Outside linebacker James Harrison wears sunglasses on the sidelines in 2011 after undergoing surgery the day before to repair a broken eye socket. (Associated Press)
2 Ben Roethlisberger beats Bengals with one arm.
Vontaze Burfict puts a hit on Ben Roethlisberger. (Associated Press)
3 Roethlisberger beats Ravens with broken nose (thanks, Haloti Ngata).
Ben Roethlisberger is helped off the field after suffering a broken nose against the Ravens in Baltimore. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
Ben Roethlisberger with a broken nose walks on to the field. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

Strange goodbyes

LeGarrette Blount
Antonio Brown
James Harrison
Jason Worilds
Bruce Arians

Names and numbers game


JuJu Smith-Schuster goes 97 yards in Detroit, longest play from scrimmage in Steelers history (and repeats the feat a year later in Denver).
Steelers snap Chris Johnson's 100-yard rushing streak at 12 in a row, two shy of Barry Sanders' NFL record.
Le'Veon Bell's 236 yards rushing in Buffalo sets franchise record.
Le'Veon Bell fights for a first down against Buffalo in New York. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
LaMarr Woodley notches a sack in NFL-record seven straight postseason games.
Steelers squeeze in a shovel pass for minus-3 yards to get Hines Ward his 1,000th catch.
Rashard Mendenhall goes 50 yards to beat Atlanta in overtime, first win on Steelers' way to 3-1 record during Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension.


Mr. Big Chest, Ronald Ocean (don't ask), Tony Toe Tap
Antonio Brown during better times in Pittsburgh. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
"Duck" Hodges
Few knew who Devlin Hodges was before 2019. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
"Mother" Hubbard
Steelers guard Chris "Mother" Hubbard warms up before a game in Jacksonville, Fla. (Associated Press)
"Young Money" (self-bestowed name for receivers Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, and all would soon enough be better named "Big Money")
Maurkice Pouncey, left, congratulates Mike Wallace after Wallace's touchdown against Jacksonville in 2011. (Associated Press)

Three great wins


1 Steelers beat cocky New York Jets in AFC title game.
Ben Roethlisberger runs into the end zone for a touchdown against the Jets in AFC championship at Heinz Field. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
2 Steelers erase 21-7 deficit vs. Ravens.
3 Steelers eliminate Chiefs in Kansas City.

Regular season

1 Steelers beat Ravens, 31-27, on epic Antonio Brown touchdown.
2 Steelers beat Ravens, 39-38, week after Ryan Shazier injured.
3 Steelers beat Ravens, 13-10, after Troy Polamalu forces fumble.

Three horrific losses


1 Steelers lose to Tim Tebow.
2 Steelers lose to Blake Bortles.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles celebrates with Chad Henne after a touchdown against the Steelers. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
3 Steelers lose the Super Bowl.
Troy Polamalu hangs his head after just missing an interception on an Aaron Rodgers pass. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

Regular season

1 Steelers lose to Ryan Mallett, then need Rex Ryan's help to make playoffs.
Ryan Mallett beat the Steelers. Yep, that happened. (Getty Images)
2 Steelers lose to Mike Glennon (twice).
3 Steelers lose five fumbles and a game to 2-8 Browns.

We wrote it

In a sport with so many phonies, so many opportunists and charlatans, so many seriously unreal people, Dan Rooney, for all his life, agitated for humility, diplomacy, sincerity, intelligence, innovation, simplicity and most of whatever else is still right about the game. So yeah, this hurts. Really hurts. And now I won't worry about him any more on the sidelines at Latrobe. But boy, I'll worry about the rest of us.

— Gene Collier, upon Dan Rooney's death, April 14, 2017

Dan Rooney and Ben Roethlisberger during workouts at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

There were only a few more seconds remaining the previous time Ben Roethlisberger beat the Baltimore Ravens with a harrowing, nail-biting pass at the goal line. Like that time, this one also came from the 4.

And, like that time, this one clinched the AFC North Division title for the Steelers.

There was only one difference: Antonio Brown's 4-yard catch and stretch to beat the Ravens, 31-27, with nine seconds remaining wasn't debatable. Not like in 2008 when Santonio Holmes beat the Ravens with a 4-yard touchdown at the goal line that is still being protested as a non-touchdown in Baltimore. This clearly broke the imaginary plane.

"This reminded me of that," Roethlisberger said.

— Gerry Dulac, Dec. 16, 2016

Polamalu is a legend at Children's Hospital because of the time he has spent with young cancer patients. He has cut back his visits since his boys were born but still goes when he can and when he is asked by hospital officials.

"I hope you understand [talking about] this is incredibly uncomfortable for me," he said.

Mike Shulock, a child-life specialist at the oncology clinic at Children's Hospital, had no such hesitancy.

"I was thinking that this could be Troy's last year and I was like, ‘Holy cow, what are we going to do without him?' Who else can fill those shoes? There is no one like him. I just wish I had a better vocabulary to put into words what he means to this place."

Normally, Polamalu slips into the hospital unannounced and will go from one patient room to another.

— Ron Cook, Dec. 28, 2014

They said it

"His soul may belong to God, but his ass belongs to me."

— Terrell Suggs, on Ben Roethlisberger

"If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn't do it. I hate him and will never respect him."

— James Harrison on Roger Goodell, in Men's Journal

"People in this league understand there is a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes. Obviously, last weekend we were grape squashers."

— Mike Tomlin, two days after season-opening blowout loss at Baltimore in 2011

"We're going to play [the Patriots] again. We can play them in hell, we can play them in Haiti, we can play them in New England. We're gonna win."

— Mike Mitchell, to Sports Illustrated, on a rematch that never came

"We need volunteers, not hostages."

— Mike Tomlin, on Le'Veon Bell

"I want mines, period."

— Martavis Bryant

"I have three things: old, slow, and it's over."

— Warren Sapp, on the Steelers defense after a 35-7 loss to the Ravens to open the 2011 season

"Here's a guy who doesn't give a damn."

— Ramon Foster, on Le'Veon Bell

"Please don't ever ask me about him again."

— Foster, on Antonio Brown

"It was a bush league, total coward move on his part."

— Mason Rudolph, on Myles Garrett hitting Rudolph's uncovered head with a helmet (Rudolph's helmet, to be precise)

Catching up with ... Casey Hampton

"I got a pretty boring life," Casey Hampton says. "But believe me, I love it."

Most of it, anyhow.

Living with his girlfriend in a Seabrook, Texas, lake house and fishing for trout whenever he pleases? Amazing. When Hampton was anchoring those great Steelers defenses of the early 2000s, he always imagined himself returning to his beloved home state one day.

Firing a stogie in his cigar room or cruising in his '66 Lincoln? Priceless.

Watching his son, Casey Jr., play safety two hours away at Trinity University? That's pretty sweet, too.

What's not so sweet is the simple act of walking. Hampton doesn't do much of that. Too painful. If it's not his knees, it's his ankles or elbows or especially his back.

"Exactly what you'd think for somebody who played nose tackle for 12 years," he says. "It's bad, man."

But not bad enough for Hampton to turn to heavy medication.

"I don't want to get addicted," he says. "I don't like taking stuff. I took a lot of stuff when I played."

Would he do it all over again, given the chronic pain he endures?

"Oh, absolutely, ain't no question. I mean, that's what you signed up for. I got to do what I loved and take care of my family. I can never look back and say I wouldn't do it again."

Hampton, 42, started 164 games as a conservatively estimated 325-pound nose tackle. He won two Super Bowl rings. Teammates cherished his strong, steady presence — and his baritone belly laugh.

He desperately misses the competition. Nothing could ever replace it. But the blues tend to fade when the fish start biting. Does the man they called "Big Snack" keep those trout or throw 'em back?

The question jump-starts the belly laugh.

"No fish gets thrown back," Casey Hampton says. "Believe that."

— Joe Starkey

The decade ahead

After missing most of 2019, how much longer will Ben Roethlisberger be around? (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Quarterback. General manager. Coach. Those are the key issues entering the 2020s.

The Steelers have won six Super Bowls with Terry Bradshaw or Ben Roethlisberger playing quarterback, none with anyone else. That is not a coincidence.

Is Mason Rudolph the guy for the next decade? Too soon to tell, but this much is certain: The stage is set for a whopper of a story if Roethlisberger returns, as planned, for spring workouts. If he starts next season, he will become one of the few quarterbacks in NFL history to start a game for the same team in three decades.

Meanwhile, GM Kevin Colbert, who turns 63 in January, has taken a year-to-year approach on his contract. That could mean a job opening at the top of the team's organizational depth chart sooner rather than later.

As for Tomlin, think about this: If he coaches here the entire decade, he will be exactly where Chuck Noll was when he retired — 23 years on the job. Tomlin would still only be 57, by the way, so he could well have some coaching in him beyond that.

Will he want to stay that long?

Will the Steelers want him to?

Let's pick up the conversation in 2029.

— Joe Starkey



Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The decade that was
A closer look
Five biggest stories
All-decade team
Best comebacks
Forgettable tenures
Super-human feats
Ten scary hits
Big deals
Coaching calls
Draft cards
Never thought you'd see
A final goodbye
Ten fantastic names
Calls on the field
Won't forget
Strange goodbyes
Names and numbers
Three great wins
Three horrific losses
We wrote it
They said it
Catching up with...Casey Hampton
The decade ahead