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2004 Pittsburgh Steelers season
Head Coach Bill Cowher
Home Field Heinz Field
Results
Record 15–1
Place 1st in AFC North
Playoff Finish Lost AFC Championship Game (New England Patriots)
Pro Bowlers
Team MVP James Farrior
Team ROY Ben Roethlisberger
Timeline
Previous Season Next Season
2003 2005

The 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers looked to rebound after a disappointing 6–10 season the year before, which saw the team go through the entire season without winning consecutive games.

The team would more than rebound, finishing with a 15–1 record, topping the team-record 14–2 record from 1978 and joined the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, the 1985 Chicago Bears, and the 1998 Minnesota Vikings as the only teams in NFL history since the league adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978 to finish with such a record.[1] This also makes the Steelers the first AFC team to achieve a 15–1 record. Along the way, the Steelers ended the New England Patriots NFL-record 21-game winning streak in Week 8, then defeated the Philadelphia Eagles the following week to hand the NFL's last two undefeated teams their first losses in back-to-back weeks, both at home.

The season was highlighted by the surprising emergence of rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the team's top pick in that year's draft. Originally intended to sit behind veteran Tommy Maddox the entire season, plans abruptly changed when Maddox was hurt in the team's Week 2 loss to Baltimore. Surrounded by talent, "Big Ben" went an NFL-record 13–0 as a rookie starting quarterback, shattering the old NFL record (and ironically, also the team record) of 6–0 to start an NFL career set by Mike Kruczek filling in for an injured Terry Bradshaw in 1976.

The Steelers would host the AFC Championship for the fifth time in eleven years. However, for the fourth time in that same span, the Steelers would lose at home one game away from the Super Bowl, and as in 2001, lost to the Patriots in a rematch from Week 8.

The 2006 edition of Pro Football Prospectus [2], listed the 2004 Steelers as one of their "Heartbreak Seasons," in which teams "dominated the entire regular season only to falter in the playoffs, unable to close the deal." Said Pro Football Prospectus, "In the playoffs, Roethlisberger hit an inconvenient slump, just like the Pittsburgh quarterbacks who came before him.[3] He threw two killer interceptions against the Jets, but the Steelers were bailed out when Jets kicker Doug Brien missed a game-winning field goal. The next week [against New England], [head coach] [Bill] Cowher was clearly worried about Roethlisberger, letting him throw only once on first or second down in the first quarter. By the time the offense opened up, the Patriots were beating the Steelers by two touchdowns. A Roethlisberger interception was returned 87 yards for a touchdown by Rodney Harrison, and the game was effectively over. For the second time in seven years,[4] a 15-1 team had failed to make it to the Super Bowl."

Offseason

The Steelers went into the NFL draft with the eleventh overall pick, their highest selection since selecting Plaxico Burress eighth overall in 2000. Although the team was ready to select Miami University quarterback Ben Roethlisberger if he were to still be available, the team was ready to select other players at "need" positions. However, with Roethlisberger still available, the team snatched him up, making him the third quarterback selected. Alongside Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and J. P. Losman, Roethlisberger was part of the "Class of 2004" quarterbacks. In addition, "Big Ben" became the first quarterback the Steelers selected with their first-round pick since they selected Mark Malone in 1980.

Free agent-wise, the Steelers would sign former Philadelphia Eagles running back Duce Staley. Many thought this signing was the team preparing for a future without Jerome Bettis. However, Staley's injury-prone history from Philly would continue with the Steelers. On the undrafted front, the team signed North Carolina running back Willie Parker. Although Parker would play sparingly his rookie season, he would become a major component of the offense in the future. The team also signed veteran punter Chris Gardocki (releasing longtime punter Josh Miller in the process), who up to that point was best remembered by Steelers fans for flipping head coach Bill Cowher the finger twice on live TV after being leveled by Joey Porter while Gardocki was with the Cleveland Browns. (Porter would be penalized for roughing the punter.) Gardocki was fined $5,000 for the incident, and his signing by the team made him the only player to have played for Cowher and give him an expletive in public.

The most notable releases made in the offseason included releasing veteran defensive players Jason Gildon and Dewayne Washington, who both would subsequently sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars and would both play against the Steelers in Week 13.

In the personnel department, the Steelers went back to the future with the return of "Mean Joe" Greene and Dick LeBeau to the organization. Greene, who along with the entire Arizona Cardinals coaching staff was fired after the dismissal of head coach Dave McGinnis, retired from coaching and returned to the Black & Gold as the "special assistant of player personnel" for the team. Meanwhile, LeBeau, who popularized the zone blitz defensive schemes as the team's defensive coordinator in the mid-1990s (referred to as "Blitzburgh" by fans), returned to the team in that same capacity after a brief stint with the Buffalo Bills, replacing the fired Tim Lewis.

2004 would also be the final season for longtime Steelers radio color-commentator Myron Cope, who missed several games that year due to poor health. It was one of only two times in 35 years that Cope would miss time broadcasting for the Steelers, the other being the 1994 season after the death of his wife. Though Cope would later recover, he felt that it was best to retire, and did so at the end of the season.

Regular season

Schedule

Week Date Kickoff (ET) TV Opponent Result Record Game site NFL Recap
1 Sunday September 12 1:00 pm CBS Oakland Raiders W 24–21 1–0 Heinz Field Recap
2 Sunday September 19 1:00 pm CBS Baltimore Ravens L 30–13 1–1 M&T Bank Stadium Recap
3 Sunday September 26 8:30 pm CBS Miami Dolphins W 13–3 2–1 Pro Player Stadium Recap
4 Sunday October 3 1:00 pm CBS Cincinnati Bengals W 28–17 3–1 Heinz Field Recap
5 Sunday October 10 1:00 pm CBS Cleveland Browns W 34–23 4–1 Heinz Field Recap
6 Sunday October 17 4:15 pm CBS Dallas Cowboys W 24–20 5–1 Texas Stadium Recap
7 Sunday October 24 Bye Week
8 Sunday October 31 4:15 pm CBS New England Patriots W 34–20 6–1 Heinz Field Recap
9 Sunday November 7 1:00 pm Fox Philadelphia Eagles W 27–3 7–1 Heinz Field Recap
10 Sunday November 14 1:00 pm CBS Cleveland Browns W 24–10 8–1 Cleveland Browns Stadium Recap
11 Sunday November 21 1:00 pm CBS Cincinnati Bengals W 19–14 9–1 Paul Brown Stadium Recap
12 Sunday November 28 1:00 pm Fox Washington Redskins W 16–7 10–1 Heinz Field Recap
13 Sunday December 5 8:30 pm ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars W 17–16 11–1 Alltel Stadium Recap
14 Sunday December 12 4:05 pm CBS New York Jets W 17–6 12–1 Heinz Field Recap
15 Saturday December 18 1:30 pm CBS New York Giants W 33–30 13–1 Giants Stadium Recap
16 Sunday December 26 1:00 pm CBS Baltimore Ravens W 20–7 14–1 Heinz Field Recap
17 Sunday January 2 1:00 pm CBS Buffalo Bills W 29–24 15–1 Ralph Wilson Stadium Recap

Game summaries

Week 1 (Sunday September 12, 2004): vs. Oakland Raiders

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Raiders 0 7 3 11 {{{RTotal}}}
Steelers 7 7 7 3 {{{HTotal}}}


at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 1:00 pm EDT
  • Game weather: 74 °F (Mostly Sunny)
  • Game attendance: 60,147
  • Referee: Walt Anderson
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Jim Nantz (play by play), Phil Simms (color commentator), Bonnie Bernstein (sideline reporter)

With the win, the Steelers started their season 1–0 for the 2nd straight year. Jerome Bettis scored 18 points (3 Touchdowns) on 5 carries, yet gained only 1 yard total for an average of 0.2 yards per carry.

Week 2 (Sunday September 19, 2004): at Baltimore Ravens

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 0 0 0 13 {{{RTotal}}}
Ravens 7 6 7 10 {{{HTotal}}}


at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

  • Game time: 1:00 pm EDT
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 69,895
  • Referee: Walt Coleman
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Kevin Harlan (play by play), Randy Cross (color commentator)

With the loss, the Steelers fell to 1–1 for the 2nd straight year. 0–1 in division games and 1–1 in conference games.

Week 3 (Sunday September 26, 2004): at Miami Dolphins

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 3 0 3 7 {{{RTotal}}}
Dolphins 0 0 0 3 {{{HTotal}}}


at Pro Player Stadium, Miami, Florida

  • Game time: 8:30 pm EDT
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 72,225
  • Referee: Bill Leavy
  • TV announcers: (CBS – Local to Miami & Pittsburgh (and surrounding areas)) Gus Johnson (play by play), Brent Jones (color commentator)

The game was originally to be played at 1:00 pm, but was delayed until evening due to Hurricane Jeanne. The game was not broadcast nationally, it was only shown on local stations in the primary and secondary markets of the two teams. With the win, the Steelers improved to 2–1.

Week 4 (Sunday October 3, 2004): vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Bengals 7 3 7 0 {{{RTotal}}}
Steelers 7 7 0 14 {{{HTotal}}}


at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 1:00 pm EDT
  • Game weather: 58 °F (Mostly Sunny)
  • Game attendance: 62,402
  • Referee: Terry McAulay
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Ian Eagle (play by play), Solomon Wilcots (color commentator)

With the win the Steelers improved to 3–1. 1–1 in division games.

Week 5 (Sunday October 10, 2004): vs. Cleveland Browns

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Browns 10 3 3 7 {{{RTotal}}}
Steelers 14 13 7 0 {{{HTotal}}}


at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 1:00 pm EDT
  • Game weather: 54 °F (Cloudy)
  • Game attendance: 63,609
  • Referee: Gerald Austin
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Gus Johnson (play by play), Steve Tasker (color commentator)

With their 2nd straight win over the Browns, the Steelers improved to 4–1.

Week 6 (Sunday October 17, 2004): at Dallas Cowboys

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 7 3 0 14 {{{RTotal}}}
Cowboys 7 3 10 0 {{{HTotal}}}


at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

  • Game time: 4:15 pm EDT
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 64,162
  • Referee: Mike Carey
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Jim Nantz (play by play), Phil Simms (color commentator), Bonnie Bernstein (sideline reporter)

With the win, the Steelers went on their bye week 5–1.

Week 7 (Sunday October 24, 2004): Bye Week

Week 8 (Sunday October 31, 2004): vs. New England Patriots

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Patriots 3 7 3 7 {{{RTotal}}}
Steelers 21 3 10 0 {{{HTotal}}}


at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 4:15 pm EST
  • Game weather: 65 °F (Partly Sunny)
  • Game attendance: 64,737
  • Referee: Walt Coleman
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Jim Nantz (play by play), Phil Simms (color commentator), Bonnie Bernstein (sideline reporter)

This was the game that ended New England's NFL-record 21-game winning streak. Following an Adam Vinatieri field goal in the first quarter, the Steelers erupted, as Ben Roethlisberger twice hit Plaxico Burress for touchdowns and a Tom Brady interception was run back by Deshea Townsend for a touchdown and a 21–3 Steelers lead after one quarter. Brady was picked off twice and Roethlisberger made no mistakes in throwing for 196 yards and amassing a quarterback rating of 126.4. The Steelers routed the Patriots 34–20 and wound up winning the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs as a result. With the win, the Steelers improved to 6–1.

Week 9 (Sunday November 7, 2004): vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Eagles 0 3 0 0 {{{RTotal}}}
Steelers 14 7 3 3 {{{HTotal}}}


at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 1:00 pm EST
  • Game weather: 53 °F (Partly Sunny)
  • Game attendance: 64,975
  • Referee: Bill Carollo
  • TV announcers: (FOX) Joe Buck (play by play), Troy Aikman & Cris Collinsworth (color commentators), Pam Oliver (sideline reporter)

The Steelers for the 2nd week in a row face an undefeated team. The 7–0 Eagles. With the win, the Steelers improved to 7–1 while the Eagles dropped to 7–1.

Week 10 (Sunday November 14, 2004): at Cleveland Browns

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 7 7 0 10 {{{RTotal}}}
Browns 3 0 0 7 {{{HTotal}}}


at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

  • Game time: 1:00 pm EST
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 73,703
  • Referee: Jeff Triplette
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Dick Enberg (play by play), Dan Dierdorf (color commentator), Armen Keteyian (sideline reporter)

Week 11 (Sunday November 21, 2004): at Cincinnati Bengals

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 3 7 7 2 {{{RTotal}}}
Bengals 7 7 0 0 {{{HTotal}}}


at Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Game time: 1:00 pm EST
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 65,780
  • Referee: Larry Nemmers
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Ian Eagle (play by play), Solomon Wilcots (color commentator)

Week 12 (Sunday November 28, 2004): vs. Washington Redskins

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Redskins 0 0 7 0 {{{RTotal}}}
Steelers 3 10 0 3 {{{HTotal}}}


at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 1:00 pm EST
  • Game weather: 66 °F (Partly Sunny)
  • Game attendance: 63,707
  • Referee: Bernie Kukar
  • TV announcers: (FOX) Sam Rosen (play by play), Bill Maas (color commentator)

With the win the Steelers improved to 10-1 and went 4-0 against the NFC East.

Week 13 (Sunday December 5, 2004): at Jacksonville Jaguars

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 7 7 0 3 {{{RTotal}}}
Jaguars 7 0 6 3 {{{HTotal}}}


at Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida

  • Game time: 8:30 pm EST
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 76,877
  • Referee: Bill Vinovich
  • TV announcers: (ESPN) Mike Patrick (play by play), Joe Theismann & Paul Maguire (color commentators), Suzy Kolber (sideline reporter)

For the first time Jerome Bettis was not the all-time active rushing leader in the NFL upon kickoff, as he and Curtis Martin dueled throughout the season for the title, Bettis would retake the title by games end.

Week 14 (Sunday December 12, 2004): vs. New York Jets

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Jets 0 0 3 3 {{{RTotal}}}
Steelers 3 0 0 14 {{{HTotal}}}


at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 4:05 pm EST
  • Game weather: 35 °F (Cloudy)
  • Game attendance: 63,581
  • Referee: Walt Anderson
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Jim Nantz (play by play), Phil Simms (color commentator), Bonnie Bernstein (sideline reporter)

In an NFL first, both running backs came into the game ready to break the 13,000 career yards mark, Jerome Bettis having a 6 yard lead over native Curtis Martin. After the game Martin would lead Bettis by 9 yards.

Week 15 (Saturday December 18, 2004): at New York Giants

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 10 10 3 10 {{{RTotal}}}
Giants 14 0 10 6 {{{HTotal}}}


at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

  • Game time: 1:30 pm EST
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 78,836
  • Referee: Gerald Austin
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Jim Nantz (play by play), Phil Simms (color commentator), Bonnie Bernstein (sideline reporter)

Week 16 (Sunday December 26, 2004): vs. Baltimore Ravens

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Ravens 7 0 0 0 {{{RTotal}}}
Steelers 7 3 7 3 {{{HTotal}}}


at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 1:00 pm EST
  • Game weather: 26 °F (Cloudy)
  • Game attendance: 64,227
  • Referee: Jeff Triplette
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Gus Johnson (play by play), Randy Cross (color commentator)

Jerome Bettis retook the all-time active rushing record from his season-long duel with native Curtis Martin by a margin of 81 yards, and also pass Eric Dickerson for fourth all-time.

Week 17 (Sunday January 2, 2005): at Buffalo Bills

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 10 6 0 13 {{{RTotal}}}
Bills 7 3 7 7 {{{HTotal}}}


at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, New York

  • Game time: 1:00 pm EST
  • Game weather:
  • Game attendance: 73,414
  • Referee: Terry McAulay
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Kevin Harlan (play by play), Randy Cross (color commentator)

Playoffs

Schedule

Week Date Kickoff (ET) TV Opponent Result Game site NFL Recap
Divisional Saturday January 15 4:30 pm CBS New York Jets W 20–17 Heinz Field Recap
Conference Sunday January 23 6:30 pm CBS New England Patriots L 41–27 Heinz Field Recap

Game Summaries

AFC Divisional Playoff (Saturday January 15, 2005): vs. New York Jets

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Jets 0 10 7 0 {{{RTotal}}}
Steelers 10 0 0 7 {{{HTotal}}}


at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 4:30 pm EST
  • Game weather: 28 °F (Clear)
  • Game attendance: 64,915
  • Referee: Bill Leavy
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Dick Enberg (play by play), Dan Dierdorf (color commentator), Armen Keteyian (sideline reporter)

After a brilliant 15–1 regular season the Steelers pulled one out of the fire in the divisional playoffs against the Jets. Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted at the Jets 14-yard line and Reggie Tongue ran back an 86-yard touchdown in the third quarter. After tying the game at 17 in the fourth the Steelers had to sweat out a Jets drive in the final minutes of regulation; they set up for a Doug Brien 37-yard field goal but the kick missed. In overtime Roethlisberger was intercepted again and another Brien field goal was set up, this one 35 yards out – but it again missed. The Steelers drove down field and Jeff Reed's 33-yard field goal ended a 20–17 Pittsburgh win.

AFC Championship Game (Sunday January 23, 2005): vs. New England Patriots

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
Patriots 10 14 7 10 {{{RTotal}}}
Steelers 3 0 14 10 {{{HTotal}}}


at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 6:30 pm EST
  • Game weather: 11 °F (Clear)
  • Game attendance: 65,242
  • Referee: Walt Anderson
  • TV announcers: (CBS) Jim Nantz (play by play), Phil Simms (color commentator), Bonnie Bernstein & Armen Keteyian (sideline reporters)

Revenge for their Halloween loss drove the 15–2 Patriots back to Heinz Field and the conference championship. The shaky play of the Steelers against the Jets the week before was exploited by New England as Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted almost right away, then on their next possession the Steelers were stopped on downs. The Patriots raced to a 17–3 lead in the second quarter before Roethlisberger drove them down field and threw a back-breaking interception to Rodney Harrison at the Patriots 13-yard line; Harrison ran back the 87-yard touchdown and fans at Heinz began chanting for Tommy Maddox to come in to replace Roethlisberger. The Steelers managed a pair of third-quarter touchdowns (a 5-yard Jerome Bettis run and 30-yard Roethlisberger pass to Hines Ward) but these only sandwiched another Patriots score (a 25-yard run by ex-Bengal Corey Dillon) and the Steelers simply could not overcome New England's offense as the Patriots finished off Pittsburgh 41–27, the third playoff win in four career tries by the Patriots over the Steelers.

The game is also significant as the final game by the team's radio broadcaster, Myron Cope. Cope had served as the color commentator on the team's radio broadcast for 35 years. He would publicly announce his retirement five months later.[5]

Roster

2004 Pittsburgh Steelers roster
Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

  • 48 Matt Cushing
  • 88 Matt Kranchick
  • 87 Walter Rasby
  • 85 Jay Riemersma
  • 84 Jerame Tuman
Offensive Linemen
  • 72 Barrett Brooks T
  • 66 Alan Faneca G
  • 64 Jeff Hartings C
  • 56 Chukky Okobi C/G
  • 73 Kendall Simmons G
  • 77 Marvel Smith T
  • 78 Max Starks T
  • 79 Oliver Ross T/G
  • 68 Keydrick Vincent G

Defensive Linemen

  • 96 Kendrick Clancy DT
  • 98 Casey Hampton NT/DT
  • 76 Chris Hoke DT
  • 99 Brett Kiesel DE
  • 90 Travis Kirschke DE
  • 67 Kimo von Oelhoffen DE
  • 91 Aaron Smith DE


Linebackers
  • 97 Kendrell Bell ILB
  • 51 James Farrior ILB
  • 50 Larry Foote ILB
  • 53 Clark Haggans OLB
  • 92 James Harrison OLB
  • 95 Alonzo Jackson OLB
  • 57 Clint Kriewaldt ILB
  • 55 Joey Porter OLB

Defensive Backs

  • 37 Ainsley Battles CB
  • 23 Tyrone Carter FS
  • 21 Ricardo Colclough CB
  • 28 Chris Hope FS
  • 29 Chidi Iwuoma CB
  • 31 Mike Logan SS
  • 43 Troy Polamalu SS
  • 30 Chad Scott CB
  • 33 Russell Stuvaints S
  • 24 Ike Taylor CB
  • 26 Deshea Townsend CB
  • 27 Willie J. Williams CB

Special Teams

  •  3 Jeff Reed K
  •  17 Chris Gardocki P
  • 54 Mike Schneck LS

Standings

Template:2004 AFC North standings

Honors and awards

Pro Bowl Representatives

See: 2005 Pro Bowl

  • No. 36 Jerome Bettis- Running Back (alternate)
  • No. 43 Troy Polamalu- Strong Safety
  • No. 51 James Farrior- Inside Linebacker
  • No. 55 Joey Porter- Outside Linebacker
  • No. 64 Jeff Hartings- Center
  • No. 66 Alan Faneca- Offensive Guard
  • No. 77 Marvel Smith- Offensive Tackle (alternate)
  • No. 86 Hines Ward- Wide Receiver
  • No. 91 Aaron Smith- Defensive End (alternate)

References

  1. The 2011 Green Bay Packers would later be the fifth.
  2. Pro Football Prospectus 2006 (ISBN 0761142177), p.73-75
  3. The article mentions Neil O'Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, and Tommy Maddox.
  4. 1998 Minnesota Vikings
  5. "Cope also created Terrible Towel", June 21, 2005. Retrieved on November 15, 2011. Archived from the original on November 15, 2011. 
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