The Top 5: Essential Jets-Steelers Games

PITTSBURGH PA - DECEMBER 19: Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets runs for a touchdown during the game against Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 19 2010 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

The New York Jets steamrolled over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, with a rousing 48-28 victory, but it's not too early to look ahead to this coming Sunday and their matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets have only beaten the Steelers four times since their first meeting in 1970 (against 17 losses), so we can't do a Top 5 Best Jets Wins Over the Steelers list, so instead we'll do a significant games in the two teams' history list -- and, of course, it's more from the Jets' point of view than the Steelers'. We'll leave out the gut-wrenching playoff losses as well. Why relive those nightmares? There are still three losses on the list, but those were seminal games in the team's history (well, at least two of them are). So, here are the Top 5 games between the Jets and Steelers carrying some sort of historical weight for Gang Green.

5. Nov. 8, 1970: This was the year of the NFL-AFL merger, with the Steelers moving to the newly formed AFC. This game was the first-ever meeting between the two teams, with the Steelers winning, 21-17. The Jets were coming off consecutive playoff appearances, but went 4-10 in 1970, with Joe Namath only playing in five games. The Steelers went 5-9 that year. Longtime Namath backup Al Woodall started for the Jets, while Terry Hanratty, who spent much of his career in and out of the lineup and backing up Terry Bradshaw, led the Steeleres. Jet kicker Jim Turner opened up the scoring with a 17-yard field goal, while Frenchy Fuqua put the Steelers on the scoreboard with a one-yard touchdown run. The only scoring in the second quarter was a 12-yard run from Steeler Warren Bankston. Woodall hit Chuck Mercein with a 15-yard touchdown pass in the second half, but a Hanratty to Fuqua touchdown connection put the game out of reach, as the Jets' last touchdown, a George Nock four-yard run, wasn't enough. Fuqua was the star, with two touchdowns and 63 rushing yards. He set a then-franchise record the last game of the season, when he ran for 218 yards against the Eagles. Two years later, he would be the target in the Immaculate Reception. Fuqua was also known to sport see-through high-heeled shoes with fish swimming in the heels. His fan club was known as Frenchy's Foreign Legion.

4. Sept. 6, 1984: The Jets moved into the Meadowlands in '84, and this was their first home game, losing to the Steelers 23-17. Gang Green opened the season the previous week with a win in Indianapolis, which was the Colts' first game in their new home. The Jets went 7-9 that year, while the Steelers went 9-7 and lost to the Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game. The Steelers' quarterback was David Woodley, who led the Dolphins to victory over the Jets in the Mud Bowl just a few seasons earlier. He hit Louis Lipps with a six-yard touchdown pass for the first points of the game. The first Jet touchdown in their new stadium came next, when Wesley Walker caught a 14-yard pass from Pat Ryan. Two Gary Anderson field goals followed to give Pittsburgh a 13-7 lead at the half. Bobby Humphrey, though, ran back the opening kickoff of the second half 97 yards to give the Jets a slim edge. A Woodley to Weegie Thompson touchdown pass put the Steelers back on top. The longest tenured Jet in franchise history, Pat Leahy, booted a 52-yard field goal, but one more Anderson field goal capped the scoring for the Steelers. Ryan, who tossed three interceptions to go with his one touchdown pass, started 11 games for the Jets that year, with Ken O'Brien starting the other five. Mark Gastineau had two of his league-leading and record-breaking 22 sacks in that game.

3. Oct. 30, 1988: It took them 10 games, but the Jets finally beat the Steelers, 24-20, in 1988. The Jets just missed out on the playoffs, with an 8-7-1 mark, though they knocked the Giants out the postseason with a win on the last day of the season. The Steelers went a lowly 5-11 that year. The Steelers jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter on a 25-yard Gary Anderson field goal and a Bubby Brister to Rodney Carter touchdown strike. The Jets scored the next 17 points on a Pat Leahy field goal and touchdowns by Mickey Shuler (a two-yard pass from Ken O'Brien) and Johnny Hector. Anderson booted another one through the uprights, and the two teams then traded touchdowns, with Freeman McNeil running one in the end zone for the Jets and Earnest Jackson doing the same for Pittsburgh. The Steelers outgained the Jets in total yards, 352 to 196, but the Jets had six sacks to stymie Brister and the Steelers' offense, two of those coming from longtime former Steeler Robin Cole, playing in his only season with the Jets and his last in the NFL.

2. Dec. 19, 2010: This was the game that propelled the Jets into the playoffs and it was also their first-ever win in Pittsburgh. It was the 14th game of the season, with the Jets finishing with an 11-5 record and the Steelers 12-4. No need to rehash the AFC Championship Game between the two (the Steelers went on to lose in the Super Bowl to the Packers). In this December matchup, the Jets' 22-17 victory gave both teams a 10-4 record. Brad Smith opened things up with a bang for the Jets, when he returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The Steelers tied it up when Ben Roethlisberger hit Matt Spaeth with a nine-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, which was followed by Nick Folk and Shaun Suisham trading field goals. In the third quarter, Pittsburgh took the lead on a Rashard Mendenhall two-yard run, but Mark Sanchez's seven-yard score on a bootleg, another Folk field goal and the icing on the cake, a Jason Taylor safety, gave the Jets their historical win.

1. Dec. 10, 1983: It was the final game at Shea Stadium for the Jets, and when it was over, the fans flooded onto the field and tore it apart, even ripping down the goal posts. This was also the last NFL game for Terry Bradshaw, who played part of the game and led his team to a 34-7 victory. The Jets went a mediocre 7-9 that year, while the Steelers' 10-6 record earned them a postseason appearance, but they lost to the Raiders in the first round. Bradshaw began his swan song in style with two first-half touchdown throws, one to Greg Garrity and the other to Calvin Sweeney. Gary Anderson booted two field goals, and Bradshaw's replacement, Cliff Stoudt, tossed a 13-yard pass to Bennie Cunningham to give the Steelers an insurmountable 27-0 lead. Lam Jones (seven catches for 146 yards) scored the last-ever Jet touchdown at Shea in the third quarter, hauling in a 27-yard pass from Pat Ryan. Sweeney and Stoudt hooked up for the last seven points of the game. Franco Harris led all rushers with 103 yards, while the Steelers outgained the Jets on the ground, 242 yards to 36 -- while there was still a field to play on, that is.

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