Steelers Throwback Thursday: Pittsburgh, Miami, a hurricane and mud bowl
Steel City Underground takes fans back in time to feature events, special moments, and historical times and players in the world of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation. Join us as we revisit these moments in our “Steelers Throwback Thursday” series.
Two times in the recent NFL past, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins have gone head to head in games that were more fit for a slip-n-slide than helmets and footballs. One game was affected by a hurricane and the other torrential rain that turned the turf at Heinz Field into mud soup; the conditions less than ideal for professional football games.
The fact that those two games involved Pittsburgh and Miami seemed like something only mythology could create: a clash of titans at the mercy of nature itself.
September 26, 2004
In what was Ben Roethlisberger‘s first career start, the Steelers were forced to play smash-mouth ball in the wake of Hurricane Jeanne against the Dolphins in Miami. With rain flooding the field – and every inch of everyone on and surrounding the playing surface – a sloppy match ensued.
Pittsburgh’s defense forced four turnovers; Troy Polamalu and Deshea Townsend grabbed an interception apiece, and three fumbles were forced (two were recovered by James Farrior, one by Miami).
“The weather in the first half was not conducive to doing anything. We couldn’t even hold the ball. Both teams couldn’t throw it. But that’s the kind of football I love.” – Coach Bill Cowher
The Steelers didn’t get a touchdown until the third quarter in a game that featured plenty of punts as both offenses struggled to maintain control of the ball in the downpour.
“That was the worst weather I ever played in.” – WR Hines Ward
The Steelers held the Dolphins to just a field goal in the 13-3 road victory.
November 26, 2007
Ward likely had a bit of deja vu, along with many on the Steelers roster and staff, when – instead of turkey for Thanksgiving – they hosted the Dolphins on a field that had its own life story to tell.
Due to high school championship games that began on the 23rd and a college game on Saturday between Pitt and South Florida, the Heinz Field sod was shredded. Anticipating rain for Monday’s NFL game, the Steelers organization ran with an idea the league posited: add another layer of sod over the top of the old and get ready to roll.
Unfortunately, tarps did very little to keep the turf that Art Rooney II had walked on, with others in the franchise, to test on Sunday night from becoming historically nightmare-inducing during the game.
As both squads tried to keep their cleats out of the soup, Mike Tomlin and Cam Cameron tried to coach their respective teams to something that resembled victory. It was a tall ask from the head coaches as players were sucked into the merged layers of sod that had absorbed nearly two inches of rain before the opening kickoff. And it kept raining.
In a game that ended 3-0 in Pittsburgh’s favor, the first true opportunity for a score didn’t occur until late in the third quarter. Dolphins punter Brandon Fields kicked the ball from Miami’s end zone… and that ball made it 37 yards before it lodged itself, point straight down, into the mud.
Kicker Jeff Reed alleged his subsequent hooked field goal attempt was the result of the earth shifting, literally, beneath him. The ball was no longer where it had been.
Passes from Roethlisberger to Ward were key in a final drive that led to Reed making a 24-yard field goal for the victory.
The “Mud Bowl” would become infamous for the turf conditions and a teaching tool for Tomlin.