September 20, 1970 |
Oilers 19, Steelers 7
November 16, 2017 |
Steelers 40, Titans 17
|Next meeting||TBD (will not play in 2018)|
|Meetings total||78 meetings|
|All-time series||PIT: leads 46–32–0|
|Current win streak||PIT: 2 wins|
The Steelers–Titans rivalry is a National Football League rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans that dates back to the 1970s when the Steelers and then-Houston Oilers played in the AFC Central. The two teams were realigned into separate divisions for the 2002 NFL season, however matchups are still considered heated between the two teams.
When the American Football League completed its merger with the NFL in 1970, three NFL teams were given a $3 million payment to join the former AFL teams to form the American Football Conference. While the Baltimore Colts and the Cleveland Browns readily joined the new conference (the Colts due to the money, the Browns due to owner Art Modell eyeing a potential intrastate rivalry with the Cincinnati Bengals), the Steelers were hesitant to join until Steelers owner Art Rooney told his son Dan Rooney that the payment plus keeping the rivalry with the Browns was important, although it was losing its longstanding rivalry with the Philadelphia Eagles. Additionally, a rivalry with the Bengals also made geographic sense for the team.
While the teams that would form the National Football Conference struggled to agree on a realignment proposal, the AFC teams quickly found an alignment. The Oilers, who were part of the AFL East before the merger simply because it was further east than the Kansas City Chiefs, were placed in the AFC Central with the Bengals, Browns, and Steelers, being the only team in the division that wasn't in or near Ohio. The Oilers were placed in the division at the insistence of Dan Rooney, much to the chagrin of Al Davis. The Oilers and Steelers became acquainted with each other right away, when the two teams met in the season opener of the 1970 NFL season in Pittsburgh, a 19–7 Oilers victory in the first-ever NFL game at Three Rivers Stadium. The two teams met again four weeks later at the Astrodome in Houston, a 7–3 Steelers victory. The opening season win would be the only time the Oilers would be ahead in the overall series; the series would be tied again in 1971, but since then the Steelers have had the overall series lead, currently at 43–31 in the regular season. At 78 meetings overall, the Oilers/Titans franchise has played the Steelers more than any other team in its history.
The rivalry didn't initially pick up steam, as the Steelers were starting to become a powerhouse in the NFL during the 1970s while the Oilers collapsed completely. However, the Oilers became a contender in the latter part of the decade and challenged the Steelers to division and conference supremacy. Unlike other rivalries such as the one between the Steelers and Browns that was based on the close proximity between the two teams and was more fan-driven, the rivalry between the Steelers and the Oilers/Titans franchise was driven on personal hatred between the two teams, much like the concurrent rivalry the Steelers had with the Oakland Raiders or the rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens decades later.
The two teams met in the AFC Championship Game two years in a row at Three Rivers Stadium, with the Steelers dominating the "Luv Ya Blue" Oilers 34–5. The Steelers were expecting a closer encounter in the 1979 AFC Championship Game, which was marred by a controversial call in the third quarter when quarterback Dan Pastorini threw a pass to wide receiver Mike Renfro in the end zone. It was ruled incomplete, despite television replays clearly showing Renfro having possession of the ball with both feet in the end zone; even Steelers radio commentator Myron Cope thought it was a touchdown. The Oilers had to settle for a field goal, and the Steelers would go on to win 27–13; the game itself would spark the debate on whether or not the NFL should have instant replay, which would go into effect for the 1986 NFL season.
Both teams hit hard times once the 1980s hit, with the Oilers quickly sinking to the bottom of the division and the Steelers hit with the retirement of several key players from the dynasty years, only remaining competitive due to the AFC Central as a whole being weak during this time. By 1987, the Oilers began to have sustained playoff appearances again under quarterback Warren Moon and controversial coach Jerry Glanville while the Steelers were still rebuilding from their mid-1980s dropoff.
However, the two teams would clinch a wild card spot in the playoffs in 1989, the only year Chuck Noll would win NFL Coach of the Year. During a regular season matchup in Pittsburgh earlier in the year, following the game the usually stoic Noll in post game handshake grabbed Glanville and told him he'd better watch out or he'd get jumped on. This was in reaction to Glanville's earlier comments on how the Oilers field was the 'house of pain' and his prediction that his players would intentionally hurt the Steelers; bounties are now outlawed in the NFL. In the Wild Card round, the Steelers, despite having been swept by the Oilers in the regular season, defeated the Oilers in overtime 26–23. Glanville would be fired from the Oilers after the game.
The Oilers were the class of the division for the early 1990s, winning two division championships, while the Steelers were slowly becoming a threat again under head coach Bill Cowher. The two would exchange division titles in 1992 and 1993 before the Steelers became the dominant team in the AFC Central due to Oilers owner Bud Adams going through with his threats to blow up the team and rebuild if it didn't go to the Super Bowl.
During this time, both teams were fighting for new stadiums in order to remain competitive. While the Steelers would eventually get one in Heinz Field (although they would've stayed in a refurbished Three Rivers Stadium if the financing plan for Heinz Field fell through), the Oilers couldn't get a new stadium built in Houston and announced they were moving to Nashville for the 1998 NFL season. The Steelers (along with the Bengals) were one of six teams to vote against the proposal out of respect to Houston fans due to the rivalry as well as having recently encountered similar issues with the Browns. The Oilers ended up moving to Tennessee for the 1997 season instead due to lame duck status in Houston; Houston would receive a new NFL team in 2002 when the Houston Texans started play.
Due to the size of Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville (only 41,000 seats), the now-Tennessee Oilers decided to play at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis as an interim home until what would become LP Field was ready to open in 1999. Ironically, most of the crowds in Memphis were more than small enough that Vanderbilt Stadium would've been able to accommodate them. Despite that, the Oilers were planning on playing there again for 1998. That changed after the final game of the season, when the Oilers faced the Steelers in front of 50,677 fans—the only crowd that could not have been reasonably accommodated at Vanderbilt. However, Steeler fans made up the great majority of the crowd (at least three-fourths, by one estimate ), despite the fact that it was a meaningless game for both teams (the Steelers already clinched the AFC Central and a first-round bye in the playoffs, Oilers were already eliminated from the playoffs) and the Steelers were resting several starters. The Oilers won 16–6 against mostly Steelers backup players. Adams was so embarrassed that he abandoned plans to play the 1998 season in Memphis and ended up moving to Vanderbilt after all. Adams would rename the team the Titans in 1999 when Adelphia Coliseum (now LP Field) opened.
The NFL realigned its teams for the 2002 season, placing the Titans in the new AFC South while the Steelers remained in the now-renamed AFC North. Although the two teams wanted to remain together in the same division, they were not able to because the Titans' vote was controlled by the NFL since it recently relocated while the Steelers (along with the Bengals) were required to remain in the same division with the Browns as a result of the NFL's settlement with the city of Cleveland in 1996. Additionally, there was some sentiment to keep the Ravens in the same division as the Steelers, although at least one realignment proposal did have the Titans in the AFC North. Despite that, the Steelers and Titans have still played each other rather frequently, having only not played each other four times. Their most recent matchup was a Thursday Night game on November 16, during the 2017 NFL season at Heinz Field.
Perhaps the most notable matchup since realignment came in 2008, when the two met in Nashville in a game that determined home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs and a possible preview of the AFC Championship Game. LenDale White and Keith Bulluck stepped on a Terrible Towel after the Titans's 31–14 victory. Pittsburgh's Larry Foote responded, "They deserved to do that, they whooped us, they deserve to celebrate and, hopefully, we'll see them again." While Hines Ward said, "T. J. Houshmandzadeh did kind of the same thing and you see where they went." Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, by this point working for CBS as an analyst on The NFL Today, mentioned on The NFL Today (while clearly showing bias in favor of his former team) that such antics can come back to haunt teams. Tennessee proceeded to lose eight consecutive games, including their playoff game against the Ravens and their '09 Week 1 game against the Steelers, capped off by a 59–0 blowout to the New England Patriots, the Titans worst loss ever.
The Steelers edged the Titans 13–10 to open the 2009 season and won again 38–17 in 2010. In 2012 Matt Hasselbeck led the Titans to a close 26–23 win, and in 2013 Jake Locker led a 16–9 win over the Steelers. In 2014, the Steelers rallied from down 24–13 to win 27–24.
|Post Season Meeting||Overtime Result|
1970s (Steelers 16–6)
|1970||September 20||Houston Oilers||19–7||Pittsburgh Steelers||Three Rivers Stadium||First meeting between the two, and first regular-season game at Three Rivers Stadium.|
|October 18||Pittsburgh Steelers||7–3||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|1971||October 24||Pittsburgh Steelers||23–16||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 5||Houston Oilers||29–3||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome|
|1972||October 15||Pittsburgh Steelers||24–7||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 10||Pittsburgh Steelers||9–3||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|1973||September 30||Pittsburgh Steelers||36–7||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|December 9||Pittsburgh Steelers||33–7||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|1974||October 6||Pittsburgh Steelers||13–7||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|December 26||Houston Oilers||13–10||Pittsburgh Steelers||Three Rivers Stadium||Last loss for the Steelers en route to the team's victory in Super Bowl IX. First win for the Oilers against the Steelers in three years.|
|1975||November 9||Pittsburgh Steelers||24–17||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|November 24||Pittsburgh Steelers||32–9||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome||First Monday night game between the two.|
|1976||November 21||Pittsburgh Steelers||32–16||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 11||Pittsburgh Steelers||21–0||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|1977||October 9||Houston Oilers||27–10||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome|
|December 30||Pittsburgh Steelers||27–10||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|1978||October 23||Houston Oilers||24–17||Pittsburgh Steelers||Three Rivers Stadium||First loss of season for Steelers after 7–0 start. Monday night game.|
|December 3||Pittsburgh Steelers||13–3||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|January 7, 1979||Pittsburgh Steelers||34–5||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium||AFC Championship. First postseason game between the Oilers and Steelers.|
|1979||September 9||Pittsburgh Steelers||38–7||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 10||Houston Oilers||20–17||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome||Monday night game.|
|January 6, 1980||Pittsburgh Steelers||27–13||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium||AFC Championship. Game was marked by controversy over the Mike Renfro no-touchdown call.|
1980s (Steelers 12–8)
|1980||September 7||Pittsburgh Steelers||31–17||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 4||Houston Oilers||6–0||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome||Thursday night game. Oilers' first shutout win in series.|
|1981||October 26||Pittsburgh Steelers||26–13||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium||Monday night game.|
|December 20||Houston Oilers||21–20||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome|
|1982||November 7||None||None||Three Rivers Stadium||Game canceled due to 1982 strike|
|November 21||Pittsburgh Steelers||24–10||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome||First game back following 1982 strike.|
|1983||September 18||Pittsburgh Steelers||40–28||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|October 2||Pittsburgh Steelers||17–10||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|1984||November 4||Pittsburgh Steelers||35–7||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 2||Houston Oilers||23–20 (OT)||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome||First overtime game in the rivalry.|
|1985||September 22||Pittsburgh Steelers||20–0||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|November 17||Pittsburgh Steelers||30–7||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|1986||September 28||Pittsburgh Steelers||22–16 (OT)||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|November 16||Pittsburgh Steelers||21–10||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|1987||November 15||Houston Oilers||23–3||Pittsburgh Steelers||Three Rivers Stadium||First win for Warren Moon in the series|
|December 20||Houston Oilers||24–16||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome||First season sweep by the Oilers in the series.|
|1988||October 16||Houston Oilers||34–14||Pittsburgh Steelers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 4||Pittsburgh Steelers||37–34||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome||First Sunday night game between the two. Steelers' lone road victory in 1988, as well as their only win in division play.|
|1989||October 22||Houston Oilers||27–0||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome|
|December 3||Houston Oilers||23–16||Pittsburgh Steelers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 31||Pittsburgh Steelers||26–23 (OT)||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome||AFC Wild-Card Game. Final game as Oilers coach for Jerry Glanville|
1990s (Tied 10–10)
|1990||September 16||Pittsburgh Steelers||20–9||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium||Sunday night game.|
|December 30||Houston Oilers||34–14||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome||Sunday night game.|
|1991||November 24||Pittsburgh Steelers||26–14||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 8||Houston Oilers||31–6||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome|
|1992||September 6||Pittsburgh Steelers||29–24||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome||Bill Cowher's first game as Steelers head coach.|
|November 1||Pittsburgh Steelers||21–20||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|1993||November 28||Houston Oilers||23–3||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome||Sunday night game.|
|December 19||Houston Oilers||26–17||Pittsburgh Steelers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|1994||October 3||Pittsburgh Steelers||30–14||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium||Monday night game.|
|November 6||Pittsburgh Steelers||12–9 (OT)||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|1995||September 10||Pittsburgh Steelers||34–17||Houston Oilers||Houston Astrodome|
|December 3||Pittsburgh Steelers||21–7||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|1996||September 29||Pittsburgh Steelers||30–16||Houston Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|October 20||Houston Oilers||23–13||Pittsburgh Steelers||Houston Astrodome||Final game in rivalry to be held in Houston, and the final game between the two teams before the Oilers relocation to Tennessee in 1997.|
|1997||September 28||Pittsburgh Steelers||37–24||Tennessee Oilers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 21||Tennessee Oilers||16–6||Pittsburgh Steelers||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||Only matchup between the two teams in Memphis to date.|
|1998||November 1||Tennessee Oilers||41–31||Pittsburgh Steelers||Three Rivers Stadium|
|November 15||Tennessee Oilers||23–14||Pittsburgh Steelers||Vanderbilt Stadium||Only meeting between the two to date at Vanderbilt Stadium. Last meeting between the two before Oilers change name to Titans in 1999.|
|1999||November 21||Tennessee Titans||16–10||Pittsburgh Steelers||Adelphia Coliseum|
|January 2, 2000||Tennessee Titans||47–36||Pittsburgh Steelers||Three Rivers Stadium|
2000s (Titans 6–4)
|2000||September 24||Tennessee Titans||23–20||Pittsburgh Steelers||Three Rivers Stadium||Final meeting between the two teams at Three Rivers Stadium. Steve McNair returned after injury two weeks earlier.|
|November 5||Tennessee Titans||9–7||Pittsburgh Steelers||Adelphia Coliseum||Final season sweep by Titans as division rivals.|
|2001||October 29||Pittsburgh Steelers||34–7||Tennessee Titans||Heinz Field||Monday night game.|
|November 25||Pittsburgh Steelers||34–24||Tennessee Titans||Adelphia Coliseum||Final meeting as division rivals. Titans moved to new AFC South for the 2002 season while Steelers remain in AFC Central, renamed AFC North.|
|2002||November 17||Tennessee Titans||31–23||Pittsburgh Steelers||Adelphia Coliseum||Tommy Maddox was knocked out with temporary paralysis and had to sit out several games in ensuing weeks; he returned late in the season.|
|January 11, 2003||Tennessee Titans||34–31 (OT)||Pittsburgh Steelers||Adelphia Coliseum||AFC Divisional Playoffs. Final postseason game between the two teams to date.|
|2003||September 28||Tennessee Titans||30–13||Pittsburgh Steelers||Heinz Field|
|2005||September 11||Pittsburgh Steelers||34–7||Tennessee Titans||Heinz Field|
|2008||December 21||Tennessee Titans||31–14||Pittsburgh Steelers||LP Field||Game is notable for Keith Bulluck and LenDale White stomping on a Terrible Towel late in the game after the Titans secured victory and home-field advantage in the playoffs. It would be the Steelers last loss before winning Super Bowl XLIII, while the Titans wouldn't win another game until Week 7 of the following season, with many Titans fans believing that the losing streak started because of the so-called "Terrible Curse".|
|2009||September 10||Pittsburgh Steelers||13–10 (OT)||Tennessee Titans||Heinz Field||NFL Kickoff game.|
2010s (Steelers 4–2)
|2010||September 19||Pittsburgh Steelers||19–11||Tennessee Titans||LP Field|
|2011||October 9||Pittsburgh Steelers||38–17||Tennessee Titans||Heinz Field||Roethlisbeger ties Steeler record with 5 touchdown passes|
|2012||October 11||Tennessee Titans||26–23||Pittsburgh Steelers||LP Field||Thursday night game. First win of the year for Matt Hasselbeck substituting for injured Jake Locker.|
|2013||September 8||Tennessee Titans||16–9||Pittsburgh Steelers||Heinz Field||The quickest points scored in NFL history occurred (Titans accidentally commit a safety with 14:59 on the clock in the 1st quarter)|
|2014||November 17||Pittsburgh Steelers||27–24||Tennessee Titans||LP Field||Monday night game. At a kickoff temperature of 25 °F (−4 °C), the game is the coldest to be held at LP Field.|
|2017||November 16||Pittsburgh Steelers||40–17||Tennessee Titans||Heinz Field||Thursday night game|
- Bouchette, Dan. Steelers-Oilers/Titans rivalry plays its final act in Pittsburgh under the Monday night spotlight. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2001-11-29.
- Titans-Steelers matchup nothing new, then or now Nashville Post (09/04/2013)
- Cook, Ron (June 22, 1998). "Plan B Flawed; Option Is Worse". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 5, 2008.
- PRO FOOTBALL;N.F.L. Owners Approve Move To Nashville By the Oilers. The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
- Bouchette, Ed (December 22, 2008). "Steelers Notebook: Sacks record doesn't ease sting of loss". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
- Le'Veon Bell rumbles for 204 yards as Steelers rally past Titans ESPN.com (11/18/2014)