Home Steelers 2022 Season Steelers History: Rod Woodson Ends Saints’ Unbeaten Run

Steelers History: Rod Woodson Ends Saints’ Unbeaten Run

by Gordon Dedman

The New Orleans Saints joined the NFL in 1967, thirty-four years after Pittsburgh’s pro team came to life. The Saints lead the contests 9-7, but in Pittsburgh it is an even 3-3. The Saints have enjoyed winning the last three contests and will set a new statistic if they make it four.

Chuck Noll’s teams enjoyed a winning record against New Orleans. When his era finished in 1992, Bill Cowher took over as head coach taking the team to the playoffs in his debut season.

In the 1993 draft, Pittsburgh boosted their defense by selecting Deon Figures and Chad Brown with their first two picks. They were joining Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, and Rod Woodson in a solid defense that would evolve into a replacement for the Steel Curtain; the Blitzburgh Steelers.

In the merry-go-round known as free agency in the nineties, Atlanta’s backup quarterback Wade Wilson signed with the Saints in April 1993 after their starter Bobby Herbert looked for greener pastures. Wilson won the quarterback battle in training camp and opened the season with five straight wins.

The Steelers were rumored to be looking to trade their quarterback, Neil O’Donnell. As a restricted free agent, Tampa offered O’Donnell a $8 million three-year contract. Pittsburgh matched it, but they also kept the door ajar for a trade by signing free agent Mike Tomczak from Cleveland.

The Saints arrived in Pittsburgh as the last unbeaten team in the NFL and Lloyd was anticipating the contest with relish. “It won’t be much that’s too fancy about it,” he admitted. “It’s going to be two teams just lining up and going at it. When it’s over, we’ll see who’s left. It’s one of the games you like to play in because you know where everybody’s going to be.”

Coach Cowher agreed with Lloyd adding, “It’s a classic football game. I think it’s one that our players, myself included, are kind of looking forward to it.”

The (3-2) Steelers vs the (5-0) Saints, October 17, 1993

With two of the stingiest defenses in the league facing each other, a low scoring battle of attrition was expected.

When Barry Foster lost a fumble on the Steelers first possession, it was Superman Rod Woodson who got the ball back for the Steelers. On New Orleans’ second play from scrimmage, Woodson showed why he was the top ranked cornerback. Wade’s pass to rookie Derek Brown went through his hands and Woodson plucked if from the air before racing 63 yards for the opening touchdown.

Still in the first quarter, another Woodson interception set up a Neil O’Donnell touchdown pass of 20 yards to Barry Foster. While the Saints were struggling to move the chains, the Steelers piled on the yards while adding to their score.

In the second quarter, Gary Anderson kicked a 40-yard field goal before Foster plunged over from 1-yard to increase the Steelers lead to 20-0. As the first half was expiring, the Saints eventually made a first down which validated how good the Steelers’ defense had performed.

Leroy Thompson entered the game as the featured Steelers back when Foster sat out with a bruised right shoulder. After fumbling his second carry, Thompson carried eight times on the Steelers next series. Dermontti Dawson extended the drive when on a third-and-five, he snapped the ball directly to Thompson who ran for 9 yards.  The drive ended with a 22-yard field goal.

Thompson’s run of 31 yards on the Steelers next possession moved the chains into Saints’ territory and ended when Anderson kicked another field goal, this one from 29 yards.

With the game entering the final period, Coach Cowher gave some of the second-string playing opportunity. A Levon Kirkland sack saw the Saints’ subsequent fumble recovered by Kevin Greene who returned it five yards to the Steelers’ 45. Pittsburgh’s 55-yard drive was finished when Mike Tomczak threw a pass that was tipped into the arms of Eric Green for a 26-yard touchdown and the Steelers’ led 37-0.

As time expired, the Saints scored two consolation touchdowns, but their unbeaten record had ended abruptly in Three Rivers Stadium.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 37 vs the New Orleans Saints 14

The Steelers allowed only 49 yards rushing which was the sixth straight time they held opponents to fewer than 100 yards.

“We got a butt-kicking big time by a good football team,” Saints Coach Jim Mora acknowledged. Of Rod Woodson, Mora said, “There isn’t anybody any better. He’s not only a very skilled athlete, but he’s a great competitor and extremely tough. He’s everything you’re looking for in an NFL player.

“I think (the players) are proud of how they played, but this is something you should expect to do every week when you go out and play,” offered Coach Cowher.

“I’ve been in the league nine years, and I’ve never been around a defense playing as well as this one,” said Kevin Greene who gained two of the Steelers’ five sacks. “It’s coming together,” suggested Greene before adding, “It was a great victory against a 5-0 team.”

At the end of the season, the Steelers finished 9-7 and were second to Houston in the AFC Central and advanced into the playoffs where they lost to Kansas City in the wildcard game.

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