2004 Pittsburgh Steelers season
The 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers looked to rebound after a disappointing 610 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 151 record, topping the teamrecord 142 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 16game schedule in 1978 to finish with such a record. This also makes the Steelers the first AFC team to achieve a 151 record. Along the way, the Steelers ended the New England Patriots NFLrecord 21game winning streak in Week 8, then defeated the the following week to hand the NFL's last two undefeated teams their first losses in backtoback 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 NFLrecord www.raidersofficialonline.com/33_tyvon_branch_jersey_authentic_black_limited_cheap.html 130 as a rookie starting quarterback, shattering the old NFL record (and coincidentally, also the team record) of 60 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, 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. He threw two killer interceptions against the Jets, but the Steelers were bailed out when Jets kicker Doug Brien missed a gamewinning 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, a 151 team had failed to make it to the Super Bowl."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 firstround pick since they selected Mark Malone in 1980.
Free agentwise, the Steelers would sign former running back Duce Staley. Many thought this signing was the team preparing Tyvon Branch Black Jersey for a future without Jerome Bettis. However, Staley's injuryprone 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 Tyvon Branch Authentic Jersey flipping head coach Bill Cowher the finger twice on live TV after being leveled by Joey Porter while Gardocki was with the . (Porter would be penalized for roughing the punter.) Gardocki was fined $5,000 for the incident, and his signing raidersofficialonline.com/33_tyvon_branch_jersey_authentic_black_limited_cheap 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 mid1990s (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 colorcommentator 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.