In the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, few defenses are above the 1994 Blitzburgh group that dominated teams week after week.
That season, Pittsburgh allowed the second-fewest points per game in the league at just 14.6, which helped the Steelers in the third year under head coach Bill Cowher go 12-4 and reach the AFC Championship Game.
Led by star pass rushers Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd, and a terrific inside linebacker duo in Levon Kirkland and Chad Brown, the Blitzburgh defense changed the league under Dom Capers, punishing teams week after week. That included a long roadtrip to Los Angeles on Nov. 27, 1994 to take on the Raiders at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Riding into the post-Thanksgiving matchup at 8-3, Pittsburgh was on a roll. The Raiders, on the other hand, weren’t, coming in at 6-5.
Though the two teams were historic rivals and were always in close matchups, the 1994 matchup was not particularly close at any point in the game, thanks to the Blitzburgh defense.
On the day, the Steelers allowed just 179 yards of total offense, forced two turnovers and sacked Los Angeles quarterback Jeff Hotstetler and Vince Evans five times.
Early on, things were a bit sloppy as the two teams didn’t do much of anything offensively. Pittsburgh had two penalties on its first offensive drive that stalled things, and Los Angeles punted the ball away after five plays.
Then, on the second offensive drive of the game, the Steelers got going.
Quarterback Mike Tomczak, starting his second straight game for the injured Neil O’Donnell, found Ernie Mills for 10 yards and then found the big, lumbering tight end Eric Green for 20 yards, sparking Pittsburgh offensively.
Following the splash play to Green, Tomczak found wide receiver Yancey Thigpen for 15 yards, which then set up a 27-yard touchdown pass between the two.
On a second and 11 from the Los Angeles 27, Tomczak found Thigpen wide open over the middle. The receiver did the rest, racing untouched into the end zone for the game’s opening score.
With a 7-0 lead, Pittsburgh turned up the heat, eventually forcing a punt, giving the ball back to the Steelers offense.
The Steelers went three-and-out though, putting the defense back on the field.
Los Angeles mounted a strong drive. Hostetler found Harvey Willams for 25 yards and wide receiver Tim Brown for 10 yards, eventually setting up a Jeff Jaeger 32-yard field goal with 11:23 left in the second quarter, making it a 7-3 game with Pittsburgh in front.
Things got pretty quiet offensively after that, thanks in large part to Pittsburgh’s defense.
Chad Brown sacked Hostetler for a loss of 7 yards on Los Angeles’ next drive, forcing a three-and-out. He made fullback Tom Rathman look silly in space with the swim move.
Pittsburgh got the ball back in scoring position after a 16-yard punt return by cornerback Rod Woodson, but kicker Gary Anderson later missed a 49-yard field goal, keeping it a 7-3 game.
Later in the second quarter, Pittsburgh really started to assert its dominance defensively, especially from a physical standpoint.
Trying to establish a run game, Los Angeles kept feeding Williams, but Kevin Greene and defensive end Ray Seals met him head-on in the backfield for a monster hit and a loss of a yard.
Two plays later, Los Angeles turned the ball over on downs. The teams traded punts after that and went into the half with the Steelers holding a 7-3 lead in a physical game overall.
Coming out of the half after yet another Anderson missed field goal, this time from 54 yards, the Steelers defense took the game into its own hands.
Pittsburgh forced a fumble by Tim Brown on the Raiders’ first drive of the second half, leading to a Darren Perry recovery.
Following the fumble recovery, Pittsburgh appeared to be in a good spot offensively as running back Barry Foster ripped off gains of 8 and 7 yards, but a false start on Duval Love set the Steelers back, eventually punting the football away.
The Raiders responded with a 14-yard run by Williams on the first play of their next drive, but Greene and Blitzburgh shut down the drive as Greene sacked backup quarterback Vince Evans, in the game due to a Hostetler injury, for a 7-yard loss, forcing a punt.
Looking to build off of the sack and change of possession, the Steelers leaned on the ground game as running back Bam Morris ripped off a pair of 7 yard runs, and Foster gained 7, 5 and 9 yards, but the drive stalled in the red zone and Anderson again missed a field goal — this time from 27 yards — keeping it a 7-3 game late into the third quarter.
Blitzburgh did its best to give the Steelers a spark again, this time it was Greg Lloyd.
Evans, scrambling looking to make a play, was loose with the football. Lloyd knocked the ball out and Seals recovered, giving Pittsburgh the ball right back.
That gave the Steelers the spark they needed.
Foster then gained 23 yards on his first carry of the drive, and then Tomczak went back to his trusty tight end in Eric Green in the red zone.
Tomczak found Green from 15 yards out on third and 6 for a 15-yard score in tight coverage, giving Pittsburgh a 14-3 lead with 9:22 left in the fourth quarter.
At that point with the Blitzburgh defense, the game was over.
Hostetler came back into the game for the Raiders aiming to get things going offensively, but Greene and rookie outside linebacker Jason Gildon hit home for the Steelers.
After the pair of sacks, Pittsburgh put the game away for good, thanks to Morris and Foster on the ground.
Taking the air out of the ball, the Steelers punched Los Angeles in the mouth over and over again after starting near midfield.
Foster recorded back-to-back gains of 5 yards on the ground, and then Morris put the game away for good with runs of 5 and 7 yards before plunging home from 3 yards out for the final score of the game.
In the win, Tomczak was 12-of-27 passing for 131 yards and two touchdowns, while Foster added 82 yards on 20 carries and Morris chipped in with 50 yards and a score on 12 carries. John L. Williams added another 40 yards on five carries. Thigpen led the way through the air with four receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Greene finished with two sacks, while Brown, Lloyd and Gildon added one sack each.
The win moved Pittsburgh to 9-3 on the season. Pittsburgh finished 12-4 overall and went on to win the AFC Central, defeating the Cleveland Browns 29-9 in the divisional round before falling in heartbreaking fashion in the AFC Championship Game to the San Diego Chargers, 17-13.