The Oilers Opening Day Upset Of 1992

September 7, 2022
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In 1992, Bill Cowher was given the reins to one of the best franchises in all of sports. For 33 years, Chuck Noll led the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins and Cowher was called in to step into his footsteps. Steelers fans didn’t know what to expect from the young Cowher. The Steelers were eight years removed from their last AFC Championship appearance and thirteen years removed from their last Super Bowl win.

1992: Steelers at Oilers

For the Steelers first game of the season, they matched up against the mighty Oilers in the Houston Astrodome. The Oilers were coming off a year in which they won the AFC Central and nearly made it to the AFC Championship. Houston had a talented offense with quarterback Warren Moon, running back Lorenzo White, and wide receiver Haywood Jeffires. The Oilers also had a powerful defense with Ray Childress spearheading the charge. Meanwhile, the Steelers were still in the process of figuring some things out after the rebuilding years of the late-1980s. Entering the game, the Oilers were 12.5-point favorites.

The Week 1 game started with the Steelers fumbling, and the Oilers returning the ball for a touchdown. Warren Moon then hit Ernest Givens in the end zone for another touchdown. Down 14-0, Bill Cowher made a very gutsy call for a young coach. He called for a fake punt attempt on 4th down, which ultimately worked. The Steelers then proceeded to score a touchdown on the back of Barry Foster. Later in the 2nd quarter, Neil O’Donnell threw a touchdown pass to Jeff Graham to cut the deficit to 17-16. The Steelers failed to stop Warren Moon again, so he scored another touchdown to hold a 24-16 lead at halftime.

The Steelers defense held strong in the 3rd quarter and Gary Anderson hit two field goals to trim the lead to 24-22. The Steelers defense continued to swarm Warren Moon and made him make bad decisions. The Steelers scored the final touchdown on a Neil O’Donnell pass to Adrian Cooper. The Steelers conquered their first lead of the game at 29-24 and it stayed at that through the rest of the game.

The Steelers defensive efforts against legendary Warren Moon forced him to surrender five interceptions. The Steelers defense continued to be the face of the 1992 season as they won the AFC Central Title with a 11-5 record. The Steelers met with the Oilers on November 1, and Pittsburgh overcame another deficit, coming back from 20-7 to winning 21-20.

Aftermath

The Steelers clinched the 1-seed in the AFC for the first time since the 1978 season. Unfortunately, the inexperienced Steelers lost at home to the Bills 24-3 in the Divisional Round. The Bills were coming off of a game called “The Comeback” in the Wildcard Round. Down 35-3 to the Oilers, the Bills led an improbable comeback to win 41-38 in overtime.

The 1992 season was the prelude to the Steelers playoff disappointments of Bill Cowher’s tenure. In 1994, 1997, 2001, and 2004, the Steelers lost at home in the AFC Championship. It wasn’t until the 2005 season when Cowher fulfilled his Super Bowl duty to the city of Pittsburgh.