Smizik: Our cousin Vinny
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IRVING, Texas -- For more than a decade, when the score was close and the game was there for the taking, he has been the quarterback Steelers fans have always wanted in the game ... for the other team.
Vinny Testaverde career vs. the Steelers:
Games -- 12
Record -- 2-10
Touchdowns -- 14
Interceptions -- 17
Sacks -- 11
This is the way it is with Vinny Testaverde and the Steelers, and that's the way it was yesterday at Texas Stadium.
Against the rest of the league, Testaverde's credentials are impressive. He is in the top 10 in most of the important statistical categories for quarterbacks. Truth be known, his numbers would stand the test of the Hall of Fame, although he'll never get close to Canton. He's seventh all-time in completions and yards and ninth in touchdown passes. Statistically, he's right up there with Dan Fouts, Bret Favre and, yes, Joe Montana.
But, against the Steelers, he's a bumbling loser and ridiculed for his incompetence.
He did not disappoint yesterday.
To be sure, it didn't look that way for the longest time. For most of this game, Testaverde was excellent. He had brilliantly led the Dallas Cowboys to 10 points in the third quarter to take the lead by three. Now, with 2:36 remaining, he was one completion away from winning the game.
As Dallas coach Bill Parcells would say later, "If we get the first down, all we've got to do is kneel down on the ball. It's over."
But they didn't get the first down because Vinny Testaverde became Vinny Testaverde.
It was third-and-13 from the Steelers' 47. The Steelers were blitzing, and Testaverde was looking for Keyshawn Johnson, the hot read.
"We were trying to work the ball to Keyshawn," Parcells said. "We thought he could catch it on the run with a quick throw. We had time to talk about it. I don't know if we missed on the protection or not."
Testaverde was looking at Johnson and he didn't see inside linebacker James Farrior come barreling through. He didn't see Farrior push Dallas running back Richie Anderson. And he didn't see the ball come loose as Anderson crashed into him.
Defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen picked up the fumble and rumbled 21 yards to the Cowboys' 24. From there the Steelers scored in five plays to win the game, 24-20.
"I don't know who it hit off or who hit it," Testaverde said. "It definitely hit somebody. It was a disappointing way to lose a game."
But nothing with which Testaverde is not familiar.
He has started 12 times against the Steelers in a career that dates back to 1987, when he was the first player taken in the NFL draft after winning the Heisman Trophy at Miami. Although he's thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in his career, he has 17 interceptions and 14 touchdowns against the Steelers. Although he has had 28 300-yard passing games in his career, he has had none against the Steelers.
His ineptitude against the Steelers has reached nearly legendary status in Pittsburgh.
He was asked if he thought he was snakebit against the Steelers.
"I don't look at it that way," he answered. "Every game is separate. They're always a good football team. I've won my share. But when you lose the last one you played, it's always disappointing."
This one had to be especially so because Testaverde had played so well for the first 57 minutes, 24 seconds. To that point, he had completed 22 of 32 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown. The Cowboys couldn't ask much more from Testaverde, who will be 41 next month.
He was particularly superb in the third quarter as the Cowboys scored 10 points to take a 20-10 lead and control of the game.
On the Cowboys' first possession of the second half, he passed 7 and 20 yards to wide receiver Terry Glenn and 12 to Johnson to set up a 39-yard field goal.
When Dallas got the ball back, he was even better. On first down from his own 32, he threw deep to Glenn for 48 yards. A play later, he hit Johnson for 22 yards and a touchdown.
But that all came undone with the fourth-quarter fumble.
"This was disappointing," said Parcells. "It hurts a lot. I have to give them credit. They played well. They made a play when they needed."
Actually, Vinny Testaverde made a play when the Steelers needed it.
First Published October 18, 2004 12:00 am