Thigpen fakes Ravens, but can't fool his mom Steelers WR has 6 catches for 130 yards, hands off ball to mother after TD

Steelers 37, Ravens 0

November 10, 1997|By Chuck Finder | Chuck Finder,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PITTSBURGH -- On a night of rather offensive football, the offensive play of the night belonged to a wide receiver just trying to please his mom.

And she probably made a better move on the play than her son.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' Yancey Thigpen, whose 130 yards on a half-dozen catches last night nearly surpassed the Ravens' 136 on 15, registered the only score of a 37-0 Pittsburgh romp that wasn't a 1-yard plunge or a field goal. His nifty contribution was a 52-yard, fake-and-streak pattern down the left sideline in the third quarter.

Minnie Thigpen of Tarboro, N.C., broke for the Three Rivers Stadium first row halfway through that pattern, catching on maybe even before Ravens defender Eugene Daniel.

Now we know where the former Pro Bowl receiver gets his speed.

"I'm looking for her to come down, and she was already there," said the son, who proceeded directly from the end zone to the stands behind the Steelers' bench. "She must've gone down there while the ball was in the air.

"I always promised that I would give her a ball. In the heat of battle, before I realized it, I would spike it or dance in the end zone. I felt as though I was going to score tonight. This time, I was focused."

Something about the Ravens brings out the focus in the six-year veteran. He caught seven passes for 162 yards in their meeting last month -- his first 100-yard game since his Pro Bowl season of 1995.

With Charles Johnson ailing of late, Thigpen has emerged as quarterback Kordell Stewart's favorite target. Last night, five of Stewart's first eight passes were directed Thigpen's way. The receiver snared three for 36 yards, all in the first quarter. He added an 18-yarder early in the third quarter for the Steelers' first third-down conversion of the game.

Then, with 6: 36 left in the quarter, he beat Daniel.

"I went to Kordell and said that every time we ran a comeback, they were sitting on it. I said, 'Let's run past 'em.' Finally, we did it. Just as we anticipated, I gave him the comeback move, then went by him. I was probably 10 yards past him before he knew."

But mom knew.

Her son didn't exactly come into the league as a pedigree receiver, although Thigpen vowed to anyone listening that he would make the NFL someday. He caught on at Winston-Salem State only because his Southwest Edgecombe High coach in tiny Pinetops, N.C., dialed up the college and put his star receiver in a car the same day.

From there, he became a special teams player in San Diego, then one in Pittsburgh. His NFL scouting report: Nice speed, nice hands, bad body, always injured.

After catching one, then nine, then 36 passes in three successive seasons with the Steelers, he became Neil O'Donnell's prime target during the 1995 Super Bowl season. Thigpen caught a team-record 85 passes, breaking John Stallworth's mark.

Injuries to his ankle, hamstring and groin limited him to two starts in six games and a dozen catches last season.

Healthy this season, Thigpen leads the Steelers with 47 catches for 828 yards -- on the 27th-best passing team in the NFL.

Then again, more than one-third of those yards came against the Ravens.

Pub Date: 11/10/97

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