DETROIT (Feb. 5, 2006)--Paint this Super Bowl black and gold. With a whole lot of satisfaction for Jerome Bettis, Bill Cowher and his Pittsburgh Steelers. The final Bus stop featured a little trickery starring MVP Hines Ward, a bunch of help from the Seattle Seahawks and a huge boost from the Terrible Towels, a handful of football fortune that added up to "One for the Thumb."
The Steelers' 21-10 victory in the Super Bowl was their record-tying fifth, but the first since 1980 and the first ever for Bettis and Cowher. "It's been an incredible ride," Bettis said. Moments after the Rolling Stones rocked a Ford Field that could easily have been Heinz Field--or Hines' field--Willie Parker broke a record 75-yard touchdown run. The Steelers earned that elusive ring and completed a magic Bus ride that made Bettis' homecoming--and farewell--a success. "I'm a champion. I think the Bus' last stop is here in Detroit," Bettis said. "It's official, like the referee whistle."
On this night, satisfaction was more than Mick Jagger's signature song that closed the halftime show. It was sweet validation for Cowher with a title in his 14th season as their coach, the longest tenure in the NFL. The tough guy, who lost his only previous Super Bowl 10 years ago to Dallas, teared up as he walked to midfield to embrace Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren (who no-showed...JAH). "A lot of people tell you you can't do it, but you know what, it doesn't mean you don't go out and try," Cowher said. "History was not going to determine our fate. Our effort today decided this game and that's what's great. It's surreal. I'm going to tell you, this is a special group of coaches, a special group of players. I was one small part of this."
Pittsburgh tied San Francisco and Dallas with its five Super Bowl titles. After multiple AFC title game appearances and a Super Bowl loss, Bill Cowher has his trophy.
Perhaps the most special moment for Cowher came when he presented the Vince Lombardi Trophy to 73-year-old owner Dan Rooney. "I've been waiting a long time to do this," Cowher said. "This is yours, man."
The Steelers certainly got plenty of help from the Seahawks. Seattle was plagued by penalties, drops, poor clock management and a critical fourth-quarter interception of Matt Hasselbeck just when the NFC champions seemed ready to take the lead.
Instead, Pittsburgh (15-5) got the clinching score with the kind of trickery that has carried it through an eight-game winning streak. Versatile wideout Antwaan Randle El, a quarterback in college, took a handoff from Parker, sprinted right and threw perfectly to Ward for a 43-yard TD with 9:04 remaining. It was the first Super Bowl touchdown pass by a receiver.
Bettis, with 43 yards on 14 carries, had a minimal role in what was the final game for the NFL's No. 5 career rusher.
So did quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The most noteworthy play for the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl was a horrid pass that Kelly Herndon of the Seahawks (15-4) returned a record 76 yards. That set up the Seahawks' only touchdown, a 16-yard pass to Jerramy Stevens--Joey Porter, his verbal sparring partner all week, was nowhere in sight. Neither was All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu.
But with Parker's burst and Seattle's self-destructive tendencies, the Steelers completed their postseason march through the NFL's top four teams: Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Denver and Seattle, with all the wins coming away from Heinz Field.
"I could've had an even better day," said Ward, who had five receptions for 123 yards and the touchdown.
Seattle, looking nothing like a team that rampaged through its conference, damaged itself all day. It had four penalties for 40 yards in the opening half, one that nullified a touchdown pass. The second half wasn't much better, and Ike Taylor's 24-yard return with Hasselbeck's poor throw gave Pittsburgh the one last opportunity it needed.
"This is a tough pill to swallow," Holmgren said, "but we accomplished a lot this year. While you don't have a great feeling after a game like this, I want them to remember this feeling, so they can build on it."
The 23-year-old Roethlisberger achieved it more with his legs than his arm. He dived into the end zone from the 1 late in the first half, barely reaching the goal line--if at all--according to a replay, and converted enough second-half first downs to wind down the clock. Usually, that is Bettis' job. But this day, he was just along for his final ride.
What a journey it has been.
The Steelers were 7-5, then won their final four regular-season games to secure the AFC's last playoff spot. They went to Cincinnati and won a wild-card game. They won at Indianapolis, which had the league's best record. And then they handed Denver its first home loss in the AFC Championship Game.
And now they have their "One for the Thumb"--the first four came in their Steel Curtain days, won by the likes of Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris.
Early on, the noise seemed to unnerve the Steelers, who had two motion penalties on their first offensive series. Of course, none of their active players ever played in a Super Bowl. Seattle forced another three-and-out on Pittsburgh's next possession, keeping Bettis on the sideline, then took the lead. Josh Brown made a 47-yard field goal with 22 seconds left in the first quarter after the Seahawks lost a touchdown on Darrell Jackson's pass interference in the end zone. Jackson still had 50 yards on five receptions in the quarter.
Bettis made his Super Bowl debut 2:47 into the second quarter with the Pittsburgh offense in dire need of a boost. The Steelers got it, but from an 8-yard completion to Randle El for their initial first down--19 minutes into the game. Ward followed with an 18-yard run on an end-around, but Roethlisberger's ill-advised lob on the next play was picked off by safety Michael Boulware at the Seattle 25.
With Seattle's other safety, Marquand Manuel, sidelined in the second quarter with a right ankle injury, Roethlisberger began finding open receivers. Ward gained 12 yards, Cedrick Wilson got 20 and, moments after Ward dropped a pass in the corner of the end zone, he outwrestled Boulware for a 37-yard completion.
The Bus couldn't roll in on two tries, then the 6-foot-5 Roethlisberger dived left and barely squeezed the ball over the goal line. A replay review upheld the touchdown with 1:55 remaining in the half. Perhaps unnerved themselves by the ruling, the Seahawks squandered much of that time before Brown missed a 54-yard field goal wide right. Holmgren argued as he walked off the field that the ball never crossed the goal line, but referee Bill Leavy told him it did.
Seattle also could bemoan a holding call on Peter Warrick 's 32-yard punt return to open the second quarter, and a goal-line completion to Jackson on which he barely was out of bounds. It didn't get a lot better in the second half for Seattle, and Holmgren failed to become the first coach to win Super Bowls with two franchises. In 1997, his Green Bay Packers beat New England. But his Seahawks didn't give themselves much of a chance. By the end, the crowd was singing "Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go."
Who knows, maybe Jagger was singing along.