Steelers Win Super Bowl XL By Making Big Plays
By Shreyes Seshasai
The Pittsburgh Steelers completed one of the most impressive playoff runs in recent memory on Sunday night, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL. Sixth seed in the AFC, the Steelers defeated the top three seeds in their conference along with the top NFC seed to claim the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl victory, tying San Francisco and Dallas for most Super Bowl victories.
The Steelers won Sunday by making big plays and capitalizing on the opportunities the Seahawks provided them. The game must have been frustrating for the Seahawks, as they were the better team for most of the game, despite having to listen to a crowd primarily rooting for their opponent. Early in the game, the Seahawks were able to move the ball at will against a predictably staunch Steelers defense, but unfortunately they ended up beating themselves, committing penalties at crucial times and nullifying most of the plays that could have easily changed the outcome of the game.
Despite controlling the ball for most of the first half and repeatedly getting into Steelers’ territory, Seattle managed only three points during that period. On each of the first four drives, the Seahawks were able to gain momentum, but were then quickly stopped by three offensive holding calls and a (questionable) offensive pass interference call that cost them a touchdown. While Pittsburgh failed to make even one first down in the first quarter, Seattle could have built up a 7, 14, or even 21 point lead if it were not for the penalties.
Instead, the Steelers stayed within reach, finally found their groove, and took the lead on their last possession of the half, coming up with the big play. Facing 3rd and 28 in Seahawks territory, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made his best play of the game, scrambling left and launching a pass to wide receiver Hines Ward, who came down with it near the goal line. Roethlisberger then took the ball in for a score on 3rd and goal, barely crossing the goal line on a controversial but correct call.
Despite his efforts on this drive, the second year 23-year-old, who supersedes Tom Brady as the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, had a terrible game. During halftime, Steelers coach Bill Cower admitted that Roethlisberger had to settle down in the second half. But except for that one miracle play to Ward, the Steelers had less than 50 yards in the air in the first half, and Big Ben didn’t improve much in the second. He finished the game with a 22.6 quarterback rating, the lowest ever received by the winner of a Super Bowl. He threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, and only managed to complete 9 passes all game. It was the flashy receiver Antwaan Randle El who made the big touchdown pass to Hines Ward after a reverse to clinch the game in the fourth quarter.
Earlier on the first drive of the second half, Pittsburgh running back Willie Parker made another big play for the Steelers, busting through the line to go 75 yards, the longest touchdown run in Super Bowl history. The Steelers gained a quick 14-3 lead and the momentum to start the second half.
Other than this play, the rushing game was nonexistent for the Steelers. Ward was Pittsburgh’s leading rusher in the first half, getting all 18 of his rushing yards on a single play early in the second quarter. The old style rushing game of the Steelers didn’t surface until late in the game; with running back Jerome Bettis eating up valuable clock time, they gave Seattle no chance of a comeback.
This was the final game for Bettis, who after 13 years in the league can go out on top with his first championship. While Bettis didn’t play a major role this game, his leadership and heart were tremendous, and the win comes as the pinnacle of a great career.
While Bettis and the rest of the Steelers celebrate, there’s nothing left for Seahawks fans to do except wonder about the million of ways the outcome could have been different. Perhaps if Hasselbeck had passed more to wide receiver Darrell Jackson, who made all five of his catches in the first quarter, the outcome could have been different. Or if field goal kicker Josh Brown had made one, or even both, of his 50+ yard attempts that missed just wide. Or if tight end Jerramy Stevens, after displaying fine use of his mouth during the week preceding the Super Bowl, could have used his hands once in a while to catch perfectly thrown passes. Or if running back Shaun Alexander could just get lucky and break one, like his counterpart Parker. Or if Seattle coach Mike Holmgren had had the guts to go for it on 4th and 1 late in the first quarter, and keep the momentum with the Seahawks.
In the end, all that matters is the score, and Sunday was Pittsburgh’s night. For two months the Steelers have had a win-or-go-home mentality, and after hoisting the Lombardi trophy, they get to return home as champions of the world.