One For The Thumb, Baby!

For More On Steelers Nation…..CAHR PAHR!

Matthew Sekeres, CanWest News ServicePublished: Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after his team won Super Bowl XL, 21-10 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Photograph by : Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

DETROIT — Earlier this week, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant was asked about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ propensity for trick plays and replied that such gimmicks were always in the back of his mind.

Today, Pittsburgh’s trickery is at the front of conversations everywhere.

The Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl on Sunday night, tying the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers for most ever. Pittsburgh notched a 21-10 victory over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL before 68,206 at Ford Field.

The storied franchise finally has "One for the Thumb," the phrase coined after the Steelers won four National Football League championship rings in a six-season period from 1975 to 1980.

"Mr. Rooney, I’ve been waiting a long time for this," head coach Bill Cowher said as he handed chairman Dan Rooney the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Rooney, the son of club founder Art "The Chief" Rooney, is celebrating his 50th year in Black-and-Gold employ and is one of the last living links to the NFL’s humble infancy.

Wide receiver Hines Ward, who caught five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, was named the game’s most valuable player and running back Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, the Motor City native adored by his teammates, announced his retirement immediately after the game.

"I play this game for championships. I am a champion, and I think the last stop for The Bus is here in Detroit," the 13-year veteran said.

Pittsburgh completed the most gruelling gauntlet in NFL playoff history, capping the run against the NFC champion Seahawks, who finished the regular season 13-3. The Steelers, who finished 11-5 and won their final eight games, became the first sixth seed to win the Super Bowl, needing playoff road victories over the AFC’s top three teams – Indianapolis, Denver and Cincinnati.

There were many heroes along the way, but the Super Bowl will be remembered for that signature trick play.

Antwaan Randle-El became the first receiver in Super-history to throw a touchdown pass, hitting Ward for a 43-yard score with 8:56 remaining.

Randle-El took a reverse handoff from tailback Willie Parker and faked as though he would run. Instead, the former college quarterback tossed a perfect ball to Ward behind Seattle’s Trufant for a championship-clinching touchdown.
"It was the same play we ran against Cleveland (in the regular season)," said Ward. "Antwaan threw it where I could catch it and I made the play for him."

At least 80 per cent of those in attendance were rooting for Pittsburgh, many waved yellow "terrible towels" above their heads and filled the closed stadium with chants of "here we go Steelers, here we go."

Ward’s touchdown sealed the win, but the tide turned early in the second half, shortly after Seattle lost free safety Marquand Manuel to a groin injury.

Etric Pruitt, a third-stringer earlier in the season, was the only replacement available and on the second play of the third quarter, he and strong safety Michael Boulware both missed tackles, allowing Parker to race 75 yards for a touchdown.

It was the Super Bowl’s longest rush ever, and put Pittsburgh ahead 14-3.

A second injury in the Seattle secondary would turn out to be less devastating.

In fact, it was fortunate.

Even though cornerback Kelly Herndon, replacing starter Andre Dyson, was victimized twice on Pittsburgh’s second possession of the half, he redeemed himself quickly. Herndon intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass near the Seattle goal-line, preventing certain Pittsburgh points that probably would have put the game out of reach.

More importantly, his 76-yard return (also a Super Bowl record) revived Seattle’s dying hopes.

Three plays later, Matt Hasselbeck found tight end Jerramy Stevens wide open in the end-zone, a 16-yard connection that sliced the deficit to four points.

"Down 14-3, and with them driving on us, we needed to make a play," said Herndon. "After that, we felt momentum was going to go our way."

It did – at least for a while.

Pittsburgh’s sideline looked deflated until Hasselbeck made a critical error. The quarterback was intercepted by Ike Taylor at Pittsburgh’s one-yard line early in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for the Randle El-to-Ward trickery.

The Steelers entered halftime with a controversial 7-3 lead, the result of a phantom touchdown by Roethlisberger.

The quarterback dove towards the end-zone from one yard away and was judged to have broken the plane of the goal-line. Replays suggested otherwise, but after a video review, the call stood.

That capped a miraculous Pittsburgh drive, one that looked to be dead when the Steelers faced a third-and-28 near midfield. But Roethlisberger connected with Ward on a helter-skelter play good for 37 yards and a first down.

It was a rare highlight, as Big Ben completed just nine of 23 passes and tossed two interceptions.

© Ottawa Citizen 2006

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