If you love sports – especially football and the Pittsburgh Steelers – there’s undoubtedly a game that forever sticks in your memory and conjures up some emotions when you think of that game.
For me, that game is – and always will be – December 11, 2005, Chicago Bears at the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
Why, you ask? For me, there are a handful of reasons that have nothing to do with the outcome.
That game was the first Steelers’ game I ever attended. My late grandmother came through in the clutch for my dad and I. For years I had been asking to go to a Steelers’ game, but tickets were too darn expensive (they still are), so I was relegated to watching games from the comfort of my parents’ home.
Make no mistake, many memories were made watching games at home with my dad, but that Sunday at Heinz Field was one I’ll never forget.
I can still see the smile on my grandmother’s face that day in early December where she dropped by the house to hand us an envelope with two tickets to the game. She lit up with a smile seeing me jump and run around the living room screaming my head off in excitement. I still have the ticket stub to this day and use it as a bookmark.
My first game…just my dad and I taking a trip to Heinz Field to see the Steelers and the Bears – two teams my dad idolized growing up – clashing in the snow. I remember being so bundled up going to that game, rocking my Willie Parker jersey in the snow, waving my ice-covered Terrible Towel high above my head, accidentally smacking a Bears’ fan in the face behind me. Oops.
It was a magical day, one that will never leave my memory. Me, my dad, inches of snow piled on our shoulders in the second half as a blizzard moved in, and the iconic touchdown run by Jerome Bettis, running over Brian Urlacher just 10 rows in front of us.
What a game.
The clash between the Bears and Steelers started off fast as on the first possession of the game, Parker took a screen pass from Ben Roethlisberger 45 yards down the right sideline to set the Steelers up deep in Chicago territory against the vaunted Monsters of the Midway defense.
The screen was all set up by two phenomenal blocks by Alan Faneca and Jeff Hartings in space.
Three plays later, Roethlisberger found Hines Ward on a short throw to the left that resulted in a couple of forced missed tackles 14 yards later, leading to the opening touchdown of the game.
To this day, I’m still amazed that Ward scored on this play. It’s incredible all these years later to see that undersized, tough-as-nails wideout fight for every blade of grass. I sure do miss watching him play.
Screens really killed the Bears’ defense in this game. They were far too aggressive working upfield, and when they did the Steelers’ blockers were magnificent in space, picking guys off left and right for the ball carriers to churn through the Bears’ defense.
Early in the second quarter, holding a 7-3 lead, the Steelers turned to the screen again, this time on 3rd and long, calling Verron Haynes’ name.
Haynes made a couple of guys miss and then ran through Jerry Azumah’s tackle attempt at the sticks, extending the drive, which ultimately ended in a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Bettis to take a 14-3 lead.
The score remained the same heading into halftime and then early in the third quarter as the aforementioned snow started to fall heavily at Heinz Field. Incredibly, despite the conditions, Roethlisberger remained sharp, hooking up with Antwaan Randle El to move the sticks on 3rd and 14, seemingly taking the air out of any sense of hope for Chicago on the day.
Look at the way Ben steps into this throw. The ball jumps off his hands. That’s a fun trip down memory lane.
Five plays later, Bettis came through with the most iconic play of the game, and arguably the 2005 season, running over perennial First Team All-Pro and soon-to-be 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Urlacher.
This play happened right in front of me. We sat in the corner of the end zone, 10 rows up, so I had a perfect view. I went crazy when Bettis ran over Urlacher, whom I held in high regard at the time since my dad was a big fan of the man in the middle of Chicago’s defense.
What a run.
Then, for good measure, Bettis ripped off this 39-yard run.
This run sticks out to me in a different way from on the field. In the Super Bowl XL Champions DVD that came out in early 2006 following the triumph, this play is highlighted in the documentary. Former Steelers safety Mike Logan, huddling near a sideline heater, is caught on camera shouting, “The Bus has his snow tires on today!”
That will always stick with me.
Bears running back Thomas Jones later scored on a –yard run early in the fourth quarter, but the 2-point conversion attempt failed and the Steelers’ defense never let the Bears come close to scoring again.
Bettis ended up being the star of the game, turning in his 62nd career 100-yard rushing performance, finishing with 101 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. The Steelers’ defense sacked Bears quarterback Kyle Orton (sacks by Joey Porter, Clark Haggans and Kimo von Oelhoffen).
The win helped kick-start the Steelers into a 8-game winning streak that culminated in at 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.