The Pittsburgh Steelers tried for more than a decade under Bill Cowher to win a Super Bowl, essentially without what one might call a ‘franchise quarterback’. They made it to the title game with Neil O’Donnell in 1995, but after tossing two picks to the Dallas Cowboys, he departed in free agency. Kordell Stewart helped take them to a couple of conference finals, but that is as far as it went.
Then they drafted Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, following an uncharacteristic 6-10 season, and it seemed like things had changed immediately. They couldn’t lose. They posted their best regular season record in history at 15-1 and reached the conference finals in his rookie year, seemingly setting them up for a run.
But then they found themselves sitting at just 7-5 with five games to play in the 2005 season, wondering what had happened, with all the expectations placed on them as a frontrunner entering the year for the title, that possibility seemingly slipping away.
Of course, they turned things around and went off on a 4-0 run to end the regular season, advancing to the postseason as the sixth seed and becoming the first team ever to win the Super Bowl from that spot, defeating the top three seeds in their conference and the top seed in the opposite conference. Former linebacker James Farrior recounted their mindset at that moment.
“We tried to stay laser-focused and just tried to hone in on what we needed to do and take it one game at a time”, he said in a conversation with Stan Savran on the team’s website. “Our backs were against the wall, and any game that we lost would put us out of the playoffs, so Coach Cowher mentioned that our playoffs was starting the next week, and if we wanted to make it to the real playoffs, then we had to win one game every week, and I think we took that one-game approach at a time”.
That run, of course, started with a win over the Chicago Bears, which featured the now-iconic goal-line touchdown by Jerome Bettis versus Hall of Famer linebacker Brian Urlacher. Then they had to face the 11-5 Cincinnati Bengals, the division winners, in the opening round. But for Pittsburgh, they were already in ‘playoff mode’ for a month, and Farrior is confident that played a role in their run.
“No doubt about it, I think that helped us out tremendously. I think that carried us all the way to the championship”, he told Savran. “We were in playoff mode from week 13 on through. When we got to the playoff games, it was like, we’re ready to roll. We were hitting on all cylinders and everything was going how we needed it to go for us to win a championship”.
After defeating Carson Palmer’s Bengals, the Steelers went on to take down the two-seeded Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning, which featured Ben Roethlisberger’s tackle, before moving on to take down the Denver Broncos, and finally, the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, securing the franchise its first championship since the 1979 season.