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Sunday Flashback: Steelers Claim ‘One For The Thumb’

Like many fans across the sports spectrum, I can remember where I was on the night the Pittsburgh Steelers climbed the ladder once again, claiming that elusive fifth Super Bowl title, knocking off the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 on Feb. 5, 2006 in Detroit, Michigan.

I was at home glued to the TV in front of the fireplace watching the game with my parents, chewing on my fingernails hoping that my favorite team — the team that I lived and died with each week — could finally give me the sport’s ultimate goal: A Lombardi Trophy. Once the clock reached zeros, I remember running into the snow-covered street with my childhood best friend, banging on pots and pans and screaming our heads off like crazed dogs, enjoying the moment our team won the championship.

You all know the story by now: The Steelers went from 7-5 late in the 2005 season to making the playoffs at 11-5, and then embarking on a tough road trip through the AFC playoffs, becoming the first No. 6 seed in NFL history to win the Super Bowl.

Let’s flashback to the final chapter in that magical run to the Super Bowl win that gave the Steelers that One For The Thumb.

Lots of trash talk between Seahawks’ tight end Jerramy Stevens and Steelers’ linebacker Joey Porter stole the headlines leading up to the clash, as did the feel-good storyline of Steelers’ Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis playing for his first championship in his hometown of Detroit in what would be the final game of his career.

Once the whistle blew though, it was two evenly matched teams trying to feel each other out early.

After trading two punts each, the Seahawks were the first team to truly put together a drive. Starting near midfield late in the first quarter, Seahawks’ quarterback Matt Hasselbeck hit favorite receiver Darrell Jackson on a quick slant inside Steelers’ cornerback Ike Taylor for 20 yards, kick-starting the Seahawks’ scoring drive.

Hasselbeck then hit Joe Jurevicius for 11 yards and then found Jackson again, this time for 16 yards, but the Steelers’ defense held, forcing Seattle to settle for a 47-yard field goal from Josh Brown that made it 3-0 with 27 seconds left in the first quarter.

Trailing 3-0 and looking relatively out of sync offensively, the Steelers couldn’t get anything going on the next drive going three-and-out, giving the football right back to Seattle. The Steelers’ defense once again bent but didn’t break, forcing a punt, which allowed the Steelers to gain some momentum.

A few offensive tricks helped kick-start a stagnant group, too.

After converting a tough third and 8 on a hookup from Ben Roethlisberger to Antwaan Randle El, the Steelers used some trickery to get going, calling a well-timed and perfectly-executed end-around to Hines Ward for 18 yards, providing some spark to the Steelers’ offense.

I love seeing Kendall Simmons flip his hips and get out in front here on the end-around, sealing off the defensive end and linebacker to give Ward a clear path to the second level.

While the play helped in the short term, Roethlisberger gave all the momentum back two plays later, throwing an interception to Seattle’s Michael Boulware on an underthrown deep shot to Randle El, keeping the Steelers off the board once again.

Fortunately for Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ vaunted defense was up to the task again, forcing a quick three-and-out, giving the football back to the Steelers’ offense, who this time cashed in.

Roethlisberger shook off the interception to find Ward for 12 yards and Cedrick Wilson for 20 yards, and then on a third and 28, Roethlisberger deftly stayed behind the line of scrimmage and extended the play, finding Ward downfield for 37 yards, putting the Steelers inside the Seahawks’ five-yard line.

Three plays later, Roethlisberger kept it and dove over the left side of the line from one yard out, giving the Steelers a 7-3 lead that would hold up after the play was reviewed.

Pittsburgh’s 7-3 lead would hold up into halftime despite the Seahawks putting together another strong drive through the air before Brown missed a 50-yard field goal right before the half.

Coming out of the break and the halftime show that featured Aerosmith, the Steelers started the second half with a bang.

Following an incompletion out of the break from Roethlisberger intended for Ward, the Steelers turned to “Fast” Willie Parker. He was fast, alright, taking the handoff 75 yards seemingly untouched for the score, running behind the pulling Alan Faneca and hitting the crease off the backside of right tackle Max Starks at the second level, sending the second-year undrafted free agent running back into the history books with the longest run in Super Bowl history, giving the Steelers a 14-3 lead.

Parker’s run took the wind out from under the Seahawks’ wings as on the next Steelers’ drive they marched right down the field and into scoring position once again as Roethlisberger found Ward for gains of 15 and 16 yards, while Bettis ripped off runs of six, 12 and four yards.

Then disaster struck.

Going for the finisher with 7:52 left in the third quarter from the Seattle 7-yard line, Roethlisberger woefully floated a pass to the right flat intended for Wilson that Seattle defensive back Kelly Herndon undercut and raced 76 yards the other way. Without the incredible hustle of Randle El on the play, Herndon walks into the end zone.

Instead, three plays after the game-changing pick, Hasselbeck found Stevens wide open in the right corner of the end zone for the 16-yard score, making it 14-10 with 6:51 left in the third quarter, giving the Seahawks life once again.

Following two short drives from the Steelers following the altering interception, the Seahawks looked to take the lead as Hasselbeck and the offense got going again. Hasselbeck found Bobby Engram for gains of 21 and 17 yards, and then seemed to find Stevens near the goal line for 18 yards, but a holding call on right tackle Sean Locklear wiped out the play.

Two plays after the holding call, Hasselbeck was picked off by Taylor, shutting down the Seahawks’ best chance of taking control of the Super Bowl.

Three plays after Taylor’s huge interception, the Steelers turned to the gadget play once again. You know it well. Roethlisberger tossed it to Parker, who handed it off to Randle El coming back the other way. Thanks to a tremendous block by Roethlisberger, Randle El had all the time in the world to find Ward streaking open downfield for the 43-yard score, icing the game.

Seattle tried to mount two late drives, but the Steelers’ defense held, giving Pittsburgh’s its fifth Super Bowl win, capping off a terrific career for Bettis and giving an emotional Bill Cowher that elusive championship.

Of course, Cowher would retire after the following season, and the Steelers would go on to win a sixth Super Bowl in 2009, this time under Mike Tomlin. That night in Detroit was special though, as it was decades between titles for Steelers’ fans, and capped off a storybook ending for one of the franchise icons.

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