6 February 2006

One for the Thumb

A most improbable playoff run for the Pittsburgh Steelers nets them a fifth Super Bowl trophy, 26 years after their last capture of the coveted Lombardi trophy.

The Steelers, after losing three straight in the middle of season, faced a win-out scenario to have any chance at all of qualifying for the post season in the highly competitive American Football Conference. They did so in convincing fashion and ended the season securing the sixth and final seed of the playoff poll.

In playoff game one, pitted against the division rival Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers knocked out the opposing team's star quarterback on his first pass of the game, in route to a convincing 31-17 victory on their enemy's home turf.

Playoff game two was a game for the ages, where the Steelers dominated early but had to fend off a Indianapolis comeback with a smattering of bizarre twists and turns. From NFL admitted atrocious official's replay reversal that overturned an obvious Troy Polamalu interception to an egregious no call on a bltatant pass interference against Steeler receiver Randel El. To an anomalous game ending where we witnessed a future Hall of Fame running back, who fumbled the ball not once during the regular season, cough it up on a first and goal from the Colt one yard line — and a Colt victory thwarted by a Ben Roethlisberger shoestring tackle. The stress was simply too much for some Steeler fans to endure. Then, incredibly, the most accurate field goal kicker in the game today shanks a field goal attempt to tie the game. The football gods were indeed smiling upon the Steelers on that Sunday.

On to Denver, where the Steelers have their way with a team that was used to dominating on their home field.

And finally, yesterday, Super Bowl XL where everything went in the Steelers favor. All the close calls tilted their way, and the Seahawks were unable to take advantage of their early edge in play. Seattle fans, no doubt, are sore at the officials, but the Seahawk squad squandered opportunites by missing field goals, managing the play clock inefficiently, and yielding big plays. Despite the storybook finish for a spectacular Steeler Super Bowl victory, the game boiled down to three giant plays:

  • A mad scramble by Roethlisberger on a 3rd down and 28 that lead to a 37 yard pass completion to Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward in the second quarter that setup a Steeler strike that put the Steelers ahead for the game duration.

  • A Super Bowl record setting 75 yard run by Willie Parker on the Steeler's first possession in the third quarter.

  • A stunningly successful gadget reverse pass play that saw the ball go from Steeler quarterback hand to Willie Parker's hands, then handed to Randel El who in turn threw a strike to a streaking Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward. Both the Steelers receivers who touched the ball on that play were quarterbacks in their college days, and that experience paid off handsomely for the Steelers.

Hines Ward is awarded the Super Bowl MVP, and what a fitting prize for a football player who epitimizes the blue collar spirit of the Steel City. Not the fastest, or the most talented receiver by any stretch, Ward has forged himself into a star by his discipline and hard work.