A look back at some of the highlights and disappointments of playoffs past ...
Today: February 5, 2006 -- Super Bowl XL vs. Seattle
By Robert Dvorchak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
DETROIT -- Some will call it one for the thumb, but it was truly one for the ages.
No team had ever won three playoff games on the road and then won a Super Bowl, but the Steelers last night completed a magical ride with a 21-10 victory over the Seahawks, igniting celebrations throughout the far-flung Steeler Nation.
Their Super Bowl triumph was the team's first in 26 years and the fifth in franchise history, putting the Steelers in company with Dallas and San Francisco with five Super Bowl wins.
"We were proud of the team of the '70s, but we have our own little niche right now," said Coach Bill Cowher, who won his first title in 14 years and is the first coach other than Chuck Noll to bring home a championship. "It's a special team."
Although the Super Bowl is supposed to be a neutral site, the week and the game were dominated by towel-twirling Steelers fans who made the game and the on-field trophy presentation a Pittsburgh event.
The championship marked the end of the line for Jerome Bettis, who announced his retirement
while clutching the silver Vince Lombardi Trophy in his hands. He completed a journey of 13 NFL seasons in his hometown, in front of family, friends and adoring fans.
"My teammates put me on their backs and wouldn't let me down," said Bettis, a large reason why the city of Detroit adopted the Steelers this week as their own. "I played this game to win a championship. I'm a champion. The last stop was here in Detroit
"It's been an incredible ride. Mission accomplished. With that, I have to bid farewell," Bettis said. "I'm the happiest person in the world right now...It's better than I ever thought it would be."
Confetti fell like flurries from the rafters of Ford Field as NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue presented the championship trophy -- a silver football to go with the other four in the Steelers offices -- to Dan Rooney and his family.
The storyline was all about The Bus, but the real motoring in Motown was by a Parker. That's Willie Parker, whose 75-yard touchdown run 22 seconds into the third quarter put the Steelers in the lead for keeps. It was the longest running play in Super Bowl history.
The score that clinched it was a bit of trickery to Hines Ward, who caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Antwaan Randel El, an ex-quarterback, after he took a handoff from Parker. Ward, named the game's Most Valuable Player, had 123 receiving yards on five catches and ran once for 18 yards.
"I am at a loss for words," Ward said. "There has been a lot of great MVP's who won the Super Bowl. I am speechless right now. This is truly a dream come true."
Dan Rooney, accompanied by his son Art Rooney II, accepted the prize on a special stage wheeled onto the artificial surface of Ford Field, an indoor stadium with an ear-splitting noise level.
"It's wonderful. It belongs to those right out here," Rooney said. "We're so thrilled to bring that back to Pittsburgh."
This was the 40th edition of the Super Bowl, an event now seen by a billion people around the world, but it had special meaning to a new generation of Steelers fans who had never experienced a football championship.
The changing of the guard occurred on a night that Baby Boomer favorites dominated the entertainment. After Motown's Stevie Wonder provided the pre-game music and Aretha Franklin teamed with Aaron Neville to sing the National Anthem, the Rolling Stones provided the signature moment. Keith Richards strummed the famous guitar riff to "Satisfaction" as Mick Jagger gyrated around the stage.
Franco Harris, MVP of the Steelers' first Super Bowl win and holder of four rings, whipped the crowd of 68,206 into a frenzy by waving a Terrible Towel during the introductions of Super Bowl greats.
The game didn't have the kind of start the Steelers wanted, and there were several anxious moments. The Seahawks had the better of the play in the first quarter and led 3-0 on a 49-yard field goal by Josh Brown.
The Steelers finally clicked on their fifth possession. A 21-yard shovel pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Ward got the drive started. Then facing third down with 28 yards to go, Roethlisberger connected with Ward again on a 37-yard pass that put the Steelers three yards from the goal line. Roethlisberger dove for the final yard, and referee Bill Levy upheld the call after reviewing the play.
The touchdown came with 1 minute, 55 seconds remaining in the half, and the Steelers never trailed.
"We played a terrible half. We knew it was a matter of time for us to get going," Bettis said.
The big electricity came on Parker's touchdown to open the second half. The Steelers had a total of 113 yards to that point, and Parker boosted that total by 75 more yards with a sprint.
"Once Willie gets through a hole, there's no way anyone is going to catch him. He's too fast," Roethlisberger said. "He broke loose and there was no one even close to him."
On their next possession, the Steelers were on the doorstep, seemingly assured of at least a field goal when Roethlisberger threw his second interception of the game. Kelly Herndon stepped in front of a pass intended for Cedric Wilson and returned it 77 yards. Three plays later, the Seahawks made it 14-10 on a 16-yard pass from Hasselbeck to Jerramy Stevens.
But Ward's touchdown catch -- on a play called "X Reverse" that Roethlisberger said was the "perfect call at the perfect time" -- put the game out of reach and brought the trophy back to Pittsburgh.
"It was a big touchdown for us," Ward said. "It really sealed the thing for us."
Seattle's last offensive play was a pass that clanked off the hands of tight end Jerramy Stevens, who had engaged in a war of words with linebacker Joey Porter during the week. Stevens did catch a touchdown pass, but had several drops.
"It leaves you speechless," said linebacker Clark Haggans. "Everybody's face says it all. You can see the sweat with tears of joy coming out. It's the best feeling in all the world."
Roethislberger, the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, knelt down to kill the final three seconds.
"We got the win, and that's all that matters. Boy, it feels so good," Roethlisberger said.
In the dying seconds, Cowher took the obligatory Gatorade bath on the sideline. He raised both arms to the roof with clenched fists, then hugged his wife and daughters. Known for his fierce demeanor on the sideline, Cowher was reduced to wiping tears from his eyes after the Super Bowl win.
After Rooney handed the trophy to Cowher, the coach handed it back.
"I've been waiting a long time to do this. This is yours," Cowher said.
Later, in the locker room, Cowher tried to let it all sink in.
"It's surreal right now," Cowher said. "It is a rewarding feeling to give that trophy to Mr. Rooney. That's what he brought me here to do. It really does complete a void that's been there. I couldn't be happier for him and the city of Pittsburgh."
It was one for the ages.
- Ed Bouchette: A riveting run to glory
- A black & gold blanket of fans
- Bob Smizik: Steelers pulled together like champions
- Ron Cook: Hoisting Lombardi a fitting finish for Bettis
- Hole Story: Parker's run came on slick blocking
- Play of the Game: Parker's TD run
- Hines Ward's Super Smile
- Gene Collier: Taylor's INT clips Seahawks wings
- Notebook: A vocal Steelers Nation takes over Ford Field
- Ed Bouchette: Steelers fans dominated
- Thousands of fans pour into the cold South Side night
- Bettis caps career with wins for both his hometowns
- Disney World not on Ben's agenda
- Seahawks are lost for words
- Seattle tight end drops the ball after catching flack for comments
Ben Roethlisberger to Hines Ward on 3rd & 28
Willie Parker 75-yard touchdown run
Antwaan Randle El to Ward touchdown pass
America's Game: the 2005 Steelers pt. 1