A look back at some of the highlights and disappointments of playoffs past ...
Today: February 6, 2011 -- Super Bowl XLV vs. Green Bay
Texas-sized letdown as comeback falls short
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The stage was set for another dramatic comeback, another long, final drive to win a Super Bowl, another game for the ages to go with so many others the Steelers have created around their well-stocked trophy case.
Ben Roethlisberger and his offense took the field with two minutes to go, trailing by six, to try to duplicate what they accomplished two years ago in Tampa, Fla.. Only this time, the Green Bay Packers pulled the rug out from under their glass slippers, and there was no pot of gold awaiting them at the other end of the field.
That final drive never got on track and died far from where it needed to go as the Green Bay Packers claimed their fourth Super Bowl, 31-25, Sunday night.
Talk of a second pro football dynasty in Pittsburgh was snuffed out as the Steelers lost the Super Bowl for only the second time. They have won a record six.
Three killer turnovers proved too much to overcome as a furious comeback by the Steelers fell short. Their offense was dynamic at times, but those mistakes led to 21 Green Bay points.
"Twenty-one points? That's the difference in this ballgame," Hines Ward said.
The Packers did not lose the ball once.
"We were unable to get any turnovers on defense," Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said. "That was the difference. They made plays on defense and we didn't."
Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, two to Greg Jennings. Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes, but he also threw two interceptions, one returned for a 37-yard touchdown by safety Nick Collins.
"I feel like I let the City of Pittsburgh down, the fans, my coaches and teammates," Roethlisberger said. "It's not a good feeling."
The Steelers came back from deficits of 21-3 in the second quarter and 28-17 in the fourth quarter to trail, 28-25, with 7:34 left. A 23-yard field goal by Green Bay's Mason Crosby put the Packers ahead by six with 2:07 left to put the ball back in the Steelers' court and into the hands of a quarterback who has triumphed so many times in such circumstances.
Roethlisberger and his offense had another chance to pull out a second Super Bowl in three seasons with one, final drive starting from their 13 after the kickoff -- eerily similar to their comeback victory against Arizona two years ago.
"Whenever there's time on the clock and we're within a one-score game, I feel pretty confident that we're capable of doing the job," coach Mike Tomlin said.
This time, it was not to be. After a 5-yard pass completion to Ward, Roethlisberger threw three incomplete passes toward Mike Wallace, and the Packers took over with 49 seconds left and ran out the clock.
Ward and Wallace each caught a touchdown pass, and Rashard Mendenhall ran 8 yards for another, but it all was too little too late as they were unable to repeat their successful comeback against Baltimore in their first playoff game.
"They made plays," Tomlin said. "It's probably less of what we were unable to do and more of what they were able to do."
The Steelers had more offense than Green Bay, 387 yards to 338, but the turnovers far outweighed that.
Roethlisberger completed 25 of 40 passes for 263 yards and was sacked once. Rodgers was 24 of 39 for 304 and was sacked three times.
The Steelers ran well against the Packers with 126 yards and a 5.5-yard average, but Mendenhall, who had 63 yards on 14 carries, cost them with his fumble. The Packers ran only 13 times for 50 yards.
After looking almost hopelessly behind earlier, the Steelers jumped right back into the game when they scored a touchdown in the third quarter to trail the Packers, 21-17, entering the final quarter.
A quick turn of events, however, stunted the comeback.
Mendenhall, running like an MVP candidate to that point, fumbled on the first play of the fourth quarter on second-and-2 at the Packers 33.
The Packers recovered at their 45 and, eight plays later, Jennings beat Troy Polamalu and was wide open to catch his second touchdown pass of the game to put Green Bay back on top, 28-17, with 11:57 left.
"Earlier in the game, they ran that Jennings down the middle, and I was anticipating that same pass play and I guessed wrong," Polamalu said.
"When we did screw up, they took advantage of it and made us pay," tight end Heath Miller said. "On the other end, when we had a short field, we didn't take advantage of it."
The Steelers, however, kept coming. They moved 66 yards on 7 plays for another touchdown. Roethlisberger threw 25 yards to Wallace for the touchdown with 7:34 left. Roethlisberger then pitched out to Antwaan Randle El on an option for the two-point conversion that cut the Green Bay lead to a field goal at 28-25.
Clinging to that lead, the Packers had a third-and-10 from their 25 with nearly 6 minutes left. But Rodgers hit Jennings over cornerback Ike Taylor down the middle for a 31-yard pass that helped keep their field-goal drive alive.
"That ball down the middle of the field to Jennings late in the contest, that's big time," Tomlin said.
Trailing, 21-10, at halftime, the Steelers jumped back into a game they had fallen behind, 21-3, when they scored on their first drive of the second half.
Mendenhall scored from the 8 for their second consecutive touchdown, and it was 21-17 with plenty of time to go in the second half.
They had a chance to make it three scores in a row when they reached the Packers 29 with a first down, but the drive collapsed and Shaun Suisham badly pulled a 52-yard field goal try and the score remained 21-17.
A late touchdown drive that ended with Roethlisberger's 8-yard pass in the back of the end zone to Ward salvaged an otherwise disastrous first half for the Steelers.
The score, with 39 seconds left, cut the Packers lead at halftime to 21-10.
Green Bay had stunned the Steelers by jumping in front 14-0, tying a Super Bowl record for most points in the first quarter.
Rodgers threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson.
A penalty led to another disaster for the Steelers and put them in a deep 14-0 hole. Antonio Brown ran the kickoff back to the 43, but a penalty against Ryan Mundy for blocking in the back brought the ball back to the 7.
On the first play from there, Roethlisberger was hit while trying to throw a deep pass to Wallace. The ball fluttered far short and off target. Safety Nick Collins intercepted it and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown and a shocking, 14-0 Packers lead.
"We created the bed we had to lay in a little bit," Tomlin said. "We had to ball our fist up a little tighter, and I thought the group did that, but we fell a little bit short."
Suisham's 33-yard field goal cut it to 14-3.
But at the Packers 49, Roethlisberger tried to get a pass to Wallace between two defenders, and safety Jarrett Bush intercepted it at their 47.
Four plays later, Rodgers threw a perfect pass over the middle, over the outstretched hand of safety Ryan Clark and into the hands of Jennings for a 21-yard touchdown.
That score made it 21-3 with 2:24 left in the half.
The Steelers came back, way back, just not far enough.
- Collier: No big finish
- Cook: Steelers deserving of loss
- Collier: Turnover virus was Steelers' downfall
- Cook: Steelers gave us a wonderful ride
- Bouchette: The one that got away
- Fans show true colors for big game
Totally overdone game intro:
ESPN NFL Prime game highlights:
Super Bowl XLV highlights in Lego form: