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:
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
HISTORY OF THE DECADE: A look at the Steelers' success and failure at defensive line in the draft and free agency since 2003 ...
4: Number of first round selections at wide receiver by the Detroit Lions since 2003
4: Number of first round selections at wide receiver by the entire AFC North since 2003 (one per team)
Heath Miller, a first-round pick in 2005, is simply put the greatest tight end in Steelers history and among the top in the game today. Santonio Holmes – whom the Steelers traded up for in the first-round in 2006 – literally captured a league-record sixth Super Bowl victory for the Steelers, even if he was jettisoned a year later for bad behavior. Despite Mike Wallace’s expected exit, he was an excellent third-round pick in 2009. Antonio Brown’s frustrating season notwithstanding, he is the ultimate value pick – a past team MVP chosen in the sixth round in 2010. Emmanuel Sanders shows flashes of being an above average third-round pick from the same draft.
However, highly-touted second-round pick in 2008 Limas Sweed has become the poster boy for modern Steelers draft busts, but that’s only because he made people forget about 2006 third-rounder Willie Reid. Multiple tall tight-end targets for Ben Roethlisberger was the plan when Matt Spaeth was selected in the third round in 2007, but he too didn’t pan out. Fourth-round WR pick Fred Gibson didn’t make it out of training camp in 2005.
A 2012 seventh-rounder, David Paulson gradually saw increased tight end action as the season wore on and could have an increased role while Miller recovers from a major knee injury. Another 2012 seventh-rounder at receiver, Valley High School’s Toney Clemons spent the year on the practice squad. The team’s last pick of 2009, David Johnson, contributed at tight end before being moved to fullback and sustaining a season-ending injury in training camp this year.
Brought over from the Jets in 2011, Jerricho Cotchery is underused at receiver, but his veteran leader status is unquestioned. Plexico Burress arrived late in 2012, but his return is in question. Cedrick Wilson contributed as a no. 3 receiver during the 2005 Steelers Super Bowl season. Others like Arnaz Battle and Sean Morey made their marks on special teams.
Tight end Leonard Pope followed Todd Haley from Arizona and while he caught two touchdowns in 2012, he only had one other reception and totaled nine yards from scrimmage. Earlier last decade, Jay Riemersma had a similarly underwhelming Steelers career after coming over from Buffalo.
An undrafted free agent in 2005, Nate Washington, from tiny Tiffin University, was a pleasant surprise and a the team’s no. 3 receiver from 2006-08.
Jerome Bettis will find out later this afternoon if he'll either be enshrined to the Pro Football Hall of Fame or if he must once again wait for football immortality.
Regardless, of Bettis's Canton status, he'll forever be beloved by Steelers fans for his brusing running style, which can be summed up in a single play: a five-yard touchdown run during a 2005 game against the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field in which he broke three tackles and ran over another likely future Hall-of-Fame, Brian Urlacher.
Bettis even said as much when I spoke with him during a promotional appearance at The Meadows racetrack and casino in Nov. 2011:
"That game was a tough one because we were going into that game we were 7 and 5, maybe? We had to win out in order to get to the playoffs. At the time, [Chicago] had the number one defense in the NFL. So we knew it was going to be a tough road to hoe, but we said 'hey, we got them at home.'
"It was [snowing] pretty rough. First half, we had a tough time running the ball. Willie Parker was kind of sliding around in the mud and coach Cowher came to me in the second half and said 'hey, this is what we brought you for,' considering I'm a mudder because I kind of sink into the mud [laughs] -- Willie kind of stood on top of it.
"So it was time for me to earn my paycheck, so to speak. So I went out there in the second half, had 100 yards rushing and that play was kind of … it kind of put my whole career into one play: Physical, tough, but at the end of the day, it got the job done. I did it the way I like to do it in terms of going through somebody instead of going around somebody. Unfortunately Urlacher was the recipient."
The play was not only a microcosm of Bettis's career; the score clinched the first of four consecutive must-win games for the Steelers to avoid elimination from the postseason. The Steelers would not lose again that season, indeed taking those four regular season games and four in the postseason en route to getting "one for the thumb" -- and one for Bettis.
Read Bob Smizik's column on that play and watch it below, the first video is from the FOX broadcast of the game; the second includes Bill Hillgrove's play-by-play:
Bettis on his last game in Heinz Field:
Bettis career highlight retrospective: