The Top Five Steelers vs. Seahawks Games of All-Time

5 of 5

Super Bowl XL

February 5, 2006

One For The Thumb Finally Achieved

Steelers 21 – Seahawks 10

I’ll admit it.  I was nervous about this game.  I was nervous because I lived in Hawai’i at the time and I was not near any of my friends and family that are die-hard Steelers fans.  I was so nervous that I turned down offers from my fraternity brothers throwing Super Bowl parties to watch the game by myself.  Why was I nervous?  Well, growing up in the 1990’s I knew that Bill Cowher’s teams in the playoffs were not only vastly unprepared to play, but also always could let down at any moment as well.

Yet 2005-6 was special, and wins over the A.F.C.’s Top 3 Seeds and their last seven games overall meant that the Steelers were hot and just couldn’t be stopped.  So deep inside me I knew that if the Steelers brought their “A game,” they would roll over the Seahawks.  I just didn’t figure they’d bring their “D+ Game,” and still end up winning.

The game started off poorly for the Steelers for lack of a better word.  Luckily the Seahawks were able to take advantage of an obvious holding penalty by Sean Locklear (more on him later) on a 3rd Down to move into Field Goal Range.  Things looked even more bleak when from about the Steelers 20 yard line Matt Hasselbeck got out of the pocket, extended the play, and fired a TD strike to Darrell Jackson.  Or did he?  The referee in the back of the end zone saw Jackson push off of Free Safety Chris Hope and correctly threw a flag for Offensive Pass Interference.  Many in Seattle will cry and whine that this was a ticky tack foul.  Yet while it didn’t look like he straight up shoved Hope, he still pushed off of him which is Offensive Pass Interference by definition.  Just because it’s not a penalty that is widely enforced, it is still against the rules.  Here, let’s take a look:

Jackson clearly had his hand on Hope’s sternum to get away from him and pushed him back while breaking for the ball.  It doesn’t take a genius to see that this is an illegal play and that a penalty should be called.  Regardless, Seattle went up 3-0 on a 47 yard Josh Brown Field Goal, and the game stayed that way through the 1st Quarter.  The Steelers couldn’t muster anything on Offense during the first 25 minutes and went 3 and Out on their first three drives.  The first time that they could sustain a drive was in the 2nd Quarter, and Ben threw an awful INT to Michael Boulware and Hines Ward had an easy TD go off of his fingertips.

The Steelers fortunes changed with one play however late in the 2nd Quarter.  Facing a 3rd and 28 on the fringe of Field Goal range, the play itself and Offensive Line broke down and Ben scrambled outside the pocket.  Instead of pulling a Philip Rivers and wetting his pants while going for a check down and a Field Goal chance, Ben set his feet, readied himself to get hit by Seattle DE Grant Wistrom, and fired a bomb to the 3 yard line that was miraculously caught by Hines Ward!

The tone of the game had changed in one play, and the Steelers were primed to either take the lead or at the very least tie the game.  On 3rd and Goal Ben ran the ball in from 1 yard out to make the game 7-3.  This play is another shrouded in controversy, although argument can be made from watching the film that the ball barely crossed the plane.  Even though Seahawks fans will disagree, the call on the field was Touchdown and the officials deemed it necessary to not have the play overturned.  Had Ben not made it and the play had been called on the field that way, Cowher would have surely gone with Ben or The Bus on 4th Down and who knows what would have happened?  However not only will we never know, the call stood as it was, and that’s all that mattered.  Seattle had a chance to put some points on the board after the TD, but awful clock management and a 2 Minute Offense that was lethargic led to no points after Josh Brown missed a 54 yard Field Goal, and the Steelers took a 7-3 lead into the Half.

As the 2nd Half opened after the geriatric Rolling Stones sang about how 80 year olds don’t get “Satisfaction” or whatever it is they get, the Steelers needed a big play to spark their team, and boy did they get it on the 2nd play from scrimmage from a former UDFA named “Fast” Willie Parker.  Parker took a hand-off from Roethlisberger and raced through a hole that a truck could have driven through 75 yards to pay-dirt!  The O-Line was awesome on that play with future H.O.F. Alan Faneca pulling like a champ as he always did.  I still remember jumping up and down in my dorm room screaming with joy “Fast Willie” at the top of my lungs.  Up 11 and having all the momentum in the world, the Steelers were primed to break the game wide-open.

After another missed Field Goal by Josh Brown on the ensuing drive (there’s somebody you can legitimately blame for your team’s failure Seahawks fans), the Steelers got the ball back and started “riding” The Bus.  Bettis had an outstanding drive and had the Steelers primed to score on a drive that saw them go over 50 yards mostly on the ground.  Unfortunately, Big Ben threw a pick at the Goal Line to Kelly Herndon who returned the ball (despite an obvious Seattle clip on the play) deep into Steelers territory.  Had the Steelers gone up even 17-3 that would have been the clincher.  Yet Seattle hung tough and Jerramy Stevens made a 16 yard TD catch to pull the Seahawks close, and the score stood at 14-10 in the middle of the 3rd Quarter.

After three punts (2 by Pittsburgh and 1 by Seattle), Seattle got the ball on their own 2 yard line and began mounting a drive into the 4th Quarter.  By the time they had gotten to the Steelers’ 19, they smelled blood and only a miracle could help the Steelers.

Luckily Pittsburgh was helped at just the right time with some bone-headed plays by the Seahawks which their fans consider to be missed calls by the officials.  On 1st Down and 10 from the Pittsburgh 19, Sean Locklear committed another holding penalty against Clark Haggans which erased an 18 yard catch by Jerramy Stevens.  While some may argue that Haggans was offsides (honestly too close to call), it still doesn’t excuse the fact that Locklear had held Haggans on that play and had another at least three blatant holding violations against him that weren’t even called.  Plus, even if Haggans was offsides, the play would have had offsetting penalties that would have resulted in a replaying of the down.  Locklear himself was grabbing Haggans up and down the field all day, and luckily the officials caught it at such an important time.  Seattle fans should be thanking their lucky stars that Locklear wasn’t penalized more.  Anyways, instead of composing themselves like true champions would have in the face of adversity, the Seahawks self-destructed.

On 3rd Down and long and still in Field Goal range, Hasselbeck threw a ball straight to Ike Taylor at the 5 yard line (who still has no hands BTW) who raced down the field with the INT.  Hasselbeck was also called for a bull-crap low block on the play since he was making a tackle and the Steelers were given 15 extra yards.  If there was any penalty that was a complete and total joke in this game, it was the one on Hasselbeck plain and simple.  Seattle got jobbed on that call and the ball should not have been moved ahead 15 yards.  Regardless, the Steelers were able to move the ball to the Seattle 43 yard line in four plays when magic ultimately happened and I almost crapped myself.  On a gadget play called by O.C. Ken Whisenhunt, Antwaan Randle El threw a perfect strike to Hines Ward on a WR Reverse Pass that went for a TD!

How Seattle didn’t know it was coming was a mystery to me and still remains a mystery to me to this day.  The Steelers had run this play against Cleveland during the regular season for a TD and had done it from almost the exact same spot on the field in Super Bowl XL.  It was a complete and total mistake by Seattle and its players and coaching staff not to recognize what was going to happen.  Hey Seattle fans, you want to blame somebody, blame those aforementioned guys for their mental lapse there, because everybody and their Mother knew where that play was going!  When Pittsburgh went up 21-10 I couldn’t stop jumping up and down!  I was witnessing my favorite sports team of all-time on the brink of winning a championship and I couldn’t have been any happier!

On the ensuing drive, Seattle got a gift from the referees when Hasselbeck looked to have fumbled the ball on his own after an 18 yard scramble.  Video footage showed that Larry Foote probably didn’t touch him and/or had no part in his being tackled as Hasselbeck was going to the ground, but nevertheless the Seahawks maintained possession and the missed call kept the drive alive.  Driving to the Steeler 48, the drive stalled and Seattle was forced to punt with just under 7 minutes to play.  The Steelers then ate up almost all the clock and past the 2 minute warning on their drive, so Seattle had only 1:51 to score 11 points.  At this moment I vividly remember being on the edge of my chair with my hands clasped together just waiting nervously for the clock to hit zero.  One thing that I will never understand to this day is why Shaun Alexander wasn’t a bigger part of the Offense that day.  The 2005 League MVP had over 90 yards rushing against one of the best Run D’s in the League that day, and you gotta wonder why they never gave him more touches on the ground.  Yet, they couldn’t give it to him down 11 with 1:51 on the clock so Seattle kept going to the pass.  Seattle drove the ball down the field at will with some nice catches by Joe Jurevicius and Booby Engram, but poor clock management led to time running out after Jerramy Stevens dropped his third pass of the game (one of the others was an obvious fumble that the Steelers recovered but the refs. incorrectly ruled the play incomplete) and the Steelers were victorious!

It was so nice to see Bill Cowher get the monkey off his back with this win.  It’s a shame that the officiating crew did a less than stellar job and both teams were denied chances to succeed by poor and controversial calls.  I’ll never forget calling my Mom in Tucson to whoop up the win and talk about what we had just witnessed.  I’ll never forget what a special moment it was to see “The One For The Thumb” finally achieved by the Steelers during my lifetime.