Lake Fong, Post-Gazette
Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward kisses the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Seahawks, 21-10, at Ford Field in Detroit yesterday. Ward caught five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
DETROIT -- The Steelers' long search to repeat as Super Bowl champions ended after 26 years last night when they trumped the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10, at Ford Field.
Playing before a rollicking crowd dominated by Pittsburgh's black and gold, they won their fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy, tying the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers for the most in the game's 40 years.
They capped a storybook run by winning their eighth consecutive game, became the first team to win three road playoff games and then the Super Bowl, and finished the Jerome Bettis saga in grand style.
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"Our effort today made history," coach Bill Cowher said. "That's what made it special to me: This team has been real resilient all year. It was one guy after another. It's a tremendous group of guys.''
Bettis, who rushed for 43 yards, raised the Lombardi Trophy and virtually announced his retirement in his hometown.
"I think the Bus' last stop is here in Detroit,'' Bettis told the crowd on the field after the game. "Detroit you were incredible. Pittsburgh, here we come.''
The Steelers will fly home this afternoon, lugging their shiny, new silver booty to join the four the franchise won in six years in the 1970s.
"We're so proud to bring it back to Pittsburgh,'' Dan Rooney said.
Wide receiver Hines Ward, who began training camp with a contract holdout, won the game's Most Valuable Player award after catching five passes for 123 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown from fellow wide receiver Antwaan Randle El. He was given the keys to a black Cadillac Escalade for the award.
"This is the one for the thumb,'' Ward said, holding his young son and, as usual, smiling. "We are bringing the Super Bowl back to the City of Pittsburgh.''
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw two interceptions and had a miserable 22.6 passer rating, nevertheless made plays when his team needed them. He dived into the end zone on third down for a touchdown in the second quarter and picked up another key first down in the fourth. In all, he ran seven times for 25 yards but completed just 9 of 21 passes for 123 yards.
Seattle halfback Shaun Alexander, the league MVP, was held to 95 yards on 20 carries.
The Steelers' halfback, Willie Parker, finished with 93 on 10 carries, most of that on one burst -- a 75-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second half that was the longest in Super Bowl history and brought a 14-3 lead.
Parker ran a counter off the right. Pulling guard Alan Faneca, tackle Max Starks and guard Kendall Simmons threw big blocks, and Parker swooped through the line and was gone. Safety Etrick Pruitt, playing for injured starter Marquand Manuel, made a diving attempt at Seattle's 40 to no avail.
Parker lit into the end zone, and the place erupted in a Terrible Towel windstorm.
"I just knew it was going to be a great play,'' Parker said. "They called it at the right time, and Faneca just paved the way.''
The Steelers held the Seahawks, then moved in for what looked to be a coup de gras with a first down at the Seattle 11. After two Bettis runs moved them to the 7, wide receiver Cedrick Wilson flashed open behind cornerback Kelly Herndon on the right. But Roethlisberger woefully underthrew the ball right to Herndon, who returned it a Super Bowl-record 76 yards to the 20.
"That was one where my mind was telling me to throw it over the top and my arm didn't throw it over the top,'' Roethlisberger said. "I read it right. I just didn't throw it good.''
Three plays later, Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw a 16-yard touchdown to tight end Jerramy Stevens, and the shocking turnaround left the Steelers holding a tenuous 14-10 lead instead of what might have been a 21-3 stranglehold.
It fell so quiet in Ford Field you could hear the Seahawks fans.
It became deathly so a bit later when Stevens caught an 18-yard pass to the Steelers' 1that put Seattle on the brink of snatching a fourth-quarter lead. But the play was canceled by a holding penalty and, on the next snap, nose tackle Casey Hampton sacked Hasselbeck at the 34. On third down, Hasselbeck threw deep and poorly. Cornerback Ike Taylor, who dropped an early interception, picked this one off to preserve the Steelers' four-point lead.
It would spark another celebration four plays later.
On third-and-2 at Seattle's 43. Roethlisberger ran 5 yards on a draw from the shotgun. On the next play, he pitched to Parker and threw a block. Parker handed off to wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, who ran to the right, stopped and uncorked a perfect pass that Ward caught over cornerback Marcus Trufant at the 5 and ran into the end zone for a 43-yard play.
It was the first touchdown pass by a wide receiver in the game's history, and it gave the Steelers a 21-10 lead with 8:56 left in the game.
"They called a great play at the right time,'' said Ward. "The offensive line did its job blocking, and El threw a hell of a ball."
The Steelers were fortunate to hold a 7-3 halftime lead. The Seahawks moved the ball offensively and smothered the Steelers on defense but had little to show for it, mainly because of untimely penalties.
"You can't make mistakes like that and expect to win against a good team like this,'' Hasselback said.
The Seahawks took a 3-0 lead with 22 seconds left in the first quarter on Josh Brown's 47-yard field goal and the Steelers were lucky it wasn't worse. Before Brown's kick, Hasselbeck threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Jackson, but Jackson was penalized for pushing off against safety Chris Hope. Seattle would have had a first down at the Steelers' 24 on its previous series after an 18-yard completion that was canceled by a holding penalty.
The Steelers finally had something going after Ward ran 18 yards on a first down to their 48. But, on the next play, Roethlisberger faked to Bettis and threw a deep ball that floated and was intercepted by safety Michael Boulware at the 17.
On the Steelers' next possession, Roethlisberger converted a third down by throwing 20 yards to Wilson. Ward dropped what would have been a 22-yard touchdown pass, and a 10-yard penalty and sack put the Steelers back to their 40, third-and 28.
Roethlisberger dropped back, scrambled away from a three-man rush and tiptoed up to the line of scrimmage. He stopped and heaved the ball deep toward the opposite side, to the right, the kind of play John Elway made famous. Ward outmuscled Boulware to make the catch at the 3.
Bettis got 2 yards on two carries and, on third down, Roethlisberger rolled left behind Bettis and plunged toward the goal line. The ball barely crossed into the goal line for a touchdown that was held up by a review.
It was the first time a Steelers quarterback scored in a Super Bowl.
The Steelers led, 7-3, and took that to halftime when Brown missed a 54-yard field goal wide with two seconds to go. Brown also would miss a 50-yarder in the second half.
"We're bringing the Super Bowl trophy back to Pittsburgh," linebacker Joey Porter said. "That's all that matters.''Lake Fong, Post-Gazette Associated Press
Ben Roethlisberger points skyward after Hines Ward scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter yesterday.
Click photo for larger image.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3878.