Pittsburgh shows off its big-play capability
By JOE KAY
By JOE KAY
DETROIT — A record-setting run. A game-turning interception. A trick play that no one saw coming — until the ball landed in Hines Ward's hands, making him the Super Bowl MVP.
The Pittsburgh Steelers needed every little shred of history they could get their fingers on to craft a one-for-the-books ending yesterday, beating the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10, in the Super Bowl.
The clincher was Antwaan Randle El's 43-yard pass to Ward, the first Super Bowl touchdown pass by a receiver and one of the most decisive trick plays in championship game history.
Ward clinched his trophy with a five-catch, 123-yard game, which he deemed less than it could have been. He dropped a couple of passes — one in the end zone — while the Steelers' offense struggled early.
"The great ones don't miss balls in the Super Bowl," Ward said. "And I want to be considered one of the great ones. To be named MVP is a great honor, but I still left some plays out on the field. I could have had an even better day."
Another Pittsburgh receiver, Hall of Famer Lynn Swann, won the Super Bowl MVP in 1976 for making one big catch after another against Dallas — four for 161 yards.
These Steelers like to use a trick play here or there. And with a title on the line, they went to one of two they had in the playbook this week for Randle El, a college quarterback who can still throw it.
"We ran that play before," Randle El said. "We ran that play against Cleveland and scored a touchdown then. It was called at the right time, and everything was perfect."
The Steelers were perfect on three plays, anyway.
Ben Roethlisberger got the title that set him apart — at age 23, making him the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl. But this one had less to do with him and a lot more to do with some old-fashioned Steeler football and a little newfangled trickery.
First came the old style.
When Willie Parker followed guard Alan Faneca's pulling block and went a Super Bowl-record 75 yards on the second play of the second half, the Steelers had the momentum they needed for their first title since their Steel Curtain glory days.
"I just knew it was going to be a great play," said Parker, who this season became the first Steelers running back to get 1,000 yards since Jerome Bettis in 2001. "They called it at the right time, and Faneca just paved the way."
They had a chance to close out the Seahawks in the third quarter, but Roethlisberger played down to his age and threw an interception that Kelly Herndon returned a Super Bowl-record 76 yards, getting Seattle back into the game.
Uh-oh. Time for a little rust-belt defense.
Ike Taylor took advantage of Matt Hasselbeck's worst pass of the game, blunting Seattle's drive with an interception of his own. Hasselbeck lobbed a pass in the direction of Darrell Jackson, but Taylor read it perfectly and made the play that saved the Steelers' lead.
Then, coach Bill Cowher diverted from his button-down game plan and took a gamble, putting the ball in the hands of his college quarterback turned receiver. The game's X-factor ended up deciding Super Bowl XL.
Randle El took a handoff on a reverse from Parker and ran to his right. The Steelers had been so conservative all game that the Seahawks figured it was just another run, and gave chase.
Wrong. Totally, decisively wrong.
"They called a great play at the right time," Ward said.
Ward ran past the safeties and was wide open for Randle El's 43-yard touchdown pass, which immediately went down as one of the most notable trick plays in Super Bowl history. The Steelers ran the same play against Cleveland earlier this season, and Randle El threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Ward.
"That's something we've been doing for a long time," Randle El said. "We hit that one earlier in the season for a touchdown, and we had it set up for this game. When we called it, my eyes lit up and I had to try to not give it away."
Just like Dallas in the 1976 game, when running back Robert Newhouse threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Golden Richards off an option that finished off Denver, 27-10, this one left the Steelers with nothing but time to kill.
And, time to celebrate a big-play win.