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Pittsburgh Steelers Win Super Bowl XL

One for the Thumb

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Following an unlikely path through a brutal AFC playoff field, knocking off the No. 1, 2, and 3 seeds in the conference along the way, the Pittsburgh Steelers at long last have clinched their fifth Super Bowl victory --their first since 1980-- with a 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

Despite a No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs, the Steelers were slight favorites heading into the contest, and it appeared early in the game that the oddsmakers had made a mistake. The Steelers appeared to have a serious case of the Super Bowl jitters in the first quarter, committing false start penalties and misfiring in the passing game. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appeared tight, completing just one of his first five pass attempts and throwing an interception that ended Pittsburgh‘s first drive of the second quarter.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks were moving the ball somewhat successfully, and appeared to have an early 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, but an offensive pass interference penalty on a push off, which allowed tight end Jerramy Stevens to gain separation from safety Chris Hope in the end zone, cost the Seahawks a 16-yard touchdown. Four plays later, they settled for a 47-yard Josh Brown field goal to open the scoring.

Midway through the second quarter, the Steelers’ offense settled down and finally put together a sustained drive. Starting at their own 41-yard line, Pittsburgh held the ball for 12 plays, including a clutch catch by the game’s MVP, wide receiver Hines Ward, for 37 yards on a third-and-28 play that gave the Steelers a first down at Seattle‘s 3-yard line.

Future Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, who announced his retirement after the game, was stuffed on consecutives plays near the goal line. But on third-and-goal, Roethlisberger rolled to his left and just did break the plane of the end zone as he was hit by Seattle defenders. Inside of two minutes to go in the half, officials decided to review the play, but the call on the field was upheld and the Steelers had a 7-3 lead.

Seattle had the opportunity to answer back before the half ended, but poor clock management forced them to attempt a 54-yard field goal. Brown got plenty of leg into the ball, but pushed it wide right, sending the Seahawks into halftime trailing despite outplaying the Steelers in the first half..

Following a halftime performance by the Rolling Stones, the Steelers burst out of the gate in the third quarter. On Pittsburgh’s second play from scrimmage, left guard Alan Faneca opened a hole big enough to drive a truck through (or a bus) and running back Willie Parker raced a Super Bowl-record 75 yards untouched to stretch the lead to 14-3.

On their ensuing drive, Seattle moved the ball easily across midfield, but bogged down at Pittsburgh’s 32, where Brown missed on another field-goal attempt; this time from 50 yards.

The Steelers quickly marched down the field and appeared ready to put the Seahawks out of business when Roethlisberger made his biggest mistake of the day. On 3rd-and-6 from Seattle’s 7-yard line, cornerback Kelly Herndon stepped in front of a pass intended for Cedric Wilson and returned it 76 yards (also a Super Bowl record) to Pittsburgh’s 20. Three plays later, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck sliced the lead to four with a 16-yard TD strike to Stevens.

Neither team could mount much offense through the rest of the period, but as the fourth quarter opened, the Seahawks were in the midst of a 14-play drive. However, they missed an opportunity to regain the lead when Hasselbeck was intercepted by cornerback Ike Taylor at the Steelers’ 5-yard line.

Steelers head coach Bill Cowher pulled out a bit of trickery four plays and put the final nail in the Seahawks’ coffin. On 1st-and-10 from Seattle’s 43-yard line, Roethlisberger pitched left to Parker, who handed the ball to wide receiver Antwan Randle El coming right on a reverse. With Seattle’s defense biting on the fake end around, Randle El connected with Ward downfield for a 43-yard touchdown.

Seattle mounted two more respectable drives down the stretch, but failed to crack the scoreboard again.

Ward, who was named Super Bowl XL’s Most Valuable Player, recorded five receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown.

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