Way to go Steelers!
Congratulations Pittsburgh, people of Western PA, and true believers everywhere!
Wow. I am so full of adrenaline tonight that I won't be able to sleep for awhile. So, I figure I'll jot down some of my thoughts from the game.
First off, hats off to Seattle. They played a really tough game overall. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead and kept Pittsburgh out of offensive rhythm for most of the game. It's quite amazing that Seattle had a great game plan for the start of the game, executed it [fairly] well, and yet lost by 11 points. A few plays difference and Seattle easily could have won by 11 points...kind of a weird flow to the game. Not a thing of beauty for Pittsburgh, but the Pittsburgh coaching made the adjustments they needed, and the players made individual plays.
I think that's a testament to the pre-game coaching of Seattle: great game plan. And also a testament to the will and adjustments, and especially the defense of Pittsburgh -- the whole team really. Seattle brought their A- game, and Pittsburgh brought their C+ game, and still figured out a way to will.
The will to win was there for Pittsburgh. As the game wore on, the hard-hitting style of the Steelers began to take its toll. The look on Seattle's faces said a whole lot: They weren't used to getting hit like this. Three Seattle defensive starters were gone from the game by the second half -- one, S Manuel, as he tried to tackle Hines Ward. Hines took him out on the hit.
Oh, and speaking of getting hit! What about Jerramy Stevens, the guy that called out Jerome Bettis before the game – the guy that Joey Porter called "soft?" Well, it is astounding...but there were four times [that I counted] where Stevens caught the ball and either dropped it or had it knocked out of his hands by a big hit -- a tight end, paid to catch the ball in traffic, he couldn't hold onto the ball. Amazing. Each of these plays was huge, and had a chance to turn the game for Seattle.
And, the one play where Chris Hope laid the leather to Jerramy, the ball popped loose and was called an incomplete pass on the field. But it probably could have been called a fumble. But that doesn't matter now -- just the point still stands: Pittsburgh called out this one player, almost as if by foreknowledge, that he was the one they would need to soften up. And they did. They knocked the shine off of him. If he makes 2 of those 4 catches, Seattle wins the game. Update: I feel badly for him as a person. But maybe it will make him a better man -- no more charges of date rape or false treatment of women.
Note: I was shocked when Holmgren refused to shake Cowher’s hand after the game. A completely classless thing – a big insult in sporting terms, something I thought I’d never see out of Holmgren. Wow. Perhaps a ‘mistake,’ oh well. [UPDATE: Cowher visited Holmgren in the locker room afterward, and Holmgren explained that he wanted to leave the moment to Cowher. If this is true, sorry to malign you, Mike!]
Note: Antwaan Randle El was a difference maker in this game. His WR pass for a touchdown sealed the game, but it was the quiet things he did, the blocks, the returns, the toughness...unheralded, but necessary. ARE ran down Herdon after that INT by Ben...gutsy, team play. Also, by rights ARE should have been knocked out of the game on that punt return in the second quarter. But he came back into the game...to make plays! ARE is the kind of guy without eye-popping stats who just makes a difference in the game, period.
Note: Ben Roethlisberger had a terrible game throwing the ball. He was often confused by Seahawks' coverage, and it showed, badly. Both of his INTs were ill-advised, unforced errors that kept Seattle in the game. His QB rating was 22.9 – easily the worst rated QB ever to win a Super Bowl. It’s a TEAM game after all, lol.
However, that said, even though he had a terrible game throwing the ball, he still make teamwork plays. He ran for a score, he ran for two key first downs, he had instinctual situational awareness. And, check this: He threw a key block on Bouleware that allowed ARE to throw the touchdown to Hines Ward. Take that block away and ARE is tackled or forced to run... So, bottom line: Ben still made some key plays, even though the stats don't show it. He’s got QB instincts that can’t be taught, must be born with…
And, also something most people won't talk about...but I believe was a major key to the game: Seattle is terrible in the hurry-up. Everytime Hasselbeck tried to go to the no-huddle, at the end of the half and end of the game, it really showed. They were confused, they were ill-prepared, they were disjointed in trying audibles and counts. They eventually tried to switch their blocking assignments in no-huddle, and just plain didn't work for them. It caused TERRIBLE clock management for them – took points off the board for them at the end of both halves. I felt this was just inexcusable for a professional football team -- supposedly so good they didn't need the shotgun. Well, the facts showed otherwise: their blocking was exposed in the hurry-up, and they struggled against the rush...many uncalled holds...egregious holds by Seattle line, including "the great" Walter Jones.
And, a word about the officiating: Please stop the squeaks from people complaining about the refs! I'll just say this: 1. a push off in the end zone right in front of the ref is just dumb. That ref saw the whole thing, and seemed like he was trying to pull the flag out of his pocked for a whole 30 seconds, lol! 2. the goal line extends to the front of the white line, not the rear: Ben's QB run was a TD b/c the nose of the football broke the front plane while in the air, forward progress. Which reviews clearly showed. Where the ball came down isn’t the point. 3. Seattle was getting away with some [a lot] holding on outside rushes – so when one is called, it shouldn’t be a shocker [Update: in post-game replays, on passing plays there were 14 uncalled holds just on Seattle tackles alone, not counting guards and center]. 4. The penalty called on Hasselbeck for the low block on the return is a specific rule related to INT returns: there can be absolutely no low blocks on the knees on returns -- a rule instituted to save players' careers. It is a good rule and was a good call. I've picked off QBs before, had almost identical returns heading up the sideline, and had them go for my knees on the sideline...almost had a terrible knee injury this way. Also, I've seen too many people injured like this on INT returns. People don't realize, but anyone with a grudge can hit low as soon as a turnover occurs. And, 5. All that said, I still am sympathetic to Seattle fans feeling less-than-happy with officiating. In the words of one announcer, "You'd like the officials to be less a part of the game." True that. But a penalty is a penalty, and if it is called and holds up on review...there should be no crying.
The refs didn't affect this game adversely to the point of changing the outcome, if that's the argument being made. They could have made it a different game, but not changed the ending. Pittsburgh just outhit and out-toughed the Seahawks and made more plays in the second half. And there were a few calls that went Seattle’s way, too [note: that fumble by Stevens that wasn't called, and that block in the back of Roethlisberger on Herndon's INT as Ben tried to make the tackle].
Another thing: Pittsburgh's O-line, featuring Alan Faneca, just played like men. On that 75 yard TD run by Willie Parker, it was the perfectly blocked play. Max Starks crushed Lofa Tatupu, Faneca pulled into the hole and got the LB, Heath Miller sealed down on the DE...and Willie turned on the jets. Great football! And the defense, every single one, played position and assignment football to perfection. It is a joy to see a defense play like this! Wow. They were in place, in scheme and on play almost every play. Hats off! I'd give game balls to everyone on D. [Update: Some people were chirping that Joey Porter had a quiet game, but he played his assignment well...and just how many yards were made running to his side of the field? Hmmm...not many. And when he rushed the QB, he was held almost every time. Post-game replays showed Walter Jones with 6 uncalled holds -- three or four on Joey. And on that crucial INT by Hasselbeck, who caused that INT? That's right. Joey. He stepped back into the passing lane and Hasselbeck tried to throw over him. Oops. INT! Game over.]
And finally, game balls to Pittsburgh's loyal fans!
Really, it is amazing to me how wonderful this is playing out in those hills of Western PA! Anytime my mother wears Pittsburgh Steeler colors to church, look out! There's bound to be divine intervention, lol.
And, this of all days: Her birthday! :-) Happy birthday, mom. Couldn't think of a better present.
And to my friends, true believers and fans...all of you: congratulations! Great game and season.
May it be a sign of victory in your life! Endure the long road of adversity, and hold the trophy in the end…