During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.
Just four games into my Super Bowl countdown and it has been a great experience so far from a sports and life perspective. One cannot live in the past, but surely being cognizant of past events can aid someone in their future travails. Today, a game not too far in the past. Detroit, Michigan was the scene and the city was the brunt of a lot of jokes for hosting, but by all accounts it was a good setting apart from the outside weather. So prepare for obvious Lions jokes and mentions that Jerome Bettis indeed, is from Detroit. A revisit to the Detroit Demolition after the break.
Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10
Semi-Lame Nickname: "The Road to Forty"
Historical Significance- 3.5: As anyone from Pittsburgh or anyone who has jumped on their bandwagon can tell you Pittsburgh has a proud tradition. Until this game though, they had not won a Super Bowl in 26 years and had only appeared in one(1995) since they captured their 4th title in 1979. That didn't stop a (huge)mass of Steeler fans from invading the city of Detroit on Super Bowl week with their banana-colored towels in tow. The Seahawks were upstarts on the NFL block. They were founded in 1976 in the midst of the run of the Steel Curtain and were entering their first ever title contest. This was truly a Ric Flair situation: to be the man, the Seahawks were going to have to beat the man (Woooooooooooooo!).
Game Enjoyment by the Fans- 3: The game had a lot of build-up, the league really pushed the 40th year of the game during the year. The players provided plenty of trash talk on both sides. The game was a somewhat sloppy affair punctuated by a couple big plays. Nobody would argue that it was a total artistic display of the game of football.
High Profile Element- 3.5: At every level of the game there was a story. Steeler coach Bill Cowher was trying to finally win the big one while Mike Holmgren was trying for lofty territory by winning one with his 2nd team. Did we mention that Jerome Bettis is from Detroit so this game was being played in his hometown? Ben Roethlisberger was in his second season after leading the Steelers to a 15-1 record in his rookie campaign. Matt Hasselbeck had established himself as a top tier quarterback in the league and had shaken off his former playoff faux pas from the prior year:
The defenses were both intimidating and fast. The Seahawks had 50 sacks that year and the Steeler defense was very similar to how it is today with Polamalu patrolling the backfield with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau unleashing a strong linebacking core on opposing quarterbacks. Joey Porter lead the team in sacks, and lip-flapping. Shaun Alexander was the MVP that year and set a then-record with 28 TDs. His disappearance from the NFL conversation makes Priest Holmes blush. The Steelers used a two back system with Willie Parker adding the speed and Bettis bringing the power. Bettis is after all, from Detroit.
The main hype story in the media was the clash between Joey Porter and Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens. The deplorable unthinkable act committed by Stevens was that he came out and said it was going to be a shame when the Seahawks denied Jerome Bettis the chance to hold the Lombardi trophy in his home town. Jerome Bettis is from Detroit, you see. How dare he proclaim his desire for his team to win! Porter then opened up on Stevens, calling him soft. Thus the media was fed a storyline and ate it up during the lead up to the game.
Venue/Atmosphere- 3.5: Tastes vary but I happen to like Ford Field. Their may be a more positive attitude if the Lions could win more than 5 games a year. The pre-game was composed of soul singers singing some Motown hits, nothing wrong with that. Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville along with a choir sang the anthem in a tribute to New Orleans as the game was 5 months after Katrina. The Rolling Stones performed at halftime. ABC imposed a 5 second delay to control anything that might scar our nations youth for life. So when the lyrics of "Rough Justice" included the word (gasp) cocks, the microphone went dead. Of course, the Detroit community was not too happy about having a British band perform in Motown for halftime, especially when you consider it was by a band that was heavily influence by blues. For your eye-rolling pleasure, Tom Brady flipped the coin, representing Super Bowl MVPs of the past.
Personal Enjoyment- 2: The game was by no means a blowout but I never got the feeling I was watching an epic clash of champions. The Seahawks and their fans will point to this more than me but the officiating was deplorable. Seattle also had horrible clock management in the 4th quarter.
Cleet's Rating Index: 16
Where I was: Not exactly the most exciting time for me. I was unemployed and was pondering my next move in life. I was visiting with friends out of town that weekend, but one of the people I was traveling with insisted on getting back to our town on Sunday instead of staying and watching the Super Bowl we drove back and I was able to make it for kickoff and watched the game with just me and my dog. Lame? Yes, but all you really need is a TV and a beer.
What Happened In The World: 6 days before the game Samuel Alito was sworn in to the Supreme Court. No word on whether he mouthed anything during the ceremony.
Record of Note: Willie Parker ran for a record 75-yard touchdown two plays into the second half. The run beat out Marcus Allen's famous run in Super Bowl 18.
Game MVP: Hines Ward won the MVP. He caught 5 balls for 123 including the TD from Antwaan Randle El that sealed the game for the Steelers in the 4th. I would like to point out here that he is the best blocking WR in the history of the game. I don't necessarily believe that but I wanted to piss off Catfish.
LVP: The Officials, headed by Bill Leavy. Let me first say that I do not think that the bad calls necessarily led to Pittsburgh winning. There were bad calls on both sides, but the most notable were against the Seahawks. The first was the offensive Pass Interference call on Darrell Jackson. I think the ref reacted to hands being extended, but watching the play again, it was a dubious call at best.
The next call I want to bring up was the goal-line run by Roethlisberger.
Leavy went with the not enough evidence to overturn the play. This one you cannot really fault the officials, it is impossible to tell whether the tip of the ball crossed the plane of the goal-line.
This gives me an opportunity to reinforce my idea about coming up with some kind of technology to let us know exactly where the ball is on the field. Can we not implant a microchip on the ball and keep track of it on the field? How can tennis have such a great replay system yet the most popular and lucrative sport in our country cannot?
Next we have the holding call on tackle Sean Locklear after an 18-yard completion to Stevens down to the 1. Couldn't find a replay on this one, but the replay even left John Madden dumbfounded. The next play resulted in a Hasselbeck interception and then he was flagged for blocking below the waste, seen at the beginning of this video.
This was the only call the NFL would say was ruled incorrectly. The Seahawks and their fans and media were more vocal than anyone about the officiating, which makes it appear as sour grapes. As a person with experience in this area, I can tell you a few things with certainty. You will never get either side to agree on the calls and it will not change the outcome of the game. Seattle had their chances to win this game but they failed to convert in many instances and two lapses on defense lead to 14 Pittsburgh points. Until we create a race of cyborg referees that can make instantly correct calls and eventually overthrow humankind and make us their slaves, bad officiating will remain a fact in the NFL.
Most Memorable Play: The Randle-El touchdown pass holds in my mind. Up until then the Seahawks still had a fighting chance and it was the first TD thrown by a WR in Super Bowl history.
NFL Fallout: The Steelers were able to finally get Cowher his title and a year later he rode into the sunset and into the CBS studios. Pittsburgh would continue their development of Big Ben and despite having 2 picks and a passer rating lower than his age, Roethlisberger came back two years later and led the game-winning drive. The Seahawks had that Super Bowl hangover and despite reaching the playoffs in subsequent years, they were never able to get to the level they reached in 2005. Mike Holmgren retired a few season later and is now the president of the Cleveland Browns. One last note from this game: Jerome Bettis is from Detroit.