On This Date in Sports February 5, 2006: Livin' XL

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Pittsburgh Steelers win one for the thumb, as they defeat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 at Ford Field in Detroit. The Steelers used trickery to beat Seattle as Hines Ward caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Antwaan Randle-El. Ward would be named Super Bowl MVP, catching five passes for 123 yards. Hines Ward, born in South Korea, is the first player of Asian descent to win the Super Bowl MVP. It is the fifth Lombardi trophy for the Steelers and the first in 26 years.  

The Pittsburgh Steelers had sustained success for more than a decade after Bill Cowher replaced Chuck Noll in 1992. They reached Super Bowl XXX, losing to the Dallas Cowboys. Over the next ten years, Pittsburgh hosted the AFC Championship, losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champions each time, as they lost to the Denver Broncos in 1997 and the New England Patriots in 2001 and 2004. After their loss in 2004, spoiling a 15-1 season, the Steelers had their struggles in 2005. The Steelers had to win their last four games to finish 11-5 and grab the sixth seed in the AFC. In the playoffs, the Steelers upset the Cincinnati Bengals 31-17 in the Wild Card Round. A week later, they shocked the Indianapolis Colts 21-18 before beating the Denver Broncos 34-17 in the AFC Championship Game. The Steelers were the first sixth seed to make the Super Bowl and the second to make it to the Super Bowl with three road wins. 

It was a football revival in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Seahawks, coached by Mike Holmgren, had their best season in 2005, posting a record of 13-3. The Seahawks were led by Shaun Alexander, who won the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year by setting a record 27 rushing touchdowns and winning the league's rushing title with 1,880 yards. The Seahawks beat the Washington Redskins 20-10 in the Divisional Playoffs. It was Seattle's first postseason win in 21 years. A week later, the Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 34-14 in the NFC Championship, reaching their first Super Bowl. 

Despite their Wild Card status, the Steelers were the favorites in Super Bowl XL. They were also the sentimental favorite as Jerome Bettis was playing his final game in his hometown, Detroit. Both teams struggled in the first quarter, with Seattle opening the scoring with a 47-yard field goal by Josh Brown. Ben Roethlisberger was off his game and threw an interception early in the second quarter. The Seahawks were unable to take advantage, as the Steelers finally found their footing. With two minutes left in the half, Roethlisberger scored on a one-yard sneak. There was confusion over whether Big Ben crossed the goal line, but the play was upheld as the Steelers gained a 7-3 lead. Before the half, Brown missed a 54-yard field goal attempt for Seattle, giving Pittsburgh momentum heading into halftime.

The Steelers got the ball in the second half and extended their lead to 14-3 on a 75-yard touchdown run by Willie Parker. The run set a record for the longest in Super Bowl history. On Seattle's first possession in the third quarter, Josh Brown missed again, this time from 50 yards. The Steelers were set to take a stranglehold of the game when Ben Roethlisberger was picked off by Kelly Herndon. Herndon returned the ball back 76 yards. Three players later, the Seahawks found the end zone as Matt Hasselbeck connected with Jeremy Stevens on a 16-yard touchdown pass. 

As the fourth quarter began, the Seahawks down 14-10 were on the move in Pittsburgh territory. Ike Taylor picked off Matt Hasselbeck. On the return, Hasselbeck was flagged for a personal foul, as a strange call that rankled the ire of Seattle. The Steelers would make the Seahawks pay as Antwaan Randle-El, a quarterback in college, took a snap and connected with Hines Ward on a 43-yard touchdown pass. The turn of events would burry the Seahawks as the Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl. They did it despite a terrible game from Ben Roethlisberger, who had a 22.6 quarterback rating with two picks, and 123 yards while completing 9-of-21 passes. 

Super Bowl XL will best be remembered for the horrible officiating as several big calls went against Seattle. Causing some to ponder if the NFL screwed over the Seahawks, wanting Jerome Bettis and the Steelers to win, as the stadium was definitely slanted in their favor.