I’ve always felt bad that it had to be Seattle.
No matter how you view the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 21-10 victory over the Seahawks in Super Bowl 40 – whether you call it a good old-fashioned “ugly” win by a franchise that’s accustomed to that style, or a colossal league-mandated screw job, or somewhere in between – I never reveled in denying Seattle a championship.
In 1979, the NBA’s SuperSonics delivered the Pacific Northwest’s lone major-pro title, topping the Bullets in the Finals. Since then, there have been a few close calls, as MLB’s Mariners have made it to three American League Championship Series and the Sonics climbed within two wins of the 1996 NBA crown, but the closest came on Feb. 5, 2006 in Detroit.
On that night, an estimated 90 million Americans watched on television as the Steelers ended a championship drought of their own, earning the elusive “one for the thumb” before 68,206 fans at Ford Field. Despite being the first No. 6 seed to make the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh was favored by four over Seattle, which had just captured its first conference title two weeks prior.
Despite a lukewarm performance by second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers rode a strong defensive effort against the league’s top scoring team, with some help from offensive stars Willie Parker (93 yards rushing, including a Super Bowl-record 75-yard touchdown run) and Hines Ward (five catches, 123 yards and the clinching score late).
Memorably, questionable penalties cost Seattle an early touchdown and a long punt return, helping the Steelers take a 7-3 lead into halftime. Roethlisberger’s second-quarter rushing score also came under dispute, although a video review confirmed the call on the field. It’s still tough to tell if No. 7 ever got across the goal line on the play.
Let’s just say it wasn’t the most dominating performance by the Steelers, who finished the season with eight straight wins but probably peaked in the previous three rounds. If that happened against the Cowboys, it would’ve felt more karmic to get most of the breaks, but instead the Seahawks were the victims.
Now, eight years later, Seattle appears to be in the opposite seat. Much like the 2005-06 Steelers, this year’s Seahawks have a talented sophomore signal-caller in Russell Wilson, a dominant defense and a running attack that can take control of a game. They will challenge a premier offensive team in the Broncos, another parallel to Pittsburgh’s situation in Detroit.
No matter what you may think about outspoken cornerback Richard Sherman, this Seattle team feels like one a Steelers fan should be able to get behind. In fact, Pittsburgh is used to brash defenders speaking their minds, so maybe that’s another check in the good column for the Seahawks.
Either way, when these teams take the field Sunday evening at a chilly MetLife Stadium, blue and green will the colors of choice for this Pittsburgher. Hope the 12th Man has room for a 13th.