By defeating the AFC's top three seeds and the NFC's No. 1 seed in the Seattle Seahawks, the Pittsburgh Steelers' march to a Super Bowl XL victory has to be considered the best postseason run of all time.
Perhaps even more amazing is that the Steelers didn't even play their best football against the Seahawks. But the sign of a great football team is the ability to stay in the game when it is not playing well. Pittsburgh was nowhere near playing its best football, but it still held a four-point lead at halftime.
Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt did a great job managing Ben Roethlisberger through a rough first half, helping his young quarterback gain some confidence with a quarterback draw on third down. Whisenhunt's play calling (namely Antwaan Randle El's reverse pass for a touchdown) was a key part of the victory, and Pittsburgh truly will miss him if he decides to take the Raiders' head coaching job.
The difference in the game for the Seahawks was not taking advantage of a dominant first half. Seattle allowed the Steelers to get their feet underneath them and then watched Willie Parker break free for a 75-yard touchdown run right after halftime. In the end, it was too hard to overcome that 11-point deficit.
Yes, the officiating wasn't the best. But the Seahawks made enough mistakes to blame themselves, not just the referees.
1. The Steel Curtain. Pittsburgh's defense was able to adjust to a lot of things the Seahawks were doing offensively. It was able to take Darrell Jackson out of the game after he enjoyed a big first quarter, and it continued to show different looks to keep Matt Hasselbeck thinking. The linebacking corps, in particular, played fabulous. Against the pass, the group gave up some plays, but against the run, it helped take away Seattle's running game.
2. Bill Cowher. He coached an absolutely great football game. That first drive of the second half was huge, and even though his team wasn't playing well, he had his players more under control than you normally see in a big game.
3. Fast Willie. Willie Parker's Super Bowl record 75-yard touchdown run was the play of the game. It was a quick blow to the psyche of the Seahawks, who had controlled the game until that point.
1. Not-so-even Stevens. Jerramy Stevens probably played his worst game as a pro. But it's not surprising that the Seahawks' tight end failed to back up his words from Media Day. He's not that good. Stevens had an opportunity to make a difference in the game, but he wasn't able to pull it off because – trust me – the Steelers ultimately got into his head.
2. Seattle's offense. Despite all the yardage they gained in the first half, the Seahawks still were trailing 7-3 at halftime. That was a huge disappointment. Darrell Jackson had a touchdown catch negated due to a pass interference call, but that was the right call. Jackson pushed off to gain an advantage.
3. 'Hawks' bad timing. Seattle made mistakes at the worst times, and the holding penalties that canceled out big plays were just part of it. The Seahawks had so many unfortunate things happen to them, especially in the first 30 minutes of the game, to prevent them from putting Pittsburgh in a big hole.