2005 Steelers 34 vs Titans 7
Willie Parker has a dazzling first career start with 161 yards rushing and a long 48-yd catch-and-run while Ben Roethlisberger (9 of 11, 218 yds, 2 TD, 0 Int) throws for two scores and posts a perfect QB rating of 158.3 on opening day. Pittsurgh scores on their first 6 possessions -- 4 TDs and 2 FGs -- to win their 15th regular season game in a row. After Tennessee scores on its opening drive, Roethlisberger promptly goes 5 for 5 for 88 yards on the Steelers' first drive, capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass to rookie Heath Miller. The Titans then lose a fumble (forced by Farrior), miss a field goal and are intercepted (Polamalu) on their next three possessions. The Steelers score after all three on Roethlisberger's 63-yd bomb to Antwaan Randle El and 2 Jeff Reed FG's for a 20-7 halftime lead. Pittsburgh opens the 2nd half with an effortless 74-yd TD drive capped Parker's 11-yd run and the rout is on.
2005 Steelers 27 at Texans 7
An absolute annihilation. The Steelers defense abuses David Carr, sacking him 8 times, including 3 by safety Troy Polamalu who seems to be coming from everywhere. While Carr spends most of the afternoon looking out his ear hole and is clearly confused throughout the game (wasting 3 timeouts, getting called for intentional grounding and taking 2 delay-of-game penalties), Ben Roethlisberger has a near-perfect first half, completing 11 of 15 for 201 yds and 2 TDs to build a 20-0 lead. Clark Haggans makes a huge play early when he chases down David Carr and forces a fumble that Joey Porter recovers at the Texans' 22, leading to Pittburgh's first TD. Willie Parker carries 25 times for 111 yds and a TD and Hines Ward grabs 6 passes for 84 yds and 2 TDs as the Steelers score on each of their first 4 possessions. For the 2nd consecutive game, Pittsburgh has no use for punter Chris Gardocki until the 4th quarter.
2005 Steelers 20 vs Patriots 23
In spite of an 85-yd TD catch by Ward and leading for most of the game, the Steelers ironically seal their fate by scoring too quickly after the Patriots take a 20-13 lead with 3:19 left. A 44-yd kick return by Ricardo Colclough sets Pittsburgh up with great field position and the Steelers take advantage by driving to the Patriot 4-yd line in 8 plays, aided by a huge 4th down PI call on Patriots (and former Steeler) cornerback Chad Scott. With 1:30 remaining, a 1st and goal and the Patriots out of time outs, the Steelers inexplicably throw on 1st down rather than running time off the clock. The good news? Ben hits Ward for the game-tying TD. The bad news? Brady gets the ball back with 81 ticks on the clock. We've seen this act before and everyone in Heinz Field knows how it ends. Brady dinks and dunks his way to the Steeler 25, Vinatieri trots on the field, a shudder runs though the crowd, and Vinatieri connects on the 43-yd game-winner with 1 second left.
2005 Steelers 24 at Chargers 22 MNF
Big Ben out-duals Drew Brees in an exciting (and scary) Monday Night matchup. Roethlisberger thrusts both fists in the air as Jeff Reed's 40-yd kick wins it for the Steelers with 6 seconds left. One problem: Roethlisberger is celebrating from the bench with his leg wrapped in ice and bandages. Trailing 22-21 in the 4th quarter, Roethlisberger hits Randle El on a 9-yd pass to move Pittsburgh into FG range at the San Diego 29. As he releases the ball, Ben takes a gruesome helmet-first hit to the knee on his plant leg by Chargers rookie lineman Luis Castillo and crumples to the ground, writhing in agony. Roethlisberger is replaced by Charlie Batch, who hands off 3 straight times to Bettis before Reed's kick. Before his injury, Roethlisberger (17 of 26, 225 yds, 0 Int) runs for 1 TD and throws for another, and Bettis rushes for a TD in his season debut. Tomlinson is held to 62 yds on 18 carries and Drew Brees throws his 1st INT in 3 games to still relatively unknown LB James Harrison (at the 54:15 mark), who makes a remarkable, memorable return in which he leaps HIGH over the head of Ladanian Tomlinson as he tries to make the tackle.
2005 Steelers 17 vs Jaguars 23 OT
Oh, Tommy... Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. Thank you for 2002, sweet man, but it's time to go back to selling insurance. Maddox, booed for much of the game by the home crowd, is intercepted twice on Pittsburgh's first 3 possessions -- with the second INT being returned to the Steeler 7 to set up an easy Jaguar TD -- and then turns the ball over on each of Pittsburgh's two overtime possessions -- first with a Keystone Cops-style fumble (while in FG range, no less) and then with a devastating 41-yd pick-six by Rasheen Mathis to end the game. In his defense, Maddox was playing with an injured calf while subbing for Big Ben (hyperextended knee) and was also missing the services of Hines Ward (hamstring). But the rest of the team stepped up BIG time with Randle el providing an electrifying 72-yd punt return for a TD (keyed by crushing block by Jerame Tuman), Bryant McFadden intercepting a Leftwich pass in the end zone with 19 seconds left to force overtime, and Quincy Morgan returning the overtime opening kickoff to the Jaguar 26-yd line.
2005 Steelers 27 at Bengals 13
Ben returns from his knee injury, Parker and Bettis rush for 221 yds and the Bengals learn that the Steelers are still the bullies of the AFC North. Cinci has opportunities early but squanders them. Their impressive opening drive comes up empty when Chris Henry drops a sure TD pass and Shayne Graham misses a chip shot FG. Their next drive is just as impressive but stalls at the Steeler 8 as they settle for a 26-yd FG. Instead of being up 10-0 or 14-0, the Bengals lead only 3-0. On Pittsburgh's next drive, Heath Miller catches 2 passes sandwiched between 8 runs -- the first for 20 yds and the 2nd for a 2-yd TD -- and the grind-it-out Steelers never trail again. Interceptions by Chris Hope and Aaron Smith early in the 3rd quarter trigger a runaway 2nd half for Pittsburgh. Hope's INT sets up a FG and following Smith's INT, Willie Parker (18 att, 131 yds) breaks outside for a 39-yd TD run and a 17-6 Steeler advantage. After a Cinci punt, Ben goes to Heath Miller again for 21, grinds Cinci with multiple runs by Bettis and Parker, and then hits a wide open Hines Ward in the end zone, after which Ward celebrates Pittsburgh's 24-6 lead by putting his hands on his hips and imitating a Riverdance jig a la Chad Johnson.
2005 Steelers 20 vs Ravens 19 MNF
Big Ben engineers a perfect opening drive, hitting 7 of 8 (4 to Hines Ward), converting on a 4th & 1 QB sneak and capping it with a 4-yd TD to Heath Miller. Ben reinjures his knee on the drive and heads to locker room in pain, but returns in time for the next possession. Surprisingly, the injury depleted Ravens -- led by former Steeler backup QB Anthony Wright -- strike right back with an impressive TD drive of their own, making it clear this will be a typical "fight to the finish" Steelers/Ravens contest. Features a perfect pooch punt by Roethlisberger that is downed inside the Raven 1-yd line. The teams trade FGs before halftime and head to the locker room tied 10-10. After a Chris Hope INT early in the 3rd, Roethlisberger starts the 2nd half the same way he started the 1st half, going 6 for 6 on a drive that ends with a another TD pass to Miller (the rookie's 6th TD in his 1st 7 games). The Ravens add a pair of FGs and trail 17-16 when disaster strikes on a botched Steelers punt. Rookie Greg Warren's long snap to Chris Gardocki bounces off Sean Morey, who picks up the loose ball and pitches it to Gardocki, who throws an incomplete pass, setting the Ravens up in Steeler territory. Six plays later, Stover hits his 4th FG of the night, a 47-yarder with 3:21 remaining. But bum knee and all, Ben comes in and does what Ben does, cooly and quickly moving the Steelers to the 19-yd line to set up Jeff Reed's 37-yd game winner.
2005 Steelers 20 at Packers 10
The Steeler D bails out their injury-ravaged offense, turning 3 turnovers into 17 points highlighted by Troy Polamalu's electrifying 77-yd TD return of a Favre fumble.
The Steelers are without Big Ben (knee) and Bettis (thigh), who are joined on the sideline in the 2nd half by Willie Parker (ankle). As a result, Charlie Batch makes his first start since 2001 when he was with Detroit, completing 9 of 16 for 65 yds and 1 INT. Polamalu's TD comes early in the 2nd quarter as Green Bay, trailing 6-3, is poised to take the lead at the Steeler 3. Consecutive false starts back up the Packers to the 12 and they go to an empty backfield on 3rd-and-goal. Big mistake. Polamalu comes on a safety blitz and hits Farve first, but Farve spins out of the tackle. Unfortunately for Favre, he spins right into a blitzing Bryant McFadden who drills him for an 11-yd sack and pops the ball out. Polamalu scoops up the loose ball and scrambles 77 yds untouched (aided by McFadden's huge block on TE Donald Lee) for a monster 10-point turnaround, giving the Steelers a 13-3 lead. For their part, Pittsburgh's offense finally gets into the end zone in the 4th quarter after Tyrone Carter picks off a ball that bounces off Donald Driver, setting up a short field at the Packer 20 with 8:11 left and Pittsburgh clinging to a 13-10 lead. Four plays later, Duce Staley (76 yds on 15 carries in his first action of the season) slips a tackle and trots in from 3 yds out to seal the victory.
2005 Steelers 34 vs Browns 21 SNF
At the 1:28:47 mark (opening drive of the 2nd half), you'll recognize Antwaan Randle El's famous "Fake-39 Toss X-Reverse Pass" from Super Bowl XL as Hines ward piles up 8 catches for 124 yds, including the 52-yd gadget TD pass from Randle el. :) Poor Charlie Batch breaks his hand after a great first half (13 of 19, 150 yds) in which he also smartly runs an improvised QB sneak from the one inch line to save a Steeler TD as time expires in the first half, giving Pittsburgh a 17-7 lead. Joey Porter's interception at the Cleveland 40 with only 1:19 left puts Batch in position for that score. Tommy Maddox comes in for mop up duty and unfortunately reminds everyone why he lost the backup job to Batch, hearing boos from the crowd before the night is over in spite of the win. Hines Ward hauls in his 538th career reception to surpass John Stallworth as the Steelers' all time receiving leader.
2005 Steelers 13 at Ravens 16 OT
This is as ugly as offensive football gets. Tommy Maddox muddles through a miserable, mistake-filled performance in relief of injured teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch, suffering 6 sacks (including an 8-yd sack on 4th & 1) and turning the ball over twice in the 4th quarter on a fumble and an INT. Kyle Boller fares little better for Baltimore with 5 sacks and an INT, but does just enough in overtime to set up Matt Stover's 44-yd game-winning FG.
2005 Steelers 7 at Colts 26 MNF
Don't do it, Ike. Don't do it. Ike, are you listening? Don't bite on playaction on Indy's first offensive play. Just stay with Marvin Harrison and don't worry about the run. Okay? Don't bite, Ike. Just don't... uh-oh... oh, $#!t... dammit, Ike! You bit!!! Big Ben is finally back from his knee injury after a 3-game hiatus but clearly isn't at 100% and collectively, the Steelers make too many mistakes to come away with a win against the undefeated Colts. Even so, the game provides many "teachable moments" that will serve the Steelers well when the two teams meet again in the playoffs with far different results.
2005 Steelers 31 vs Bengals 38
In his 2nd game back from knee surgery, Big Ben plays an inspired game despite a broken right thumb that is encased in a splint and covered by a glove, passing for 386 yds and 3 TDs. Unfortunately, the battered QB also throws 3 costly interceptions as Cincinnati all but secures their first division title in 15 years. While Cinci was turnover free, the Steelers suffer 4 turnovers, the biggest of which comes with the Steelers trailing 24-31 trying to drive for a tying score (after the Bengals had just capitalized on a 94-yd kickoff return) in the 4th quarter. Linebacker Odell Thurman steps in front of a Roethlisberger pass intended for Ward and returns it to midfield, and Rudi Johnson scores six plays later to make it 38-24. After the game, TJ Houshmandzadeh desecrates a Terrible Towel by using it to clean his shoes as the jubilant Bengals leave the field feeling like they just won the Super Bowl. They didn't... as Pittsburgh would prove in Cinci 5 weeks later.
2005 Steelers 21 vs Bears 9
Rarely can a Hall of Fame career be summed up in a single play. But needing a win to keep Pittsburgh's playoff hopes alive against Chicago's #1-rated defense in blizzard conditions, Jerome Bettis delivers such a play (at the 86:52 mark) in a collision that symbolizes not only his great 13-year career, but a generation of smashmouth football in Pittsburgh. As Bettis takes the handoff, All-Pro LB Brian Urlacher stands his ground inside the 5-yd line and braces himself to meet the hard-charging running back. Free safety Michael Green hits Bettis first and immediately crumbles harmlessly to the ground. And then, all 260-pounds of Bettis smashes into Urlacher head on... and keeps right on going. Urlacher hangs on as the Bus runs over/through him, but Bettis simply drags him along as he powers into the end zone. Bettis finishes the day with 101 yds on 17 carries and 2 TDs, and while this game marks the final 100-yd performance of Bettis' career, it also marks the beginning of Pittsburgh's amazing 8-game winning streak en route to their 5th Lombardi Trophy. Perhaps best of all, this was also the first Steelers game my then-9-year-old son, Craig, ever attended with me. Great times, great win!
2005 Steelers 18 at Vikings 3
In another must-win game for Pittsburgh, the Steeler defense holds the Vikings to only 3 points in 4 red zone possessions thanks to a pair of first half Brad Johnson interceptions (Joey Porter and DeShea Townsend) and a blocked field-goal attempt (von Oelhoffen) on the first drive of the 3rd quarter. Big Ben, playing with broken right thumb, throws only 15 times, completing 10 for 149 yards and running for the game's only touchdown, a 3-yard scramble and stretch over the left pylon. Ben's score was set up by Antwaan Randle El's blazing 72-yd punt return down the right sideline just before halftime. Minnesota never threatens again after the missed FG as the Steeler defense demolishes the Vikings running game (54 yds) and permits only 25 yards of total offense in the second half.
2005 Steelers 41 at Browns 0
The Steelers dominate from the moment they take the field, giving Cleveland a big, fat goose egg for Christmas as they shut out the Browns in embarrassingly easy fashion. The win marks the 11th time in the past 12 games the Steelers have defeated the Browns and moves them one step closer to a playoff berth. Hapless rookie QB Charlie Frye is sacked 8 times (3 by Porter) and fumbles 4 times as Pittsburgh outgains Cleveland 457-178 in one of the most
lopsided games in the 55-year-old rivalry. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger calmly picks the Browns apart, completing 13 of 20 passes for 226 yds and a TD, Willie Parker burns Cleveland with a stunning 80-yds breakaway TD run and Ward catches 7 passes for 105 yds and a TD. Adding insult to injury, James Harrison blocks a punt and famously body-slams a drunken Browns fan who runs onto the field.
2005 Steelers 35 vs Lions 21
Bettis goes out in style, matching a career high with 3 rushing TDs in his final game at Heinz Field to propel the Steelers to victory, earning the 6th and final seed in the playoffs. On a day when Big Ben is off his game and the receivers are bothered by drops, Pittsburgh's special teams come up HUGE. Randle El opens the scoring with an 81 yd punt return for a TD, Ricardo Colclough returns a kick 63 yds to set up a Bettis TD, and Brett Keisel recovers a fumbled punt at the Detroit 37 to set up another Bettis TD. While Bettis does most of the scoring, Parker gains most of the yards, piling up 135 yds on 26 carries. The Lions play surprisingly well and the heavily favored Steelers don't really put the game away until Big Ben's gutsy 7-yd TD scramble in the final minute of the 3rd quarter runs the score to 35-21. As the Bus leaves the field late in the game, the crowd gives him a standing ovation and begins chanting "One more year! One more year!" as the Steelers celebrate their playoff berth on the sideline. Let the revenge tour begin!
2005 Post Season
2005 AFC Wildcard Steelers 31 at Bengals 17
"Who Dey?" WE Dey! Ah, the Bungles... who else would lose their freshly inked $118M franchise QB on only the 2nd play of their first playoff game in 15-years at the hands of an ex-teammate? Tough break for Carson Palmer, but a word of wisdon to TJ Houshmandzadeh: Never desecrate a Terrible Towel. Despite the injury to Palmer, the Steelers fall behind 17-7 in the 2nd quarter courtesy of a Rudi Johnson 20-yd TD run and a Kitna 7-yd toss to Houshmandzadeh. But as the game progresses, blitzes on Kitna increase, holes in the coverages tighten and Kitna begins to struggle, suffering 2 INTs, 4 sacks and finishing with a 60.1 rating. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger is near-perfect in his decision-making and execution, going 14 of 19 for 208 yds, 3 TDs and no INTs. The turning point comes early in the 2nd half when the Bengals botch the snap on a short FG attempt and the Steelers take over with good field position. Ben immediately throws a 45-yd bomb to Randle El, who drops the perfect pass in the end zone but draws a flag for pass interference, setting the Steelers up 1st-and-goal from the 5. On the next play, Bettis bursts into the end zone for a 21-17 Steelers lead and the Steelers never look back. After a disasterous Bengal 3-and-out, the Steelers deliver the knockout blow on a stunning, back-breaking badget play of a bomb. On 3rd and 5, Randle El lines up next to Ben and takes the direct snap, runs right, then turns and throws a lateral pass back across the field to Ben, who then heaves a beauty of a bomb to a wiiide open Cedrick Wilson, who skips into the end zone untouched for a 43-yd TD. Phil Simms is calling the game, and Wilson is so wide open that Simms yells "Touchdown!" before Ben even throws the ball. Enjoy the offseason, Bungles! For the record, Kimo von Oelhoffen's hit on Carson Palmer, while unfortunate, was not a dirty play, although Bengals fans continue to cry foul to this day.
2005 AFC Playoffs Steelers 21 at Colts 18
A game for the ages. Pittsburgh totally dominates for 3 quarters, building a 21-3 lead as Ben flawlessly executes an aggressive pass-first game plan while the defense overwhelms Peyton Manning with a dizzying array of blitzes. Pittsburgh appears to salt the game away on Polamalu's diving interception at midfield with 5:26 remaining, and that's when things get whacky. Polamalu gets up to run and fumbles the ball, but falls on it - only to have the play mysteriously overturned by referee Pete Morelli (apparently, the NFL's only "legally blind" official). Given new life, Manning immediately hits Harrison for 20, Wayne for 24 capped by Edgerrin James' 3-yd TD run and a 2-point conversion pass to Wayne, narrowing the score to 21-18. Pittsburgh is forced to punt after a 3-and-out but again, Manning is engulfed by Steeler blitzes. Twice, Joey Porter blows around the edge virtually untouched and nails Manning for sacks, including on 4th down to give Pittsburgh the ball at the Colt 2 with only 1:20 remaining. Game over, right? Wrong. In one of the most shocking plays in NFL history, the normally surehanded Bettis coughs up the ball on a textbook perfect hit by Gary Brackett. Safety Nick Harper scoops up the ball and sprints toward the opposite end zone with a convoy of blockers and nothing but green in front of him. But Ben Roethlisberger -- brilliant all game with his arm and mind -- had begun running backward the moment the ball popped out and put himself in perfect position as the Steelers' last line of defense. His miraculous turning, twisting, diving ankle tackle of Harper saves the game for Pittsburgh and is now the stuff of legends. But the game doesn't end there. Two Manning passes move the ball to the Pittsburgh 27, and Mike Vanderjagt -- most accurate kicker in NFL history -- lines up for a 46-yd FG to send it to overtime. After a Pittsburgh time out to ice the kicker and a brief exchange between Cowher and Vanderjagt from across the field, Vanderjagt hooks his kick badly to the right (it never has a chance) and the Steelers storm the field in victorious jubilation.
2005 AFC Championship Steelers 34 at Broncos 17 "Come back, I'll get you to the Super Bowl. Just come back, give me one more year." Big Ben delivers a nearly flawless performance (21 of 29, 275 yds, 2 TD, 0 Int and a rushing TD) and makes good on his promise to get Jerome Bettis to the Super Bowl. The Steelers come out passing just as they had vs. Indy and Roethlisberger leads the offense to points on all 4 of their first-half possessions. Ben is particularly effective on 3rd down, converting 8 of his first 9 third-down throws including a beautiful touch pass to Cedrick Wilson in the right corner of the end zone after freezing Champ Bailey with a pump-fake to give the Steelers a 10-0 lead. While Roethlisberger is rarely pressured, Jake Plummer is terrorized by Joey Porter and company into 2 fumbles and 2 devastating interceptions. Trailing by two TDs in the shadow of his own goal post just before halftime, a rattled Jake the Snake floats a terrible sideline pass that is easily intercepted by Ike Taylor. Moments later, Roethlisberger makes perhaps his best throw of the day in which he ducks away from Denver pressure and fires a perfect 17-yd strike that just clears the fingertips of Al Wilson and Nick Ferguson to Hines Ward tucked neatly in the back of the end zone, running the score to 24-3. After the score, a jubilant Big Ben runs to the sideline pretending to fire six-shooters from his hip. To their credit, Denver keeps fighting and pulls to within 27-17 midway through the 4th quarter, but Roethlisberger ultimately puts it away, sweeping around left end and diving into the end zone on 3rd-and-goal to send the crowd home as a jubilant Jerome Bettis looks into the camera and says, "I'm going home!"
Super Bowl XL Steelers 21 vs Seahawks 10
The Steelers finally get "one for the thumb" as the Bus makes his last stop in Detroit. On a day when Ben is decidely off his game and the entire offense seems jittery and out of sync, the Steelers' defense -- aided by Seattle's penalties, self-inflicted wounds and poor clock management -- holds off the Seahawks long enough for the offense to produce a handful of gigantic plays, including Ben's crazy 3rd-and-28 improvisational scramble-n-pass to Ward for 37 yds and Willie Parker's stunning 75-yd TD burst behind the crushing block of guard Alan Faneca. But no play is bigger than Antwaan Randle El's "Fake-39 Toss X-Reverse Pass." With the ball on Seattle's 43, Roethlisberger hands off to Parker, who hands off to Randle El, who is sweeping right on an end around. Meanwhile, game MVP Hines Ward comes off the line casually and then suddenly explodes downfield into the clear, and Randle El -- aided by a clutch block by Big Ben -- throws a picture perfect deep strike, hitting Ward in stride at the 5-yd line. A broadly smiling Ward skips into the end zone for a stunning 43-yard TD, giving Pittsburgh an insurmountable 21-10 lead. The Bus is finally home and after the game on the podium, in front of a jubilant Steelers "home crowd" on the road, Bettis says, "I'm a champion. I think the Bus' last stop is here in Detroit." Mission accomplished!
A HUGE gold star thank you goes out to Keith "Crash" Froehlich for generously (and tirelessly) digitizing the entire 2004, 2005 and 2008 seasons for the rest of us to enjoy. Kudos, Crash!