Steelers 21, Colts 18
This is the Steelers' most surprising playoff win in any round.
Any time a game can be remembered for a play that gets "the" title, it's going to be high on any list.
Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts started the season 13-0 and finished 14-2. The New England Patriots, their playoff nemesis of the last two seasons, were eliminated the night before. The coast seemed clear for Manning to get to his first Super Bowl.
Or so it seemed.
The Steelers finished 11-5 and had to win their last four games just to get into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.
With Ben Roethlisberger still a fresh-faced quarterback in his second season, the Steelers ran the fewest passing plays in the NFL and the most running plays.
So what did they do against the Colts?
They came out throwing.
Bill Cowher turned Roethlisberger loose, and he completed nine of his first 12 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Steelers to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Steelers increased the lead to 21-3 through three quarters. The Colts cut the lead to 21-10 early in the fourth quarter. Then the Steelers hung onto the ball for eight minutes, twice converting fourth-down attempts, before punting with just over six minutes left.
If a Troy Polamalu interception hadn't been overturned by replay, the Steelers might have had a nice, tidy 21-10 win. Instead, the Colts scored a touchdown and made the two-point conversion to pull to within 21-18 with more than four minutes to go.
The Colts had the ball again with 2:31 left, but two Joey Porter sacks, including one on fourth down, backed the Colts to their own 2-yard line, where they turned it over to the Steelers with 1:20 left.
Before the Steelers could book their flight to Denver, though, Bettis fumbled and the Colts' Nick Harper ran it back with nothing but open field ahead of him.
Not many people figured Roethlisberger would throw the ball so much early in this game. No one figured he'd be needed to make a tackle.
It wasn't just any tackle. It was "The Tackle."
Roethlisberger got an arm around Harper's legs and tripped him up enough for the rest of the Steelers to catch him at the Colts 42.
Manning moved the Colts into field-goal range, but there was one more twist in this game of twists and turns. Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt, and the Steelers conquered the Colts.
No way were the Steelers going to lose at Denver in the AFC Championship Game the following week, not with a chance to take Jerome Bettis home to Detroit to finish his career in Super Bowl XL.
It was the Steelers' first trip to the Super Bowl in 10 years. In between, they lost four AFC Championship Games at home.
That changed in 2005. This monumental upset of the Colts gave the Steelers the momentum to go all the way and finally win One for the Thumb after a 26-year wait.