During the offseason, Ben Roethlisberger became the leader we all hoped that he would be. He did every Steelers fan a favor and got Jerome Bettis to continue playing instead of retiring by promising to lead him to his first Super Bowl.
Ben got banged up that year, hurting his knee and sitting out four games.
During the 12 that he played, he looked good, winning nine of them. He actually finished third behind Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning in quarterback rating in the AFC.
The Steelers finished the season with an 11-5 record, and secured the sixth and final AFC playoff seed. The only option for the Steelers was to defy all history and make an epic run through the playoffs to win the Super Bowl trophy, to become the first team to win it after being the sixth seed, and to be the third team to win five Super Bowls.
Could they do it?
First up were the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals. They’d beaten the Steelers late in the season to secure the division and hoped to repeat that task in the playoffs. Anyone who saw this game remembers it for the game that Carson Palmer got hurt after Kimo von Oelhoffen rolled into his knee and putting him out for the game.
However, Jon Kitna did lead the Bengals to a 17-7 lead before the Steelers decided to actually play the game. They scored 24 unanswered points and won the game 31-17.
Next up were the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning. The Steelers defense was all over Peyton Manning all game long, leading the Steelers to a 21-3 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Colts had all but quit though and quickly brought themselves back into the game, with Manning hooking up with Dallas Clark for a 50-yard touchdown.
Manning then threw an interception to Troy Polamalu that all but sealed the game but it was ruled incomplete by the referees. It was obviously an interception but I’m not going to get into that here.
Manning again threw a touchdown and the Colts succeeded with the two-point conversion, cutting the Steelers lead to 21-18.
The two minute warning hit and the Steelers defense were bringing the heat on Manning, sacking him on his own two-yard line on fourth down. It’s game over, right? Two yards to go, with Jerome Bettis running the ball.
The Steelers brought in the offense, Ben Roethlisberger handing it off to Jerome Bettis who powered toward the end-zone, only to have Gary Brackett knock the ball out of his hands and be recovered by Nick Harper with only Ben Roethlisberger to beat.
Ben Roethlisberger made the Pittsburgh play of the century, tripping Harper up and forcing the Colts to settle for a game-tying field goal from Mike Vanderjagt. Only Vanderjagt, who was perfect in the postseason for field goals, missed it.
Coming from a Steelers fan, that played shocked and depressed me. Only rarely does Jerome Bettis fumble the football and never with only a yard between him and the end-zone. We all saw our Super Bowl going out the window until Roethlisberger tackled Harper.
After that, we saw a true competitor and hero in Ben Roethlisberger.
The following week against the Denver Broncos, the Steelers made easy work of them, downing them 34-17.
The Steelers were going to the Super Bowl!
The team they’d face would be the Seattle Seahawks. They weren’t a very physical team, but they sure had some speed on defense and they were supposed to give Roethlisberger trouble because of that.
Prior to the game, trash talk was abundant as the Steelers had outside linebacker Joey Porter, love him or hate him.
We all remember Roethlisberger’s play in that game as horrid, correct? Or was it?
He made the plays when he needed to, converting eight third-down conversions for the Steelers. And getting an assist (wait, that’s basketball, isn’t it?) on the touchdown pass to Hines Ward, the former college quarterback Antwaan Randle El threw the pass. The Steelers won 21-10.
Ben set not only the record for the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, but also holds the record for the lowest QB rating for a winning quarterback with a 22.6 rating in the game.
A touching moment followed the game, with Jerome Bettis announcing his retirement and as a Steelers fan and a huge Jerome Bettis fan, I won’t lie, I cried. It was the end of an era that we all saw ending, it’s just weird looking at the Steelers and not seeing No. 36 running it up the gut.
Steelers fans celebrated throughout the entire off-season, talk of a dynasty filled the air. Until the day that we learned that Ben Roethlisberger was involved in a terrible motorcycle accident that not only could have put an end to his career in the NFL, but also an end to his life...