Can you believe the football season is over? As is the case every year, only one team is truly happy at the conclusion of the NFL season — and that team is the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Congratulations to the Rooney family, Bill Cowher, all the Steeler players and their fans.
At one point this season, the Steelers were treading water at 7-5 but they went on to win their next eight games and earned the designation as the NFL’s best in 2005-2006. They obviously did not play their best game on Sunday, but they made plays when they had to — and that is one of the traits that defines a champion. Now the Steeler organization joins the Cowboys and 49ers with the most Super Bowl victories in NFL history, all having won five.
As for the Seahawks, it was a game they will feel sick about for a long time. It was a case of missed opportunities for the team making its first trip to the big stage. Their plan was to build a lead and make the Steelers play from behind, which would put more pressure on their young QB, Ben Rothlisberger. The plan looked like it was going to work but the Seahawks couldn’t cash in on the early opportunities. Early in the first quarter, the Seahawks had a 23-yard pass down to the Steelers 18-yard line wiped out by a holding penalty. Later in the first quarter, the Seahawks appeared ready to take a 7-0 lead, but a questionable offensive pass interference call wiped out the touchdown and they were forced to settle for a field goal. In the second quarter, Peter Warrick returned a punt 34-yards to the Steelers 46-yard line only to have that great field position negated by a holding penalty. Pittsburgh appeared on the verge of putting the game away in the third quarter, leading 14-3 and with the ball at the Seattle 7-yard line. But Big Ben made a mistake with a throw into the flat and the Seattle defensive back returned it 76-yards to the Pittsburgh 20-yard line. Three plays later, a Hasselbeck TD pass cut the lead to 14-10 and swung the momentum back in favor of Seattle. Two possessions later, the Seahawk’s had a chance to take the lead, but the 11th play of that drive was the turning point in the game. On first and ten from the Steelers 19, Hasselbeck hit his tight-end down the middle with an 18-yard pass to the Steelers 1-yard line. But another questionable call, this time for holding, nullified the play and Hasselbeck was intercepted three plays later. The Steelers converted the turnover into a 43-yard TD pass three plays later, effectively ending the Seahawks hopes for a championship.
For Seattle it will be a long off-season thinking about what might have been. I don’t like to complain about officiating, regardless of what Terry Bradshaw said on Leno this week, but some calls have more impact than others.
For me personally, the weekend was a tremendous experience. On Saturday afternoon, Rayfield Wright and Troy Aikman were elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was such a thrill for me to see Rayfield finally get in. He was a great offensive tackle and a great teammate, and to see his joy was uplifting. It was also terrific to see Troy Aikman make it in. He was a big reason why the Cowboys returned to glory in the 1990s. I really enjoyed watching him play.
Adding to those great feelings was the honor of being introduced with the other Super Bowl MVPs prior to the game. It was a thrill to represent my teammates in 1972 as the MVP of the Super Bowl. Plus, I really enjoyed seeing so many of the past MVPs from Bart Starr to Tom Brady.
It’s time now to say goodbye football and hello racing! Look for car #96 at Daytona on February 19th! It’s Hall of Fame Racing’s entry into the world of NASCAR. Troy Aikman and I, along with our other partners, will appreciate your support throughout the season. And, don’t forget to buy your own DLP HDTV to watch all these great sporting events.