Monday, July 14, 2014
Not forgetting Big Ben's tackle
By Scott Brown
Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" proved to be a landslide winner in a recent ESPN.com poll of the Steelers' most memorable plays, and that was a foregone conclusion.
A discussion of the other two most memorable plays in Steelers' history generated a lot of debate and for good reason.
There were so many worthy ones that did not make the final three, from John Stallworth's over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in Super Bowl XIV and any number of Lynn Swann grabs in the Super Bowl to Troy Polamalu's interception for a return touchdown in the 2008 AFC Championship Game.
"Where is Ben's tackle?" Polamalu asked when I talked to him about the greatest plays in Steelers history and specifically James Harrison's 100-yard interception return in Super Bowl XLIII.
That is a great question.
Of all the plays that did not make the final three, none received more nominations or mentions from Steelers fans via Twitter than Ben Roethlisberger's touchdown-saving tackle in a 21-18 win over the Indianapolis Colts in a 2005 AFC divisional playoff game.
And of all the great plays Roethlisberger has made over the last decade none may be more significant than his tackle of Colts cornerback Nick Harper following a Jerome Bettis fumble as the Steelers were going in for the game-clinching touchdown.
It was such a stunning turn of events with the underdog Steelers poised to seal an upset over the Peyton Manning-led Colts, and only a shoestring tackle by Roethlisberger saved Pittsburgh from one of the most devastating losses in franchise history.
As for Roethlisberger's take on his best-ever tackle, he said, "Because it's a quarterback making a tackle I think that's why it's so unusual. But in the grand scheme of championship runs, if I make that play and we lose the game no one's talking about it. But because we won the game it became such a big deal."
That is precisely why it is such a big deal.
The Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl for the first time since the dynastic teams of the 1970s, and there is no telling how things would have played out beyond 2005 if they had lost that game.
The Steelers had endured so much playoff heartbreak under coach Bill Cowher. Losing a game they had dominated at the now razed RCA Dome might have allowed serious doubt to creep in about whether they could take that final step from contenders to Super Bowl champions.
The Steelers did get some help after Roethlisberger's tackle, most notably from Mike Vanderjagt.
The Colts kicker shanked a 46-yard field goal attempt on the final play, sending the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game.
And there was no stopping them from that point with Bettis' fumble becoming a mere footnote to his retiring as a Super Bowl champion.
"It was just so unbelievable when it happened," Roethlisberger said of one of the defining sequences of his career, "and it was just find a way to make a play."