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12 Things: Favorite Steelers moments

Recalling my 12 favorite moments from covering Pittsburgh over my career

Originally Published: January 28, 2011
By David Fleming | ESPN The Magazine

In the music biz they call this a greatest-hits collection.

I won't go quite that far. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Super Bowl Week in Texas, I thought it might be fun to take a nostalgic look at 12 of my favorite previously recorded moments and musings from more than 15 years of covering the Pittsburgh Steelers.

1

JANUARY 2009: Here's how Deshea Townsend described to me what it felt like to experience, from the inside, James Harrison's epic interception return in the Super Bowl against the Arizona Cardinals.

"I went from the lowest of the low to the highest you can get in sports in about one second on this play. We were in zero coverage, which means no help, so you know the ball is coming out hot, right away. The Cardinals lined up in a stacked formation with Larry Fitzgerald on the inside and Anquan Boldin on the outside, and when they crossed I got picked. So I'm chasing and pushing through and trying to see what's happening and in my mind I'm thinking my guy is wide open and that I just gave up a huge touchdown in the Super Bowl.

"Harrison was supposed to be blitzing. If he had rushed on that play that area is wide open and, boom, it's a touchdown. But he told me later he just felt like he couldn't get to Kurt Warner so he dropped back instead and Warner threw the ball right to him.

"When he caught it and we made eye contact I was like, 'give it to me, give it to me.' I'm a DB, we all do that after every interception. But his eyes were saying, 'hell no.' When he wouldn't give the ball to me, I took off looking to block somebody. All week in Tampa leading up to the game, coach Mike Tomlin kept telling us about how when he was the defensive backs coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers they returned two picks for scores in Super Bowl XXXVII. So he kept yelling all week, if we get a pick he wanted all 10 guys on somebody helping out. You get coaching tips like that all the time but to actually see it happen in the Super Bowl? Amazing.

"There were so many tiny little things like that. And they all had to happen exactly right. Warner was the first one to appear and I wanted to explode through him but he kinda jumped back so I had to guide him to the outside and luckily Deebo (that's what we call Harrison) cut inside. Boldin had the best chance at him but he ended up fighting with James Farrior and took himself out of the play. The tight end, Leonard Pope, was right behind us but he jumped and landed on Ike Taylor instead. I stayed on my feet through all that and, I didn't even know it, but that held up Fitzgerald and forced him to go to the outside, where he actually ran into a player standing on the Cardinals bench. If he doesn't get held up for that one extra split second, Fitzgerald makes the tackle at the 5-yard line instead of the goal line and it's just a long return, nothing more. At that point, a linebacker came flying in to make a block and his leg hit me in the chest, like a karate kick. Everything is going crazy. Your mind is racing. The noise is unreal. I watched the rest of the play from the ground, thinking, 'keep going, don't stop, make the end zone.'

"He made it. Now we're a part of history. It's not just one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history. It's also a pure example of Steelers football."

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