Sunday, February 5, 2006
Updated: February 6, 11:20 AM ET
Steeling one: Hawks get robbed
By Skip Bayless
DETROIT -- Dear Seahawks fans:
I've been tough on your team the last few weeks. I've called your club the Sea Frauds and said they didn't belong in a Super Bowl. After watching Sunday night's game, I believe that more than ever.
But, as I've also written, your team was blessed all the way to Detroit. This was the first Super Bowl that found itself with two Cinderella stories. These Steelers, the AFC's bottom seed, weren't exactly Terry Bradshaw's Steelers of the late '70s.
But although these Steelers were favored by 4 -- and although I picked them 24-14 -- I'm not sure they deserved to win this game.
And after spending a week in Detroit, I thought the city had cleaned up most of its crime.
The first-quarter offensive pass interference called on Darrell Jackson that turned a touchdown into a field goal was robbery enough. But the fourth-quarter holding call on Sean Locklear made you wonder whether the refs had even less of Aretha's r-e-s-p-E-c-t for your Seahawks than I do.
At that point, your guys had overcome enough mistakes to get blown out in most Super Bowls. In fact, this one had nearly gotten out of hand midway through the third quarter, when the Steelers drove to a first-and-10 at your 11-yard line with a 14-3 lead. But on third-and-6 from the 7, Ben Roethlisberger tossed a throw into the flat that cost him the MVP award and nearly caused coach Bill Cowher's head to explode.
It was, of course, picked off by backup cornerback Kelly Herndon and returned 76 yards. Matt Hasselbeck's 16-yard touchdown fling to Jerramy Stevens rather shockingly turned what looked like a 21-3 game into a 14-10 margin.
And suddenly your Seahawks were going to Motown.
The Seahawks forced another Pittsburgh punt, and here they came again. Hasselbeck still makes me nervous because he always looks as if he's running a frantic two-minute offense. But the biggest surprise of this game was how much time Walter Jones and Co. were giving him to throw. Blitzburg, schmitzburg. Your guys had continually knocked the bullies back on their heels and turned down the volume of a Ford Field crowd that looked and sounded more like a Heinz Field crowd.
Joey Porter, the loudest Steeler, was having the quietest game.
And on first-and-10 at the Steelers' 19, Hasselbeck had enough time to listen to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "Second that Emotion" before firing another strike to Porter's favorite pregame target -- Stevens. Eighteen-yard completion! First-and-goal at the 2! Seattle about to take a 17-14 lead!
I could almost hear Mount Rainier erupting.
But on this night, the Steelers had their own version of your 12th Man. He wore a striped shirt and a whistle. He threw a flag.
And Locklear went down in Seahawks history.
Until the week before the NFC Championship Game, I barely knew who Locklear was. But he made national news by being charged with domestic violence after an incident with his girlfriend outside a Seattle nightclub. He did a couple of nights in jail, but coach Mike Holmgren allowed him to play pending his Feb. 13 hearing.
Now Locklear will be forever remembered in your fair city for an entirely different reason.
Holding, No. 75!
On the replay, I couldn't see Locklear do anything different from what most linemen do on every play. These days, you have to tackle to hold, and Locklear didn't tackle.
Phantom, killer penalty.
Your guys wound up in a third-and-18, and Hasselbeck cut loose one of his mystery balls that Ike Taylor intercepted, as he should have in the first quarter. Worse, Hasselbeck was wrongly flagged for a below-the-waist block when he was trying to make the tackle. Hasselbeck was punished 15 more yards.
At that point, your guys seemed to be hanging their heads as if they had decided the NFL just couldn't live with them winning its showcase game.
Moments later, it took another Pittsburgh trick play -- a reverse pass by Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward for a 43-yard touchdown -- to basically ice the game on a snowy night. That made it 21-10, and that's the way it stayed.
Too bad your Seahawks didn't have Porter in their postgame locker room. Had he been a Seahawk, he surely would have filled tapes and notebooks telling the media how the refs stole the game.
Jackson definitely gave Steelers safety Chris Hope a little push. But it didn't give Jackson enough of an advantage to prompt a penalty. The ref called it only after Hope turned and begged for it.
That cost your team four points, a little momentum and a little more psychological edge. The Pittsburgh offense isn't built to come from behind or to win a shootout. A 7-0 Seattle lead would have tightened the Steelers' throats more than 3-0 would have.
The holding call on Locklear clearly cost your Seahawks seven more points. Four plus seven equals 11 -- Pittsburgh's margin of victory. And who knows how the Steelers would have responded if they had suddenly found themselves behind early in the fourth quarter?
No, I haven't yet mentioned Roethlisberger's dive for the goal line that was ruled a touchdown late in the first half -- and upheld after a replay review. To me, it looked as if the nose of the ball barely crossed the white line while Roethlisberger was airborne. Either way, it was so close that it was inconclusive and didn't warrant a touchdown reversal.
Besides, the odds were that Pittsburgh could have scored on fourth-and-inches. Then again, Cowher can be so conservative that he might have opted for the field goal that would have only tied the score 3-3.
The Jackson play, the Roethlisberger play, the Locklear play -- as the Rolling Stones sang in their halftime finale, you couldn't get no satisfaction, Seahawks fans.
Your team had only one turnover to Pittsburgh's two
and your team lost.
Your team held Roethlisberger to a 9-for-21 night for only 123 yards, with two interceptions
and your team lost.
Your Shaun Alexander surprised me by running for almost 100 yards (95 on 25 carries)
and your team lost.
Your offense had almost 400 yards (396) against that vaunted Steelers defense
and your team lost.
In the end, it lost because of two bad calls and because Pittsburgh simply made three or four more good plays. The Steelers converted 8 of 15 third downs to your 5 of 17. Too many drops and near-TD catches, too many off-target flings by Hasselbeck at crucial times, too much high-schoolish clock management by the quarterback and coach at the end of the half and game.
I'm sorry, I still don't think he's a top-echelon quarterback. Then again, I'm not convinced Roethlisberger is the next Elway.
The play he made that salvaged a first-half lead for the Steelers -- the scramble left and deep heave from barely behind the line of scrimmage -- should have been batted down or even intercepted by your safety Michael Boulware. Instead, Boulware made a poor play on the ball and Ward caught it.
On Randle El's trick touchdown pass -- Pittsburgh's best pass of the night -- your cornerback Marcus Trufant took a bad angle and ran underneath it.
So two bad plays by your defensive backs helped Ward -- who had dropped two passes, including one that should have been a touchdown -- win the MVP award. Oh, well, it was the kind of game that should have been played in Week 9. The Steelers didn't have one player on offense or defense who was clearly the difference maker.
Your Seahawks lost this game a little more than Pittsburgh won it.
Your defense battled its guts out and mostly stuffed Pittsburgh's run. But one breakdown allowed Willie Parker to escape untouched for a 75-yard TD. You can't overcome mistakes like that in a game like this.
But, no, you can't overcome 11 lost points worth of penalties, either. On this night, you belonged in the Super Bowl as much as Pittsburgh did, for what that's worth.
On this night, the only frauds wore stripes.
Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.