Football games are never won or lost by one play.
It's an accumulation of little things that normally determines the outcome. A pivotal holding penalty negating a touchdown. A missed assignment that prolongs an opponent's offensive possession. A key block by a receiver that springs loose his teammate for a long run.
These plays take on an even bigger magnitude in championship games. Dallas fans still detest being reminded of Benny Barnes' controversial pass interference call of Lynn Swann in Super Bowl XIII. The penalty shifted momentum in Pittsburgh's favor, and the Steelers proceeded to score 14 quick points to pull away from the Cowboys.
While many Steelers fans remember the Hail Mary pass that fell incomplete in the end zone on the final play, another play minutes earlier was just as critical in Pittsburgh's 20-16 win over the Colts in the 1995 AFC Championship Game.
Trailing 16-13 after Jim Harbagh hit Floyd Turner for a 47-yard touchdown pass earlier in the quarter, the Steelers needed to force an Indianapolis punt to have time for one more scoring drive to keep their Super Bowl hopes alive. The Colts tallied nine yards on their first two plays, and called Lamont Warren's number on third and one at their own 31-yard-line.
Running a delayed draw, Warren-starting in place on an injured Marshall Faulk- found a gaping hole on the right side of the Steelers defense. Future Steeler Will Wolford created the hole by virtue of his textbook block on Levon Kirkland, providing Warren with yards of daylight ahead of him. Looking at the space Warren had down field, there's no telling when, and if, the Steelers defense would have caught him.
Warren never broke though the line, however, due to the sterling play of Pittsburgh's unheralded corner back. Watching the play develop on the opposite end of the field, Willie Williams sprinted towards Warren (at about the 3:34 mark in the YouTube link) and managed to wrap his arms around the running back's left leg for no gain to force a Colts punt.
It was then time for two Steelers receivers to turn in key plays on Pittsburgh's ensuing possession. After a nine-yard catch by Andre Hastings on fourth and three, Ernie Mills, just several plays removed from breaking up a would be interception, pulled down a 37-yard pass to set up Bam Morris' 1-yard touchdown romp as Pittsburgh regained the lead at 20-16. The Steelers defense then dug in, and withstood a gallant comeback attempt by Harbaugh and the Colts that ended with the game's final pass slipping out of the hands of Indianapolis receiver Aaron Bailey.
In his third season, Williams was elevated to starter in part because of Rod Woodson missing the last 15 games of the regular season due to a torn ACL. Williams answered the bell, and finished third in the NFL with seven interceptions. Just one season after starting one game, Williams made one of the biggest plays of the season and ran out onto the Sun Devil Stadium field two weeks later as a starter in Super Bowl XXX. Ten years later, after spending seven seasons with Seattle, Williams was a member of the Steelers team that finally got that coveted one for the thumb.