As I insert my mind’s vial of Plutonium into the BTSC Delorean, I dream of going back to a happy time. Growing up in Western PA, a lot of my joyful times included snow. Watching my football heroes slide around in Arctic conditions somehow pleased my tweenish-senses. I still remember the Patriots calling for the services of a snow plow operated by an ex-con in the final seconds of a December 1982 game to clear room for a winning field goal against Miami (Even Pre-Belichick, New England was morally suspect). Anyhow, let’s go back to a time when the Steelers were sliding out of the playoff picture, and needed a series of fortunate events to survive, and eventually thrive.
Off we go to December 11, 2005. Harry Potter: The Goblet Of Fire had just completed it’s four week run at number one at the box office being replaced by The Chronicles of Narnia. Also, America was just learning the news of the deaths of comedian Richard Pryor and former presidential candidate, Eugene McCarthy — and the Steelers were reeling. The previous week saw T.J. Houshmanzadeh wipe his cleats in the safety of the Heinz Field tunnel with a Terrible Towel.
Morale was low.
After three straight losses, Bill Cowher wiped the slate clean and told his 7-5 team that the regular season comes down to a series of four playoff games. A loss, at this point, would have been lethal. Visiting Heinz Field was a dangerous visitor, the Chicago Bears.
The Steelers wasted very little time getting on the board. Ben Roethlisberger was employing the swing pass with much success, 45-yards to Willie Parker and another 17 to Hines Ward for the 7-0 lead on the first possession.
The Bears and Kyle Orton countered the Steeler touchdown with an 11-play drive that took the ball all the way down to the Steeler two. But Clark Haggans sacked Orton for an eight-yard loss, limiting Chicago to a field goal by Robbie Gould.
In the second quarter, the Steelers struck again when Jerome Bettis capped-off a nine-play drive of 73-yards with a one-yard score. It was suddenly 14-3 Steelers.
After the half, the weather worsened as the field got whiter. However, Jerome Bettis stayed hot. Bettis scored again from five out to make it 21-3. The play may be one of the signature images of Bettis' Hall of Fame career, as he lambasted perennial tough guy Brian Urlacher on the way to the end zone. It was a case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.
The immovable object won.
In the fourth, the snow fell harder and Orton briefly came alive. He hit Desmond Clark for 27 and Bernard Berrian for 45. Thomas Jones scored on the next play, but Gould's point after failed. It was 21-9, but that was all the Bears could muster up. The Steelers prevailed by that same score and moved on to battle Minnesota for another of Cowher's "one-game playoffs". Eventually they won all four and the four actual playoff games to improbably win it all as a sixth seed.
This game will forever remain a favorite of the Pittsburgh faithful. For me, I remember it well because I never got to see it until watching the replay on McMillen and Wife this week. I was living in Frostburg, MD and was not aware that it was a non double-header Fox game. Since the Redskins got priority, Fox showed White Christmas instead. Angered beyond belief, I cursed Bing Crosby and Danny (insert expletive here) Kaye and searched for the game on radio. I'm thankful for that now, as the radio broadcast let me see the entire game in my black-and-gold brain all alone in my apartment with a takeout Stromboli and wings. Wouldn't trade the memory of that radio day at all.