The Steelers return this weekend to the city of one of their most improbable victories of this century.
That was in January of 2006 when they visited Indianapolis, less than two months after the Colts had drilled them at the RCA Dome and in a Monday Night Football game.
The Colts had flirted with perfection during the regular season and few gave the Steelers any chance of beating them in an AFC Divisional Playoff game.
Then the improbable happened.
The Steelers rattled Peyton Manning. They came out throwing the ball, putting the game in the hands of Ben Roethlisberger, whom they had unleashed during the playoffs.
They built a 21-3 lead. They overcame grand theft via official review when an interception was wrongfully taken away from Troy Polamalu
Then the unthinkable happened.
Jerome Bettis, poised to barrel into the end zone with the game-clinching score, took a hit and the ball popped out. It bounced into the hands of defensive back Nick Harper, and the action started going the other way.
That is when, amid the roars of the raucous home crowd, Hines Ward heard the theme song from “Chariots of Fire.”
Yes, “Chariots of Fire.”
“That little slow song just kept going in my head,” Ward said with a laugh.
Ward had one of the worst seats in the house as that play unfolded, slow motion to his disbelieving eyes.
He was one the sidelines -– along with other players that might have been able to catch Harper from behind — since the Steelers’ had their goal-line personnel in the game.
That is why what happened after Bettis’ fumble still stands as one of Roethlisberger’s most important plays in a career filled with them.
“There were no speed guys (on the field),” Ward said. “Luckily for us, Ben made a great tackle.”
And then Bryant McFadden made a great break-up of a pass in the end zone and then Mike Vanderjagt shanked a game-tying 46-yard field goal.
And the Steelers, 21-18 winners, were on their way to a fifth Super Bowl title.
“We were the better team that day and it was good to go on the road and beat a great team team like that,” Ward said.
– Scott Brown