Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Champs enjoyed comforts of home

DETROIT -- Traditionally, Super Bowls are played with no home-field advantage. The sites are neutral and so are the crowds.

Many Super Bowl ticket-holders commute to the game by private jet. During big moments, these high-rollers don't applaud so much as they rattle their jewelry (thank you, John Lennon). They're asking to see the wine list when normal fans would be swilling and spilling draft lagers.

Last night was not your average Super Bowl crowd. Not at all. There were RVs and Winnebagos with Pennsylvania license plates all over the streets of Motown as Steeler Nation turned Super Bowl XL into a private party of gold and black.

The Steel Wheels road-trippers were rewarded as the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10, to give Pittsburgh its first football championship since 1980.

Finally, One For The Thumb.

It took a while for this game to get going, but nothing discouraged thousands of Steelers fans among the 68,206 who made Ford Field feel like an indoor park on the banks of the Ohio, Alleghany, and Monongahela rivers.

Detroit is only 285 miles from Pittsburgh and it was evident well before kickoff that this was going to be a home game for the Steelers. Ford Field was awash in ''Terrible Towels" and the poor, deaf Seahawks must have felt as if somebody put a roof over Heinz Field.

''It was an away game for us, no question about that," said Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who struggled to be heard calling out plays. ''It was 90 percent Steelers fans and 10 percent Seahawk fans."

Detroit was supposed to represent a homecoming for veteran running back Jerome Bettis, who grew up 6 miles from Ford Field, but Motown turned out to be home for an entire Pittsburgh team that won its first three playoff games in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Denver.

''Detroit, you were incredible," Bettis said as confetti fell from the ceiling. ''Pittsburgh, here we come! I'm a champion, and I think for The Bus, the last stop is going to be Detroit!"

How all those Pittsburgh fans got tickets we'll never know. Seems safe to say a lot of folks in western Pennsylvania must have put their retirement money into this once-in-a-lifetime event. Long after the game, towel-waving fans stuck around Ford Field chanting, ''Here we go, Steelers, here we go!"

''That's the great thing about the Pittsburgh Steelers," said Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu. ''I remember going to Seattle when I was a rookie and we had as many fans there as they had. We travel all over. No matter where we go, we're gonna have a great following."

''It was definitely a home game for us," said safety Chris Hope. ''We got the best fans in the NFL."

The Steeler contingent made itself heard before the game started.

After Stevie Wonder and the Four Tops performed, a parade of former Super Bowl MVPs was introduced and Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, and Lynn Swann generated the loudest ovations. It seemed as if the Seahawks had no chance. Disrespected all season, they suddenly found themselves playing the role of hated visitors.

''You look up into the stands and see those 'Terrible Towels,' you know the Steeler fans are there," said Pittsburgh linebacker/mouthpiece Joey Porter.

Bigger than David Wells, and still very much in possession of her fastball, Aretha Franklin brought the national anthem home, and her performance was followed by Seattle's lone victory of the night: the coin toss (perfectly flipped by none other than Tom Brady).

Seattle opened the scoring on a 47-yard field goal by Josh Brown in the final minute of an incredibly dull first quarter.

There was certainly no reward for Steelers fans in the opening quarter, when Pittsburgh had no first downs and 17 yards of offense. Ben Roethlisberger was 1 of 5 for 1 yard. Just when it looked like he was starting to get loose, Big Ben threw a balloon down the right sideline and was easily intercepted by Michael Boulware. Roethlisberger was looking all of 23. He finished with nine completions in 21 attempts with two interceptions. Ugh.

Late in the second quarter, on third and 28 from the Seahawk 40, Roethlisberger scrambled out of the shotgun formation and found game MVP Hines Ward on the 3-yard line, putting the Steelers into Bus Territory. Bettis carried to the 1 on his first attempt, then ran for no gain. On third and goal, Roethlisberger followed The Bus to pay dirt.

Tapes of the first half were not sent to Canton, Ohio, for instant canonization.

The Rollings Stones' first number during intermission was ''Start Me Up," an appropriate song for a first half that seemed to be played in quicksand. The final song of the mini-set was the gramatically incorrect ''Satisfaction," and Mick Jagger correctly noted that the Stones could have performed this favortite at Super Bowl I in 1967. There wasn't much doubt who the Stones were rooting for. Pittsburgh is a town of street-fighting men.

On the second play of the second half, Pittsburgh's Willie Parker gave the game some excitement and sent Steeler Nation into convulsions with a 75-yard touchdown scamper. It was the longest rushing play in Super Bowl history, topping Marcus Allen's run in edition XVIII by 1 yard.

It looked like the Steelers were going to blow it open midway through the third quarter when they moved to the Seattle 7. Poised to take a 21-3 lead, Roethlisberger threw a duck that was intercepted by Kelly Herndon (think Champ Bailey) and returned to the Pittsburgh 20. The 76-yard runback was the longest interception return in Super Bowl history.

Moments later, Jerramy Stevens (where was Porter?) caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Hasselbeck to cut Pittsburgh's lead to 14-10.

At the end of the third, Hasselbeck started a drive on his 2-yard line and Steelers fans, smelling blood, made more noise than the Rolling Stones. Ever clutch and defiant, Hasselbeck got the Seahawks out of trouble, moving all the way to the Steelers' 27 before making a high throw that was intercepted by Ike Taylor.

''A poor decision," admitted Hasselbeck.

That was it. Minutes later, Antwaan Randle El took a handoff on a reverse play and completed a 43-yard touchdown pass to Ward for a 21-10 lead with 8:56 left. The hometown crowd loved it.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives