After a bathroom break and a quick snack run to the 7-11 by campus, I came back to my dorm-room just as the 2nd Half was starting. Much to my surprise, Cincinnati began moving the ball down the field at will. The Steelers appeared as if they had no answer for Jon freakin Kitna and the Bengals got the ball into the Steelers’ Red Zone! I knew this couldn’t be and something had to happen. Luckily the Defense finally held, and an easy Field Goal attempt from Shayne Graham was forthcoming.
I for one was happy because I knew that Big Ben and his Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt were figuring out the Bengals’ Defense. Even if Cincinnati made the Field Goal, the score would be 20-14 and the Steelers would literally be one big play away from taking the lead. To be honest, I really wasn’t paying full attention to the Field Goal attempt until I heard the roar of the crowd and then saw the subsequent replay. That’s when disaster struck, and Cincinnati essentially lost the game on one play. Long Snapper Brad St. Louis’ snap sailed through Holder/Punter Kyle Larson’s hands. It was a made scramble for the ball but it didn’t matter Cincinnati turned it over to Pittsburgh who then had cake field position at the Cincinnati 34!
I just sat back in my chair and laughed to myself at what had taken place. It was too wild and so “schaudenfreude” for me delighting in the pain of Cincinnati’s misery. The Steelers didn’t waste any time celebrating as Ben rallied his troops for another scoring drive.
After converting two 3rd Downs, the Steelers had the ball on the Cincinnati 45 and faced a 2nd and 11. That’s when Ben went deep and got a little bit of help from Cincinnati DB Kevin Kaesviharn. A Pass Interference Penalty was called on Kaesviharn when he was defending Antwaan Randle El, and the ball moved to the Cincinnati 5 yard line due to the penalty being a spot foul. Ben then did what any sane and intelligent QB would have done in the aftermath of the situation: he gave the ball to “The Bus.” Bettis’ 5 yard TD jaunt put the Steelers ahead 21-17 with just under 10 minutes to play in the 3rd Quarter!
Cincinnati could have responded, but they didn’t. Instead Kitna was sacked twice (including recovering his own fumble on the second one) on the following possession and the Bengals were forced to punt. The Steelers and Coach Whisenhunt smelled blood in the water and when they took over on the following possession the game might as well have ended.
Facing a 3rd and 3 at Cincinnati’s 43 yard line, most Coaches would play it conservative. Not Ken Whisenhunt, and not at this spot on the field. The Steelers under O.C.’s Mike Mularkey and Whisenhunt were notorious for calling trick plays between the 40’s and seemed to always have one dialed up at the most opportune of times. This of course was one of them.
Antwaan Randle El, who motioned into the backfield and was an All-American QB at Indiana, took the Shotgun snap and darted all the way to the right side of the field on what looked like a designed sweep/option throw. It wasn’t, and Cincinnati paid the price. On the other side of the field stood Big Ben, and Randle El amidst pressure fired a perfect strike to Big Ben (14-19 for 209 yards and 3 TD’s that day), who in turn fired a bomb to Cedrick Wilson! There wasn’t a Bengal within 5 yards of Wilson who easily trotted into the End Zone for his 1st TD as a member of the Steelers!
At 28-17, Paul Brown Stadium looked to be in a state of shock and awe from my television screen. I of course was laughing the entire time! I can still remember thinking, “Whisenhunt, you magnificent bastard! I hope you take over when Cowher leaves.” But even though Ken didn’t take over for Cowher, he did dial up an almost identical play for the Cardinals in the 2008 N.F.C. Championship Game where Warner threw a TD to Larry Fitzgerald off of a flea-flicker from J.J. Arrington. Anyway, before I get too off topic, back to the game.
Cincinnati tried to respond, but they just kept “Bungling Along.” I’m sure that’s exactly the same thing that was going on through the late and long-time Steelers Broadcaster Myron Cope’s head at the time (He was the one that coined the term “Bungles.”) At midfield Kitna threw a pass that was picked off by James Farrior, who atoned for his earlier Illegal Contact mistake.
The Steelers then moved to ice the game off the turnover, and on a play that I’ll never forget and is still shown on his highlight reel, Jerome Bettis proved that “The Bus” was still up and running (The Steelers running game had a nice day with Parker: 38 yards 1 TD recpt., Haynes: 46 yards, and Bettis 52 yards and 1 TD run)!
On a 25 yard play where he rumbled down the field and took some Bengals’ Defenders for a ride, Bettis got the Steelers into Field Goal range. Probably trying to rub salt in the Bengals’ wounds, Whisenhunt dialed up a pass play from Randle El that was incomplete on 3rd and Goal, and the Steelers were forced to settle for a Field Goal. Skippy Reed’s 21 yard kick was true and the Steelers had climbed to a 31-17 lead with just under 11 minutes left to play.
You know that famous scene from “Peanuts” where Charlie Brown tries to kick the ball, but every time Lucy pulls it away from him? That’s exactly what I thought was happening to the poor Bengals that day. It only kept getting worse after the Reed Field Goal though.
Just across midfield, Kitna threw his 2nd INT of the day and Troy Polamalu made the play a bit too exciting with his crazy antics. Polamalu for some reason lateraled the ball to FS Chris Hope (who managed to pick up a few extra yards) after he made the pick thinking the Steelers could take it back for a TD.
If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a great N.F.L. Films clip of Joey Porter butchering the “Totally Redeem Yourself” line from “Dumb & Dumber” to Polamalu on the bench. Even though Joey doesn’t get the quote right, you could tell the absolute jubilation on the Steelers’ side-line at that point in the game. Up by 14 with 4:30 to play, and kicking the crap out of a group of upstarts provided the perfect environment for the Steelers to be yukking it up.
I just sat quietly in my chair and smiled. No words, just a smirk on my face as I stared out my window overlooking the Hawaiian Studies Building. I do believe the phrase “WE DEY!” was yelled out the window at some point! This I felt was wonderful pay-back for Houshmandzadeh shining his shoes with a “Terrible Towel” when Cincinnati clinched the A.F.C. North a month before.
I’ll be honest though, I had a smug sense of satisfaction because I knew in my heart of hearts that Cincinnati would fail. I had figured Pittsburgh would come in and show those brash upstarts who was the boss. I just didn’t think the Bengals’ star QB’s knee would explode and the game would play out like it did.
To be perfectly honest, I figured that Chad Johnson or the Defense would do something stupid to screw their chances, but I didn’t care. The Steelers emerged victorious 31-17 and proved to be the “real” A.F.C. North Champions of 2005.