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Steelers' recipe: bigger plays, smaller mistakes


Detroit -- It was there for the taking.

The Seattle Seahawks wouldn't grab it; the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't keep it.

This Super Bowl was not so much a work of art as it was graffiti for a city that already has its share.

Trading interceptions, broken plays and botched opportunities, the Steelers outlasted the Seahawks, 21-10, in a game of demolition derby at Ford Field last night. Parts were flying off both teams, and the more rugged, more fundamental team won at the end.

It was a lesson in dogged perseverance. The Steelers claimed their fifth Lombardi Trophy because they came up with a few more big plays than the Seahawks, because they didn't crumble when they had the chance.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played poorly enough to lose. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, with the exception of one huge mistake, played well enough to win.

Soon, the Seahawks will look back at this game and wonder how it got away. They will look at their seven penalties that cost 70 yards, at dropped passes that snuffed multiple opportunities, at botched clock management at the end of the first half.

Just when it looked as if the Seahawks might actually pull off the upset, they made three giant mistakes that spelled the difference.

The Seahawks trailed 14-10 when Peter Warrick ill-advisedly let a catchable Chris Gardocki punt roll to the 2. Undaunted, the Seahawks rolled down the field toward their destiny.

Hasselbeck hit Bobby Engram for passes of 21 and 17 yards, and Shaun Alexander ran like the NFL's Most Valuable Player. Seattle's rhythm offense was rolling; the Steelers' defense was reeling.

In the space of four plays, the game turned irretrievably.

Mistake No. 1: An 18-yard pass to tight end Jerramy Stevens carried to the Pittsburgh 1, but right tackle Sean Locklear was caught holding. No catch.

Mistake No. 2: On the next play, nose tackle Casey Hampton bull-rushed Hasselbeck into a sack at the 34.

Mistake No. 3: Two plays after that, Hasselbeck uncorked his worst throw of the night in the face of a Troy Polamalu blitz. He overthrew Darrell Jackson when the wide receiver made an in-cut and Hasselbeck expected a streak.

Cornerback Ike Taylor caught the mistake at the 5, returned the interception 24 yards to the 29 and got 15 more yards when Hasselbeck was flagged for blocking below the waist while making the tackle.

That quickly, Seattle's best opportunity was gone.

"You know, it got to the point where I was taking chances, and that was a chance I shouldn't have taken," Hasselbeck said. "I kind of got fooled by the move that my guy [Jackson] made, and it was a poor decision."

The Steelers sent the Seahawks through the trap door when Antwaan Randle El, the former college quarterback, made the best pass of the night, a 43-yard touchdown throw to Hines Ward off a play that started as a reverse. The Seahawks had heard all week about the Steelers' fondness for gimmick plays, and yet they were suckered for the biggest one of the night.

At 21-10, the Steelers weren't going to let Seattle back in it again.

Seattle's first half wasn't much better than its second. Jackson lost a first-quarter touchdown when he was flagged for pushing off in the end zone.

In the second quarter, the Steelers got a touchdown they probably shouldn't have. Roethlisberger eluded pass rusher Grant Wistrom and heaved a 37-yard completion to Ward on third-and-28.

Then he kept the ball on a third-and-one bootleg behind Jerome Bettis and was rewarded with a touchdown. Whether he really scored is a matter of debate.

Replays appeared to show that linebacker D.D. Lewis had stopped Roethlisberger's momentum just short of the goal line. But replay pictures were inconclusive, and the touchdown stood.

Time and again, the Seahawks self-destructed when they had a chance to seize the day. In the end, Seattle blinked and Pittsburgh didn't.

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