This year ESPN is filling the void before training camp by polling fan bases on the greatest play in their respective franchise history. As Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain points out, for Steelers Nation there is no debate.
- The Immaculate Reception simultaneously ended 40 years of losing and was the Big Bang that created Steelers Nation.
Everything else takes second place – including games that end in presentation of the Lombardi.
But that leaves a lot of doubt about choices 2-4. The truth is, ESPN’s poll is a little too slanted towards the contemporary period. Unlike the Patriots, Ravens, and Seahawks, the Steelers have won Super Bowls in years that begin with “19.” For the record, the three choices on ESPN and BTSC’s poll are ‘Tone’s Toe Tap in Super Bowl XLIII, James Harrison’s 100 yard pick six in the same game, and Ben Roethlisberger’s shoe string tackle in the ’05 AFC Division playoff game.
- All worthy plays certainly.
But there are other plays that merit consideration, even if one limits selection to Super Bowls. Here are only a few:
- Fever and flew strickened Dwight White’s sack and safety of Fran Tarkenton 3 plays into Super Bowl IX
- Any of Lynn Swann’s acrobatic catches in Super Bowl X
- Tony Dungy’s recovery of Dallas’ second on-sides kick to seal Super Bowl XIII
- Terry Bradshaw’s hook up with John Stallworth on 60-Prevent-Slot-Hook-And-Go in Super Bowl XIV
- Antwan Randle El to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL
If you expand the list to the playoff games, Troy Polamalu’s pick six in the 2008 AFC Championship Game must be included, not only for how it incredible it was, not because it came at a crucial moment in the game, but because it slammed the door shut on another AFC Championship home loss.
A similar, sentimental nod, can be given to Randy Fulller’s pass defense at the end of the 1995 AFC Championship game.
All of these are worthy candidates. Each involved players putting them into position to harness their talents in exactly the moments their team needed them to.
- But in the final analysis, the Steelers second greatest play must go to James Harrison.
Harrison gets his pick six brought the total package –
- It was an unscripted play born out of tireless preparation
- It involved tremendous athleticism
- It came at a critical time
Thanks to end game drama on the part of Larry Fitzgerald, Big Ben and ‘Tone, the impact of Harrion’s interception is largely forgotten. It shouldn’t. Arizona was about to score. Sliverback’s pick prevented 3 if not 7 points from going on the board, and added 7 more amounting to a 10 or 14 point swing in a game decided by 4.
Franco Harris’ place in Steelers lore will forever be safe – men who hustle on every play enjoy such privileges – but James Harrison will be equally difficult to dislodge from his perch at number two.