By David J Cohen
On January 31st, Seahawks TE Jerramy Stevens made this “inflammatory” remark when asked about the Jerome Bettis story: “It’s a heartwarming story and all that, but it will be a sad day when he leaves without that trophy.” This made Steelers LB Joey Porter “thirsty for blood” (apparently he’s a vampire) and became the draw that was supposed to make the Seahawks and Steelers hate each other. Then it was finally Super Bowl Sunday, the game kicked off, and it wasn’t long before everyone outside of Pittsburgh fell asleep.
Even though Stevens’s quote was blown out of proportion, he did open his mouth, and since he is a “receiving” TE I have to say it: If you’re going to run your mouth, when the time finally comes to back up your words, CATCH THE DAMN BALL! Apparently he skipped training camp.Throughout Super Bowl XL (or 40 for those who are not Roman) there were 2 constants: 1) Whenever Seattle stringed together a drive they didn’t capitalize, and 2) If the play mattered and the ball was thrown to Stevens, it landed on the ground. It seemed that whenever the Seahawks needed a play to swing momentum into their hands, Stevens did his best to contradict himself and ensure that the Bettis saga would have a happy ending. Thus, in a game where no one player on the winning team really established themselves as the difference-maker (Al and John never mentioned one MVP candidate during the 4th quarter), I feel Stevens should have been “honored” the most valuable player. Stevens had four dropped passes, three of which killed crucial Seahawks drives. The Seahawks could easily be champions if Stevens doesn’t drop a pass.
Examining the situations surrounding the dropped passes shows how Stevens may have cost the Seahawks the game. Early in the second quarter with the Seahawks ahead 3-0, Stevens let his first ball fall to the ground on a 3rd and 2 play, ending the Seahawks drive on the Steelers 47. If he had caught this pass, the Seahawks are in FG range, continue to control the game, and possibly have a 10-0 lead. This would have changed the entire complexion of the game, putting the game in the hands of struggling QB Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben was 1/5 for 1 yard at this point and threw a pick on his next series. Seattle could have been in a position to put the hammer down early in this game.
The second drop by Stevens occurred shortly after RB Willie Parker rescued the crowd from the “Rolling Bones” with a 75-yard TD run. The Seahawks took the field trailing 14-3 needing to respond. The Seahawks began to muster a drive as RB Shaun Alexander ran for 21 yards, setting up a 1st and 10 on the Steelers 37. Suddenly it seemed like we had an exciting contest. But it was not to be. On the ensuing play, Stevens dropped his second pass, stopping the momentum of the Seahawks. The Seahawks drive stalled on this set of downs, K Josh Brown missed his second FG, and the Seahawks remained in despair. If Stevens had caught this one, the Seahawks are knocking on the door and probably make it 14-10.
Eventually Seattle did make it a 14-10 game after CB Kelly Herndon intercepted a Roethlisberger pass (and took a nice, leisurely stroll) which set up a Stevens TD RECEPTION! It took him nearly three quarters, but perhaps Stevens had an epiphany and realized that his job was to hold on to the football after stopping it in the air. Whatever it was, it was short-lived. The third drop occurred after the Seahawks defense forced a 3-and-out to retain momentum. Once again, America is temporarily awake. On the first play of the drive, QB Matt Hasslebeck spots a wide-open Stevens and puts the ball right on target, and Stevens lets it go out of his hands yet again. There is a false start on the next play, and the Seahawks end up going 3-and-out. This drop may have saved the Steelers, who capitalized on a Hasslebeck INT during Seattle’s next offensive series to put the game away. If Stevens catches it, Seattle is driving again into Steelers territory and could have closed the lead to one or even taken the lead themselves. Also, if Stevens was still perfect on receptions up to this point the Seahawks would be leading and trying again to force the game into Big Ben’s hands.
This alone should be enough the crown Stevens the MVP of the game, but Stevens had one more left in him. And ironically enough, it was the final play of the game. Stevens let another one go on a 4th and 7 on the Steelers 23, cementing the happy ending to the Jerome Bettis story as Roethlisberger took a knee to officially make the Steelers champions.
Even though WR Hines Ward was involved in a couple of key plays in the game, Stevens deserved the MVP award. His drops were not only key plays, but the circumstances derived from them doomed the Seahawks and prevented a ray of sunshine from falling into an otherwise rainy Seattle. Stevens should be proud of his effort, since he is now among those “greats” who didn’t back it up in the big game. He can now enjoy the esteemed company of players like former Eagles WR Freddie Mitchell, who thought he was Terrell Owens but never caught a pass in the big game.