10 years later, Parker recalls record Super Bowl run
SAN FRANCISCO — It is unusual for Willie Parker to go through a day without getting asked about it, but he really doesn't mind because there could be worse things to be known for than owning the longest running play in Super Bowl history.
“That's what they still talk about,” Parker said. “I talked to some kids one time and they are saying to me that I still hold the longest run in Super Bowl history.”
You know what Parker responded with?
“I don't think it is going anywhere anytime soon,” Parker said
Friday marks the 10-year anniversary of Parker's 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL against Seattle that catapulted the Steelers to their first NFL title in more than a quarter century with a 21-10 win at Ford Field in Detroit.
The run surpassed Hall of Famer Marcus Allen's record of 74 yards set in Super Bowl XVIII against the Redskins, and Parker may be right — it might not be going anywhere anytime soon.
In 49 Super Bowls, only nine rushing plays went for more than 40 yards. Parker's could well be the best run in Super Bowl history even though Allen's reverse-the-field score against the Raiders may have better style points.
“No question it is the best ever, and it is completely unbiased as well,” former right tackle Max Starks said.
Here is how it happened. The Steelers were leading 7-3 and received the second-half kickoff.
On second-and-10 from their 25-yard line, the Steelers called one of their favorite run plays — the 34 Counter Pike.
“It was not the bread-and-butter play that had Dan Kreider leading, but it was the same thing but with Alan Faneca pulling in a one-back set,” former Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. “At lot of times at the end of the game we had the same play with Jerome Bettis carrying the ball.”
However, Bettis was more of a short-yardage runner in his final season. He rushed only 110 times all year, averaging 3.3 yards, but scored nine touchdowns. Instead, undrafted free agent Parker stepped into the starting role and gained 1,200 yards during the regular season.
“All I remember is Bus pulling me to the side a little bit before the play and playing it out,” Parker said. “He told me to quit trying to run to the outside.”
Actually, Bettis was more specific.
“I was just telling him to stay on the inside during the kick out when we ran that counter play,” Bettis said. “Sometimes we would look outside. But I told him that what was happening and what they were doing to look inside.”
Seattle's defense alignment, in particular safety Michael Boulware, made the play open up.
“I remember that play so vividly because we talked about if they roll with Hines (Ward) that we would trap them,” Starks said.
Ward went in motion and Boulware over-rotated. It was wide open.
“I said ‘Oh my,' ” Starks said.
Center Jeff Hartings walled off the nose tackle, Kendall Simmons and Starks double-teamed the tackle before Starks got to the second level to block linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Tight end Heath Miller blocked down on defensive end Bryce Fisher, and Faneca pulled to take out linebacker Leroy Hill.
“What I remember the most is that Faneca made one heck of a block to spring it,” Miller said.
With Boulware out of position, Parker made safety Etric Pruitt miss, and it was off to the races.
“I just remember once he hit the hole that he was gone,” Bettis said. “I knew nobody was going to catch him. If he didn't trip then he was going to fine.”
Tripping was something Parker was worried about after he broke into the secondary and saw nobody was there.
“I was like ‘Please don't let me trip, please don't let me fall,' ” Parker said. “When I came to the sidelines I looked at the running backs and asked ‘Did that really just happen?' ”
A couple of minutes later on the sidelines he was told it was a Super Bowl record.
“(Coach Cowher) came to me and said so (expletive) what, we have another quarter to play,” Parker said.
Parker carried three times for 7 yards the rest of the game.
“It is a play that defines me,” Parker said.
And that's just fine.