By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 6, 2006
DETROIT, Feb. 5 -- There was plenty of blame to go around the Seattle Seahawks' locker room late Sunday night, but no one was specifically pointing at beleaguered tight end Jerramy Stevens, even if he did drop at least three passes in his team's 21-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL.
Stevens did manage to catch the Seahawks' only touchdown, a 16-yard bullet from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck that cut the Steelers' lead to 14-10 with 53 seconds left in the third quarter. But one drop on a third-down pass cost his team a vital first down, and two drops came near the Steelers' goal line. Stevens caught three passes for 25 yards on a night it appeared he was a vital part of the game plan.
"At no point did I lose any confidence in him," Hasselbeck said. "I was going to keep going to him. I felt they could not cover him. It's just unfortunate we didn't make all the plays we could make."
That dismal performance ended an extremely difficult week for Stevens, a former first-round draft choice who became embroiled in a verbal war with Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter. On media day on Tuesday, Stevens told reporters he thought the story of Steelers running back Jerome Bettis returning to play in a Super Bowl in his home town was "heartwarming" but that Bettis would leave town disappointed because the Seahawks had no intention of losing.
Porter called Stevens out the next two days, saying he was a "soft" player, and that retribution for those comments would come Sunday. Stevens said later he meant no disrespect toward Bettis, but clearly was chagrined to be stuck in the middle of a controversy he definitely wanted no part of.
When Porter was asked about Stevens after the game, he threatened to walk away from the podium if he got any more questions about him.
Asked afterward if he thought all the attention that came his way during the week had affected his play, Stevens said: "It doesn't matter what anyone thinks. The bottom line is that I just didn't get it done. It's frustrating because we didn't play the way we're capable of playing. Obviously, it was frustrating. We just lost the Super Bowl.
"I don't need to think anything [about Porter]. He's on the winning team and that's all that matters."
He was asked if, in hindsight, he would have done anything differently.
"I don't think I would," he said. "I think my preparation this week was good and was exactly what it was supposed to be. When it came to the game, I just didn't get it done."
He was not alone. The Seahawks had plenty of other breakdowns, including a critical Hasselbeck interception on third and 18 from the Steelers 27 early in the fourth quarter. The quarterback was aiming for receiver Darrell Jackson, who appeared to have run outside on his route instead of inside, where Hasselbeck threw the ball. It was picked off by Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor and returned 24 yards. Hasselbeck compounded the poor throw by being penalized for an illegal block on the play, and Pittsburgh took over on its own 44.
Four plays later, the Steelers pulled off a classic reverse, with Antwaan Randle El throwing a 43-yard touchdown pass to fellow receiver Hines Ward for a touchdown and a 21-10 advantage that stood until the final gun.
"You know, it got to the point where I was taking chances," Hasselbeck said of the interception. "And that was a chance I shouldn't have taken. I kind of got fooled by the move the guy [Taylor] made, and I made a poor decision."
Coach Mike Holmgren had no explanation for all the mistakes, including seven penalties for 70 yards.
"We had a great week of practice," he said. "We did things very, very well. There were some guys who made some great plays and great catches out there, but we did drop the ball uncharacteristically. The thing that bothers me as much as anything else was the penalties. We had a touchdown called back. We had a catch on the one-yard line called back. We played a good team, and you can't overcome those things."