After Plummer moved Denver close enough to get a field goal on his third possession, the Steelers struck right back. From the Denver three-yard line Bettis steamrollered behind guard Alan Faneca to give Pittsburgh a 17-3 lead. Seconds later Plummer handed Pittsburgh a gift, floating an incomprehensible pass into the arms of cornerback Ike Taylor at the Denver 39 with 1:48 left in the half. Roethlisberger's perfectly lofted ball into the back of the end zone for Hines Ward made it 24-3 at intermission, and this one was over.
Which brings us to how the Steelers have been winning: by jumping to a quick lead, controlling the clock with their running game and forcing teams to play catch-up against their aggressive, playmaking defense. They streaked to a 21-3 lead against the Bears in December and ran up a 14-0 advantage in the first 12 minutes against the Colts in the playoff game. During its seven-game streak Pittsburgh has won by an average of 17 points. Five of those victories have come on the road. "We took the scenic route," said a defiant Porter, who took time to smooch the Lamar Hunt Trophy twice. "And now we're in the biggest game in sports."
Right in Bettis's backyard. His parents, John and Gladys, have attended every one of his regular-season and playoff games as a pro, and there they were, standing in Invesco's south tunnel late Sunday afternoon, waiting to embrace their son. When he finally appeared, carrying two personal pan pizzas, he threw his arms around his mother. The Steelers fans lining the barrier above the tunnel cheered the Bettis family reunion, serenading Gladys with a chant of "Miss-us Bett-is, Miss-us Bett-is."
Get ready, Detroit. Mrs. Bettis will be cooking for the entire team next week. On Sunday that idea suited her son. "Momma," Bettis whispered in his mother's ear, "we're coming home."