The fans had already made their feelings known about the Steelers offense before they took the field for one last drive, but for offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, it will go down as The Drive.
A Steelers offense that had thrown 35 passes in blustery winter weather conditions, took the field for one last time with 6:31 remaining in a critical game against the San Diego Chargers.
The Steelers started at their own 13 with the wind chill hovering around 20 degrees, at best. Arians sent out his three wide receivers and Ben Roethlisberger went to work for an offense that had scored a mere six points on two field goals in the previous 53:19.
"We were confident," said Hines Ward.
"Why?" asked a reporter.
Ward shook off the question as he has for most of the last month when reporters wanted to know what had happened to the once-glorious Steelers offense.
But Ward was the key player on this drive. He took a short waggle pass from Roethlisberger for 13 yards to get the Steelers rolling. Willie Parker, the other star of the drive, ran around left end for 10 yards. Then he ran up the middle, and Ward snared one over the middle, and Parker ran around end, and Ward caught another short pass, and tight end Matt Spaeth grabbed one, and, on third-and-six, Ward caught a bullet from Roethlisberger between two players for the critical conversion of the game. Santonio Holmes caught a 13-yarder to bring the Steelers to the two-minute warning and the San Diego 21-yard line.
Needing a field goal to win, the Steelers – Arians – turned to Parker, who carried five straight times for an apparent touchdown that was negated by a holding penalty. Jeff Reed then trotted out to kick a 32-yard field goal to give the Steelers an improbable 11-10 win – improbable in the fact that a sputtering offense came to life in the nick of time.
"It felt pretty good going out there and having at least one drive," said Parker. "We came together for once in the game."
Parker gained 31 of his 115 yards on the final drive. Ward caught four of his 11 passes and gained 42 of his 124 yards on the drive. He was also called for holding, but helped overcome it with his clutch third-down catch. What did Ward think of the call?
"My mom always said if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything, so I'm not going to say anything," he said.
For Parker, The Drive symbolized a return – albeit in a different fashion – to what he calls "Steelers football."
"Yeah. That's the drive. Keep calling run plays; keep calling run plays," Parker said. "The defense knew we were going to run and they couldn't stop it. That's Steelers football."
Does 41 passes in sub-freezing, windy weather constitute a new breed of "Steelers football"?
Parker thought about it for a second, smiled, and said, "Just win."
And so the Steelers did. And the vipers will have to wait for another day.