DETROIT – Mick Jagger moved up and down the field at halftime more easily than the Pittsburgh offense did for most of the game. In the end, though, Jerome Bettis, the Steelers and their thousands of rowdy fans wound up the big winners on Super Bowl Sunday.
Save for a few big plays that changed the game, style points were hard to come by on America's annual football holiday. But to Pittsburgh, the 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks was beautiful — a gritty grind of a game that included just enough flair to transform a blue-collar team playing in a blue-collar city into champions.
In a stadium brimming with thousands of Pittsburgh fans waving Terrible Towels, the Steelers finally captured their fifth title, that "One for the Thumb" they've been chasing since 1980.
"It's almost unreal right now," coach Bill Cowher said.
Title No. 5 for Pittsburgh was the first in the jut-jawed coach's 14 years and for Bettis, The Bus, who said he would end his 13-year career with a win in his hometown, only a few miles from where he grew up.
"I played this game to win a championship," he said. "I'm a champion and I think the last stop is here, in Detroit."
When it was over, Cowher found himself drenched, with water from the traditional dousing given to him by his players — and with tears, as he hugged his wife and daughters. It was a scene much different than one 10 years ago, when the Steelers lost in the Super Bowl and Cowher had to do most of the consoling.
Pittsburgh won four games away from home in the postseason to take the championship.
"A lot of people tell you you can't do it, but you know what, it doesn't mean you don't go out and try," Cowher said.
Two plays made a difference in this one: Willie Parker's record-setting 75-yard run for a touchdown right after halftime and receiver Antwaan Randle El's 43-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward on a trick play that put the Steelers up by 11 early in the fourth quarter.
Before that, it was Jagger and the Rolling Stones making the best moves.
Jagger strutted his stuff during a three-song set, two of which contained obscenities that the NFL chose to bleep out. There would be no reprisal of the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" this year thanks to the network's decision to air everything on a five-second delay.
The Stones were stars of a halftime show the NFL had been seeking for years — so long, in fact, that the league turned a celebration of the Motown sound that has long defined Detroit into a pregame-show undercard.
That didn't sit well in the Motor City during the lead-up to the game, but Detroit got its due.
The NFL took a chance bringing its showcase game up North to one of America's great, old cities, but one under duress. Hurt by sinking population, growing unemployment and urban blight that doesn't go away easily, this proud metropolis was a happy host, eager to impress and hoping the NFL's magic and money won't go away as soon as the teams and fans leave.
Bettis wasn't ashamed.
"The best part is being able to showcase the hometown," he said earlier in the week, of a city that was staggered last month when Ford announced up to 30,000 job cuts. "I love this city and it puts our city on the grandest stage in the world. It's something that's much needed."
In between the Stones, Pittsburgh's big plays and a few nice rumbles by Bettis, America's 140 million viewers got their taste of the always anticipated Super Bowl commercials, aired at a cost of $2.5 million per 30 seconds.
Highlights included Kermit the Frog insisting it really is easy being green in an ad for a hybrid car, and a woman ending up in a compromising position after trying to awkwardly climb over a sleeping stranger in an airplane.
There were reprises of the sad-sack guy in corporate America who literally works for a bunch of monkeys and a geezer needing to take oxygen after hearing "testimony" from a woman whose bra straps are about to pop.
Experts from the Calorie Control Council estimated Americans would eat 30 million pounds of snacks on Super Bowl Sunday on their couches at home, in bars and at parties. That equaled an average of 1,200 calories and 50 grams of fat per person — and that was before actual meals or beers were factored into the equation.
That's what the Super Bowl is about, though — celebrating a truly American sport in truly American fashion.
Nobody had more reason to celebrate than the Steelers, who got this win despite a less-than-perfect game from their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger (9-for-21 for 123 yards and two interceptions) and an offense that desperately needed the big plays it got to pull this out. Nearly half of Pittsburgh's 339 yards came on three plays — Parker's run, Randle El's pass and a 37-yard pass that Roethlisberger threw across his body to Ward to set up Pittsburgh's first touchdown.
An aesthetic masterpiece, it was not, although a workingman's city like Pittsburgh and a blue-collar team like the Steelers will certainly take it.
"I hope they appreciate me, because we just brought a championship home," Bettis said. "One for the Thumb!"