The final Bus stop featured a little trickery starring MVP Hines Ward, a bunch of help from the Seattle Seahawks and a huge boost from the Terrible Towels, a handful of football fortune that added up to "One for the Thumb."
"It's been an incredible ride," Bettis said.
Moments after the Rolling Stones rocked a Ford Field that could easily have been Heinz Field -- or Hines' field -- Willie Parker broke a record 75-yard touchdown run. The Steelers earned that elusive ring and completed a magic Bus ride that made Bettis' homecoming -- and farewell -- a success.
"I'm a champion. I think the Bus' last stop is here in Detroit," Bettis said. "It's official, like the referee whistle."
On this night, satisfaction was more than Mick Jagger's signature song that closed the halftime show.
"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. "History was not going to determine our fate. Our effort today decided this game and that's what's great.
"It's surreal. I'm going to tell you, this is a special group of coaches, a special group of players. I was one small part of this."
Perhaps the most special moment for Cowher came when he presented the Vince Lombardi Trophy to 73-year-old owner Dan Rooney.
"I've been waiting a long time to do this," Cowher said. "This is yours, man."
Instead, Pittsburgh (15-5) got the clinching score with the kind of trickery that has carried it through an eight-game winning streak.
Versatile wideout Antwaan Randle El, a quarterback in college, took a handoff from Parker, sprinted right and threw perfectly to Ward for a 43-yard TD with 9:04 remaining. It was the first Super Bowl touchdown pass by a receiver.
Bettis, with 43 yards on 14 carries, had a minimal role in what was the final game for the NFL's No. 5 career rusher.
But with Parker's burst and Seattle's self-destructive tendencies, the Steelers completed their postseason march through the NFL's top four teams: Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Denver and Seattle, with all the wins coming away from Heinz Field.
"I could've had an even better day," said Ward, who had five receptions for 123 yards and the touchdown.
Seattle, looking nothing like a team that rampaged through its conference, damaged itself all day. It had four penalties for 40 yards in the opening half, one that nullified a touchdown pass.
The second half wasn't much better, and Ike Taylor's 24-yard return with Hasselbeck's poor throw gave Pittsburgh the one last opportunity it needed.
"This is a tough pill to swallow," Holmgren said, "but we accomplished a lot this year. While you don't have a great feeling after a game like this, I want them to remember this feeling, so they can build on it."
The 23-year-old Roethlisberger achieved it more with his legs than his arm. He dived into the end zone from the 1 late in the first half, barely reaching the goal line -- if at all -- according to a replay, and converted enough second-half first downs to wind down the clock.
Usually, that is Bettis' job. But this day, he was just along for his final ride.
What a journey it has been.
The Steelers were 7-5, then won their final four regular-season games to secure the AFC's last playoff spot. They went to Cincinnati and won a wild-card game. They won at Indianapolis, which had the league's best record. And then they handed Denver its first home loss in the AFC Championship Game.
And now they have their "One for the Thumb" -- the first four came in their Steel Curtain days, won by the likes of Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris.
Seattle forced another three-and-out on Pittsburgh's next possession, keeping Bettis on the sideline, then took the lead.
Ward followed with an 18-yard run on an end-around, but Roethlisberger's ill-advised lob on the next play was picked off by safety Michael Boulware at the Seattle 25.
With Seattle's other safety, Marquand Manuel, sidelined in the second quarter with a right ankle injury, Roethlisberger began finding open receivers. Ward gained 12 yards, Cedrick Wilson got 20 and, moments after Ward dropped a pass in the corner of the end zone, he outwrestled Boulware for a 37-yard completion.
The Bus couldn't roll in on two tries, then the 6-foot-5 Roethlisberger dived left and barely squeezed the ball over the goal line. A replay review upheld the touchdown with 1:55 remaining in the half.
Seattle also could bemoan a holding call on Peter Warrick 's 32-yard punt return to open the second quarter, and a goal-line completion to Jackson on which he barely was out of bounds.
Who knows, maybe Jagger was singing along.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press