It's official. Today is the first day of summer. The summer solstice. The longest day of the year.
While we all enjoy every minute of daylight, and every minute of sunshine, thinking about the longest day of the year can't help but make me think about some of the longest plays in Steelers history.
Yes, I know, football is always on my mind.
And while I think about those really long plays in Steelers history, there is one that definitely jumps out because first, it was the longest interception return for a touchdown ever in team history at 100 yards, and second, it might have been timed as the longest play in team history as well. I mean, just ask James Harrison who was exhausted afterwards.
The play I am talking about is one no Steelers fan should need a reminder for. But just in case being out in the sun has made you forget, here it is.
Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers were holding on to a 10-7 lead near the end of the first half when the Cardinals Karlos Dansby intercepted a tipped Ben Roethlisberger pass at the Steelers 33-yard line. Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner moved his team into scoring position with completions to Tim Hightower, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
With the ball at the one-yard line and just 18 seconds to play in the half, the Cardinals were anticipating Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison blitzing, but Harrison gambled and dropped back in coverage. Warner threw it to the end zone and Harrison intercepted the pass at the goal line. What happened after that, nobody could ever have expected. Harrison headed up the sideline, following his blockers and evaded would-be tacklers for a 100-yard touchdown return, and a 17-7 Steelers lead, going into the half.
"I got the pick," said Harrison. "You know we had them matched up and it was kind of like, give it time, and I slid over to the right and he threw it right to my hands, and I took off. I was just trying to get to the other side, and score seven. It was about my teammates helping me get to the other end. Will and determination to try and do what you need to do and help the team win the game.
"It was very tiring, but it was all worth it. I was just thinking that I had to do whatever I could to get to the other end zone and get seven. I just wanted to help my team win, that was it. That was all I was thinking about."
While Harrison's play was a really long one, it wasn't that longest play in team history. The honor of the two longest plays in Steelers history belong to two players who only spent one season with the team but managed to etch their names in the record book.
Safety Travis Davis holds the record for longest play in team history with a 102-yard fumble return for a touchdown, which came against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 26, 1999. And not far behind is running back Don McCall, who had a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Nov. 23, 1969 against the Minnesota Vikings.
But if you want to kick it back to more recent times there are two plays that are definitely fresh in the mind of even some of the youngest Steelers fans.
Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster hold the distinction of not just combining for the longest pass play in team history but combining for the two longest pass plays in team history, both of them 97-yard scoring strikes.
The first one came on Oct. 29, 2017 at Detroit. The Steelers were backed-up at their own three-yard line and on third down, Smith-Schuster caught the pass from Roethlisberger over the middle at the 28-yard line and took off running to the end zone for the 97-yard touchdown.
"He's playing like a seasoned veteran, and he's fun to watch," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "Maybe he's just too young and too silly and too fun to know any better."
The play came a few days after Smith-Schuster emerged in the spotlight after tweeting about his bike being stolen.
"He was moving like he was riding his bike," said guard David DeCastro after the game. "He's special. He has a great attitude, great skills, especially for a rookie."
The two combined for another 97-yard scoring strike on Nov. 25, 2018 in a loss to the Denver Broncos. Again, the Steelers were backed up at their own three-yard line and Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster in stride at the 32-yard line. The rest was all turning on the after burner. Smith-Schuster cut across the field, pulled out the stiff arm, and stayed in bounds as he headed to the end zone.
"He is reliable, dependable and trustworthy," said Roethlisberger. "I know he is going to be in the right spot. I saw JuJu went inside and I just let it go. You never really think it is going to be a touchdown."
Now sit back, relax with a glass of lemonade and enjoy the longest day of the year.