It's the reason they play, why we watch nearly three tons of flailing humanity wrestling over a 14-ounce piece of leather.
On rare occasions, a seemingly inevitable loss in an epic game is transformed into a startling victory. Sometimes, when hundreds of minor factors align into a perfectly coordinated storm, that fleeting moment becomes history, stored forever in our collective mind.
"As a kid growing up in the street, I was Joe Montana throwing game-winning Super Bowl touchdowns," Roethlisberger said last week at the Steelers' facility. "As you get that ball, you've got a chance to do that.
"If you go down and win the game, there's a chance there's going to be a bunch of kids doing the same thing that I was doing -- and they're acting like me."
On a frozen field in Wisconsin, Bart Starr scored the touchdown that delivered the Green Bay Packers into the very first Super Bowl.
"We put that chin strap around the helmet and went right out there," he said, sitting in his office just outside Birmingham, Ala. "I would use the word attitude: This is what we need to do, this is how we have to go about getting there.
"Let's go get it done."
"There's always that something that says, 'I'm going to show you,'" he said from his home in Wayne, N.J., about 15 miles west of where Sunday's Super Bowl will be played. "It's something in you that has persevered. It's the aroma that says 'We're going to come out on top.'"
All three of these men took part in something larger than themselves, had a hand (literally) in creating an unlikely, uplifting victory. All three helped orchestrate a memorable, clutch championship drive.
Eight of the previous 47 Super Bowls were won in the final two minutes, but only five of those games were decided by a touchdown. Conference championship games, because of the enormous stakes, are worthy of discussion, too.
Here, presented for your pregame pleasure, is a tasty buffet worthy of the big game, a handful of the best championship clutch drives of all time, in reverse chronological order:
Ben Roethlisberger is not a rah-rah kind of guy. So when the Arizona Cardinals scored 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIII to take a 23-20 lead, the Steelers' quarterback low-keyed it.
"Hey, guys, listen," he told his offense on the sideline. "Let's just go take care of our business and do what we have to do. You know, be the best that we can be this drive."
And then, sitting in a room overlooking the Steelers' snow-covered practice field, Roethlisberger interrupted himself with an explosive laugh.
"The first play was a holding penalty, so it didn't work so well," he continued. "But we did better after that."
Pittsburgh had the ball on its 22-yard line with 2 minutes, 37 seconds left. Inside, Roethlisberger was amped, but in the huddle, addressing his teammates, "I tried to be the same as I was all game. Don't show any panic. Just go play the game.