Steelers Win One for Their Second Hand

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: February 4, 2009

TAMPA — From beginning to end the NFL’s 89th season titled “Believe In Now” has been one big rollercoaster ride where you never knew the next twist or turn and Super Bowl XLIII followed that same pattern.

The Instant Classic game was filled with many high and lows for the Pittsburgh Steelers (15-4) and Arizona Cardinals (12-8), but in the end the Lombardi Trophy returned to a familiar home.

The Steelers led by young upstart head coach Mike Tomlin (Youngest Super Bowl-winning coach at age 36) won 27-23 over the scrappy Cardinals in come-from-behind fashion to take home their NFL record sixth Super Bowl Championship.

The Steelers faithful are calling the championship, “The Six Pack”, and Steelers owner Dan Rooney wrapped a bow on the historic victory by saying about the team’s expanding trophy case, “We will make room (along side their five other Lombardi Trophies)”.

Super Bowl XLIII may have started with the usual NFC winning coin toss — 12th straight season — but the game’s finish wasn’t ho-hum. When all is said and done, this year’s Super Bowl will rightfully take it’s place next to other Super Bowl thrillers — Super Bowl XXXVIII (Brady leads the Patriots into field goal position and Vinatieri wins the game 32-29 on a last second field goal) and last year’s Giants’ 17-14 win in Super Bowl XLII.

This year’s version of the biggest game ever — second most watch Super Bowl with 95.4 Million viewers — excitingly came down to the final minutes with the climatic closing events coming to a crescendo as the Steelers had to find a “way” to get it done after the Cardinals, who had trailed for the majority of the game, improbably took a 23-20 lead on a lightning fast 64-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald with 2:37 remaining.

On the play, Warner hit All-Pro receiver Fitzgerald in stride over the middle and the former University of Pittsburgh star raced untouched into the endzone.

When the Steelers’ backs were against the wall, surprisingly it was’nt their storied No. 1 ranked defense, but the unlikely offensive tandem of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ride-along-ring in Super Bowl XL after a less than spectacular performance) and receiver Santonio Holmes (had been deactivated earlier in 2008, because he didn’t get it according to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin) who answered the call for one of the NFL’s most proud franchises.

Roethlisberger culminated a 78-yard hurry-up drive by finding Holmes with a 6-yard scoring pass in the right corner of the endzone through a sea of hands of three Cardinals defenders for the game-winner. Holmes punctuated the moment by making an NFL Films highlight worthy catch where the former Ohio State star just got his two feet down before falling out of bounds.

Roethlisberger said of the Steelers magical last drive, “I said it’s now or never, I told the guys all the film study you put in doesn’t matter unless you do it now”. Big Ben added, “I’m really proud of the way they responded.”

For his efforts of nine catches for 131 yards and the game-winning touchdown catch, Holmes was named the Super Bowl XLIII Most Valuable Player. Holmes said of his MVP performance, “Great players step up in big-time games to make plays”.

However the confetti never flew until all 60 minutes were had been played just as Steelers head coach Tomlin had preached all season long. In the end the Steelers 60-minute family’s defense closed the game when athletic young linebacker Lamarr Woodley forced a Kurt Warner fumble as he was dropping back to attempt a desperation pass and the Steelers defense made the crucial recovery with five seconds to go.

When the game was over, Tomlin in accepting the Lombardi trophy characterized the Steelers hard-fought victory best by saying, “It’s 60 minutes, Steeler football is never going to be pretty. Throw out the style points.” The dramatic ending definitely overshadowed a game where the Steelers seemed to be in control for the most part despite settling for field goals.

Tomlin’s team led at the end of the first quarter by a score of 3 to nothing plus they kept the ball for 11:28 in the quarter and outgained the Cardinals 140 yards to 13 yards, increased their lead to (17-7) in the second quarter, and kept rolling over the Cardinals in the 3rd quarter (20-7).

But to the Cardinals credit especially veteran quarterback Warner, they would not go quietly into the dark night. The Cardinals fought back with a 16-point fourth quarter to take the lead as Warner and Fitzgerald (no catches until the third quarter) woke-up to produce to two touchdowns.

Warner had one of the greatest quarters in Super Bowl history, completing 14 of 19 passes for 224 yards in the frenetic 4th quarter. He also set an NFL record with 1,147 yards passing in this postseason, and his 11 touchdown passes tied the mark set by Joe Montana in 1989.

He’ll however maybe remembered most in this Super Bowl lore for a score he didn’t get. In the closing minutes of the second quarter, the Cardinals’ defense came up with a big play as Bryan Robinson tipped a Roethlisberger pass into the air and Karlos Dansby snagged it at the Pittsburgh 34. From there, Warner methodically moved the Cardinals to the Steelers’ 1-yard line, but with the score at 10-7 and the Cardinals threatening, the Steelers’ Steel Curtain reemerged just in time.

In a play that will be right up there next to the David Tyree miracle catch from Super Bowl XLII, Steelers linebacker James Harrison, the defensive player of the year, stepped in front of Anquan Boldin at the goal line and picked off a Warner’s pass.

The catch was good, but Harrison’s runback will live in Super Bowl replays forever as the Pro Bowl linebacker went down the right sideline behind a convoy of Steelers blockers to run 100 yards including bulling passed Fitzgerald into the endzone as the first half expired. The play was reviewed for several minutes as Harrison and several other exhausted players needed oxygen.

But Super Bowl history had been made as Harrison moved passed Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return for Green Bay in 1997 as the historic game’s longest play.

The longest play in Super Bowl history and the many other magical moments from Super Bowl XLIII surely would have brought a tear to Steelers’ patriarch the late Art Rooney. “The Chief” would have loved that his team stuck together through a season where they played the toughest schedule in football and came out with the Lombardi Trophy.

Tomlin said of the gut-wrenching momentum shifts, “There’s going to be ebb and flow. Let’s face it, Arizona is a great team. I take my hat off to those guys, players and coaches, administrators. This is what the Super Bowl is supposed to be about. It was, and hopefully the fans of football enjoyed it.”

Raymond James Stadium was a Steelers’ Terrible Towel paradise as Big Ben and Holmes came of age in a must-see moment. The Steelers, founded in 1933, once again represented their blue collar City of Steel with honor and now they stand alone with their “Six Pack” of Super Bowl Championships.

The black-and-gold’s sixth title took the full 60 minutes of the game to secure, but “The Chief” and Steelers’ nation would not have it any other way. Steelers defensive leader linebacker James Farrior said of the Super Bowl victory, “Number one, baby, in the world – [there isn't a] better feeling. We were out here all day, 60 minutes. We were out there 60 minutes.”

Offensive leader receiver Hines Ward added, “We never doubted ourselves, not for a second. We stayed the course. We knew we needed a field goal. Santonio Holmes really made a name for himself today. This is all what we were preaching about today. All in all, we are the Super Bowl champions for the second time in four years.” Enjoy your championship Pittsburgh, your classy organization deserves it as your team as been run the right way for over 75 years.

Definitely congratulations are in order to the Steelers players, coaches, front office, and staff. Special kudos must also go to the architects of this team, head coach Mike Tomlin, Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert, Pro Personnel Coordinator Doug Whaley and their staffs.

Lastly to the Rooney family (owners since the early years of the NFL in the 1930′s), you and your team did the NFL proud by winning the Steelers’ way with persistence, grit, and determination.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

– I thought the pre-game tribute to the “Miracle on the Hudson” crew from US Airways Flight 1549 that crashed into the Hudson River on Jan. 15 in New York was extremely classy.

– You have to hand it to singer Jennifer Hudson for doing a great job with the national anthem – made her first public appearance since the shooting tragedy that killed her mother, brother and nephew. Hudson’s rendition was strong and not overly drawn out like some past artists – BTW: Hudson went over the 2-minute pro bet length (2:15). Also kudos need to go to Faith Hill for rendition of America the Beautiful.

– Everyone always wants to know the commercials that I liked and didn’t like. I just found it amazing that in our tough economy, about 28 advertisers bought a record $206 million dollars’ worth of commercial time at a record $3 million per 30-second spot. My number one has to be the “Free Doritos” ad (I would love to have a crystal ball like that) followed closely by the Bridgestone Tires’ “Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head” spot. Some stinkers I thought were the Conan O’Brien “Swedish Bud Light” commercial and Go Daddy’s “Nerds wishing to see Danica Patrick in the shower”.

– The game was the third most-watched program in American television history, after the 106 million people who watched the M*A*S*H series finale in 1983 and the 97.4 million who watched the New York Giants end the New England Patriots’ bid for an undefeated 19-0 season last year.

– I thought the officiating crew was a bit too whistle-happy with 18 penalties for 162 yards called in the game. The most egregious call being the phantom “Roughing the Passer” penalty call on Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby in the third quarter.

– 12 minutes of baby boomer Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street band at halftime was more than enough. If anything, I would have rather seen more of Matt Lauer’s interview with President Obama. In the interview President Obama gave out mutual love to Steelers owner Dan Rooney for his support and appealed for a college football playoff again.

Now that Super Bowl XLIII is over, I can take a quick break. Like most people my NFL season ends with the Super Bowl, because I don’t pay much attention to the Pro Bowl.

But the NFL Combine (later in February) and the NFL Draft (in April — only 82 days away with the Detroit Lions currently on the clock) will be he before we know it.