| Steelers earn sixth Super Bowl victory in thriller over Cardinals|
TAMPA, Fla. -- The winning play in Super Bowl XLIII was right out of
Scamble right, scramble left, find someone open. .
The perfect unscripted ending to a game of improbable swings. .
Their Steel Curtain shredded, Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes
improvised the 6-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left to give
the Pittsburgh Steelers a record-setting sixth Super Bowl victory,
27-23 over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night. .
"Great players step up in big-time games to make plays," said
Holmes, the game's MVP. He said he told Roethlisberger that he
"wanted to be the guy to make the plays for this team." .
And he was. .
Holmes grabbed the ball with both arms stretched fully above his
head in the back right corner of the end zone, his toes barely
dragging inbounds. He fell, sat up and cradled the ball like the
prize it was. .
This thriller certainly matched last year's Super Bowl, which ended
with New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress' TD catch -- with
35 seconds left, too. .
But this one was even wilder. With the last tension-packed seconds
ticking away, a kneeling Roethlisberger held Steelers coach Mike
Tomlin's hand as Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner led one last, but
futile, drive. .
"These guys just don't blink," Tomlin said. "They deliver. It's
never going to be pretty or perfect, if you will, but they have a
great deal of resolve." .
The Steelers (15-4), who won their second Super Bowl title in the
last four seasons, led 20-7 in the fourth quarter, only to see
Warner and the Cardinals stage a remarkable rally to go in front
23-20 with 2:37 remaining. .
Warner hit Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in stride for a
64-yard touchdown pass with 2:37 left. Already owning a slew of
playoff receiving marks this year, Fitzgerald sped down the middle
of the field, watching himself outrun the Steelers' defense on the
huge video screen. .
But Fitzgerald could only watch from the sideline as Roethlisberger
engineered a 78-yard drive to win the Super Bowl in what resembled
Heinz Field South. With waves of twirling Terrible Towels turning
Raymond James Stadium into a black-and-gold tableau -- Steelers fans
supporting their beloved team, the economy be damned -- Pittsburgh's
offense rescued the title. .
"I knew it was a touchdown 100 percent," Holmes said, even though
the play had to withstand a video review. "My feet never left the
ground. All I did was stand up on my toes and extended my hands." .
And hauled in the pass that punctuated another Pittsburgh
championship, adding to those won in the 1974, '75, '78, '79 and
2005 seasons. .
The stunning swings overshadowed Steelers linebacker James
Harrison's Super Bowl-record 100-yard interception return for a
touchdown to end the first half. That looked like the game's
signature play until the final quarter, when both teams shook off
apparent knockout punches to throw haymakers of their own. .
Roethlisberger and Holmes struck the last blow, and when Warner
fumbled the ball away in the final seconds, the Cardinals' dream of
winning their first NFL championship since 1947 was gone. .
"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," Roethlisberger said.
"I'm really proud of the way they responded." .
The Cardinals (12-8), playing in their first Super Bowl ever and
first championship game of any kind since 1948, lost their composure
after Harrison's heroics. They had three penalties to keep
Pittsburgh's 79-yard, third-quarter drive going, a 16-play march
that ended with Jeff Reed's 21-yard field goal for a 20-7 lead. .
And Arizona couldn't get Fitzgerald free until very late. But did he
get free. .
Fitzgerald, who already had set a postseason record for receiving
yards and had five touchdowns in the playoffs, was a nonentity until
an 87-yard fourth-quarter drive he capped with a leaping 1-yard
touchdown catch over Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor. Fitzgerald
made four receptions on that series, on which Warner hit all eight
passes for all the yards. .
And then Fitzgerald struck swiftly for the 64-yard touchdown catch
that put the Cardinals within minutes of a remarkable victory -- a
victory that never came because of the resilience of this Steelers
"I'm disappointed for our team," said Arizona head coach Ken
Whisenhunt, who was the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh when the
Steelers won the 2005 title. "This is a group of men that I'm very
proud of. They played very hard in circumstances where nobody
believed in them. .
"We learned a lot about our team. It's just unfortunate it had to
come out that way." .
Pittsburgh looked like the offensive juggernaut to open the game,
smoothly driving 71 yards in eight plays. But the 72nd yard that
would have given the Steelers a touchdown never came. .
It looked like it had when Roethlisberger's short run was ruled a
TD. but Whisenhunt challenged the play, and the score was
overturned, leaving Tomlin his first difficult decision. .
He took the points, Reed's 18-yard field goal, the shortest in a
Super Bowl since 1976. .
After forcing a punt, the Steelers kept the ball the remainder of
the first quarter -- 11:28 in all, outgaining Arizona 140-13,
getting seven first downs to one for the Cardinals. As Warner and
the usually potent Cardinals offense watched, frustrated, from the
sideline, Pittsburgh plowed it in on Gary Russell's 1-yard touchdown
run to make it 10-0. .
When Arizona finally got the ball back, it knocked Pittsburgh off
balance with short passes -- and one huge play.
Warner, handed the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year trophy just
before kickoff, then hit Anquan Boldin streaking from left to right.
Boldin was upended at the Pittsburgh 1, and Warner's lob to Ben
Patrick got the Cardinals on the board. It was the tight end's first
touchdown this season. .
Arizona's defense then emulated the Steel Curtain with a big play.
Bryan Robinson tipped Roethlisberger's pass high into the air, and
Karlos Dansby corralled it at the Pittsburgh 34. The Cardinals drove
to the 1, then, perhaps jealous, the Steelers' defense asserted
itself -- magnificently. .
Harrison, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, stepped in front of
Boldin at the goal line, picked off Warner's throw and began a
journey down the right sideline that ended as the longest play in
Super Bowl history. Harrison ran past or through most of the
Cardinals, nearly stepped out of bounds at one point and was dragged
down by Fitzgerald as he fell to the goal line. The play was
reviewed as several Cardinals knelt on one knee, exhausted from the
chase and disheartened by the result. .
"Those last couple of yards were probably tougher than anything I've
done in my life, but probably more gratifying than anything I've
done in football," Harrison said. .
Said Warner: "I didn't see him around my offensive line. He made a
great play and a great run to get them a touchdown." .
The previous longest play in Super Bowl history was Desmond Howard's
99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for the Green Bay Packers in
Super Bowl XXXI. .
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press