A Perfect "10": Holmes Joins Steeler Receiver Super Bowl Lore

Josh Taylor@_joshtaylor_Contributor IFebruary 2, 2009

There was so much talk entering Super Bowl XLIII centering around a game-breaking receiver who had made big time play after big time play, and could make the difference in the game, perhaps even make the important plays that could help earn his team the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

With 2:37 remaining in the game, a 64-yard catch-and-run down the middle seam to the end zone figured to be that play, and with seven receptions, 127 yards and two touchdowns, the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald was thought to be that player.

That was until Santonio Holmes, the other fabulous postseason performer split wide, took the field with the Pittsburgh Steelers offense for their last drive of the game.

Holmes gave an aside to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "I want to be the guy that makes the big plays for you."

He delivered on his statement.

Holmes caught four passes for 73 yards on the drive, including the game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds left in the game, with a spectacular catch-and-drag of the foot in the right rear corner of the end zone to cap a 27-23 win for the Steelers and their sixth Super Bowl win, a league record.

Finishing with nine catches for 131 yards and the deciding score, Holmes joined Hines Ward (Super Bowl XL), Franco Harris (Super Bowl IX), and Lynn Swann (Super Bowl X) as the only other Steelers beside Terry Bradshaw to earn a Super Bowl MVP award.

Even more interesting is that for a team that has been well-known throughout its existence as a running team with tough defense, half of their title game MVPs have been receivers, and none have ever been rushers or pass rushers; in fact, they have been passers or catchers of passes.

Go figure.

Ward caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Antwaan Randle El—another receiver—to seal the 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks three years ago, but when he was rendered virtually ineffective after being slowed by a knee sprain, Holmes assumed the responsibility of being the play-maker the Steelers needed to win the game.

Holmes had scored touchdowns in each of Pittsburgh's previous playoff games: a 67-yard punt return against the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Divisional Playoff, and a 65-yard catch-and-run against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship.

And when the occasion of the biggest game of his professional career came around, it was Holmes who was challenged to come through again.

"He dared me to be great today," Holmes said of Ward, his teammate and mentor. "He told us, 'This game is going to come down to us making plays,' and that's exactly [what happened]."

Howbeit, the opportunity seemed to have come and gone for Holmes, having dropped a similar pass on the opposite side of the end zone a play before he caught the clincher.

"I never thought I was getting another chance," Holmes said. "But when they called that play for me, I knew it was my play. Ben stuck with me, he believed. He put the ball where it needed to be, and I made the play after that."

When asked by Ward if he felt he got both of his feet in bounds and had control of the ball, Holmes told him, "100 percent."

Linebacker James Farrior called it "one of the best catches I've ever seen."

There was no doubt Holmes' catch was legit, nor was there any hesitation when he and Roethlisberger teamed up for the obligatory Disney World promotion.

A clutch performance like the one Holmes gave may not have exactly out-shined Fitzgerald's, but it clearly made the difference in what will go down in history as one of the best Super Bowls ever played.

While an unusual play like Swann's legendary tip-and-grab is played on Super Bowl highlight reels to this day, Holmes says plays like the one he made are "just natural to you."

Apparently, for Steelers receivers, coming up big in the Super Bowl is natural also.