Pittsburgh Pulls It Out: A Phenomenal Super Bowl Review

TJ JenkinsAnalyst IFebruary 2, 2009

From kickoff, it seemed like it would be such an easy victory for the black and gold. The Cardinals had no answer for either Ben Roethlisberger or Willie Parker on the opening drive, allowing the Steelers to drive down the field and score the first points of the game on a short Roethlisberger run.

Or did they? Upon review, the touchdown was overruled and the Steelers only managed a field goal to take the lead in Super Bowl XLIII.

There were a lot of key match-ups to look at in this game, Mike Gandy against James Harrison, and Ike Taylor against Larry Fitzgerald were the two biggest. Gandy consistently held the Steelers best pass-rusher in check, and Fitzgerald caught a short fade over Taylor.

For three quarters, the Cardinals offense and defense looked shaky. It took the Cardinals 20 minutes to get the ball out to either one of their star wide receivers. On defense Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was doing well defending the deep ball, but was virtually useless against any short throw all game long.

Kurt Warner took advantage of the fact that the Steelers played a cover-two for most of the game in order to make Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin non-factors, hitting Edgerrin James in the flats on three of the ensuing plays. This drive would end in a Ben Patrick touchdown catch over Steelers middle linebacker Larry Foote.

Adrian Wilson plays with more heart than 90 percent of the players in the NFL. As said countless times by John Madden and Al Michaels during the game, he really does play the role of a middle linebacker at safety.

With that in mind, one play in particular stands out. Willie Parker had just taken the ball from Ben Roethlisberger and Wilson was there to meet him in the backfield, but Parker eludes him with a juke. Wilson falls to the ground, gets back up and chases Willie Parker down. Adrian Wilson is certainly underrated, or was until all of the press the Cardinals got during their playoff run gained him some recognition.

Finally, almost thirty full minutes into the game, Larry Fitzgerald caught a pass that went for 12 yards and a first down. The Cardinals were previously attacking and succeeding in the flats.

As the second half was drawing to a close, the Cardinals were threatening inside the five-yard line of the Steelers. At the time, they trailed 10-7, and Kurt Warner, who had been prolific in the red-zone during their playoff run, had yet to throw a pick.

Until now.

James Harrison appeared to be blitzing, but dropped back into the curl zone and intercepted Warner on the goal line, extending the Steelers' lead going into halftime, as he proceeded to return it 100 yards for the touchdown. The play now stands as the longest in Super Bowl history.

Rodgers-Cromartie gave Holmes a large cushion all game, respecting his speed, which allowed the Steelers to utilize the short passes, just as the Cardinals were doing. We didn't see too much of Hines Ward as the Steelers saved him for situational downs to keep him healthy.

The Steelers used those short routes and once more got within the five-yard line, but were stopped on all three downs. Adrian Wilson gave the Steelers three more chances to score when he ran into Mitch Berger on the field-goal attempt, prompting a personal foul penalty. The Cardinals do, however, make a second goal line stand and held the Steelers to only a field goal.

Two passes received questionable penalties, with a roughing the passer flag on Karlos Dansby and a face mask called on Rodgers-Cromartie. The face mask wasn't as questionable as it was proof that the offense always gets the benefit of the doubt when both players hands go to the facemask.

In the fourth quarter, people are starting to ask the inevitable question, "Where is Troy Polamalu?" The simple answer there is that he's taking away the Cardinals biggest threats. He and Ryan Clark were sitting in a cover-two for the majority of the game, with no need to come into the box. Thus, he had a quiet day in terms of stats, but definitely not in terms of play.

The Cardinals forced a Steelers punt, after finally sacking Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter. They then proceeded to find Fitzgerald on a drive that spanned eight plays and amassed 87 yards, ending in a Fitzgerald touchdown reception over Ike Taylor.

The Steelers quickly give the ball up again after a Roethlisberger sack and have only minutes to hang on to the lead and win their sixth Super Bowl trophy. On this drive, Ike Taylor's emotions get the best of him, and he gives up 15 free yards on a personal foul.

The Steelers force a punt however and the punt is downed at the two-yard line. But during the return James Harrison is flagged for a personal foul, moving the ball to what is effectively on the goal line. Roethlisberger seems to end the game with a first down to MVP Santonio Holmes, but it's negated and a safety is awarded to the Cardinals because of Justin Hartwig's holding penalty in the end zone.

On the ensuing drive, a perfect offensive play-call splits the safeties and Fitzgerald catches his second touchdown across the middle. The Cardinals have taken the lead with only minutes remaining.

Ben Roethlisberger shows how much he's matured over the seasons, making the right decisions and avoiding sacks on the game-winning drive. He hits Holmes multiple times, including a short pass with a long run to set up first and goal for Pittsburgh. Not to mention the corner route that was caught over three Cardinal defenders for the game-winning touchdown.

The Cardinals got the ball back with 35 seconds left, two timeouts and Kurt Warner, needing 77 yards to win the game. LaMarr Woodley gets to Warner for the second time, forcing the fumble that was recovered by Brett Keisel to win the game.

The Steelers won their NFL-record sixth Super Bowl in a somewhat low-scoring, hard-hitting struggle. Pittsburgh once again used lights out defense and Ben Roethlisberger's uncanny confidence in the clutch to take it home 27-23.

The Steelers dynasty has been reborn. Ben Roethlisberger now has two Super Bowl rings in a five-year career, and they will have every chance in the world to take another one home next year. Only time will tell that tale.