Super Bowl XLIII was one to remember. The Steelers came to Tampa looking to become the most decorated team of the Super Bowl era. Mission accomplished. After pulling out a thrilling 27-23 last-minute victory for the ages, Pittsburgh has separated themselves from the pack. The new benchmark: six Lombardi trophies.
Here are the five most important plays from the latest chapter of Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl history:
1Q---14:16---PITT BALL---2nd & 8---PITT 30
How are Ben Roethlisberger’s ribs? Can Hines Ward contribute? The second snap from scrimmage of Super Bowl XLIII went a long way in answering both questions. The play saw Ben Roethlisberger roll to his right to avoid pressure and then fire an off-balance strike to Hines Ward. Ward was practically uncovered, finding a hole in Arizona’s zone.
The play resulted in a 38 yard catch-and-run that brought the ball down to Arizona’s 32 yard line. Pittsburgh would go on to open the scoring with a field goal. But more importantly, the questions surrounding Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward where answered emphatically. They were here to play.
1Q---4:09---PITT BALL---3rd & 10---ARI 44
At the conclusion of this drive Pittsburgh would score their first touchdown. First, they needed to convert a third and long from the Arizona 44. The play epitomized how creative and elusive Ben Roethlisberger can be in the pocket. He seemed dead from the onset (think Eli Manning on the Tyree play).
Big Ben was flushed to his left, he looked, nobody was open. Cardinals converged around him as he spun and sprinted for open real estate to his right. Then he stopped and fired a strike, across his body, back to the left sideline to Heath Miller.
First down Pittsburgh. If Arizona prevented this broken play, the Steelers punt. Instead of it being Arizona’s ball, down 3-0; moments later it was 10-0 Pittsburgh.
2Q---:18---ARI BALL---1st & G---PITT 1
Welcome to the play that will go down in Super Bowl infamy. With :18 seconds left in the half, and no timeouts, Arizona realistically had two, maybe three, shots at the end zone. At a minimum, the Cardinals were poised for an extra-point field goal to tie the score at 10. Considering the early 10-point hole Arizona found themselves in, Ken Whisenhunt would have been ecstatic to be up four or tied at the half.
Instead, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year made the play of the year. As Warner dropped back throw he scanned left and fired a pass intended for Anquan Boldin. James Harrison read the play perfectly, stepping in front of Boldin for the interception.
He then started rumbling downfield, a convoy emerged and 100 yards later he authored the longest play in Super Bowl history. Instead of Arizona putting points on the board, this stunning turn of events had Pittsburgh running into the half with a 17-7 lead.
3Q---7:41---PITT BALL---1st & 10---50
This drive was a classic example of Pittsburgh Steelers’ football. Sixteen plays, 79 yards, 8:39 elapsed, with important points added to the scoreboard. It was also helped significantly by three personal fouls against Arizona. You didn’t read that wrong, Arizona actually committed three personal fouls, on one drive, IN THE SUPER BOWL!?!?
The worst of the three came on a first and ten from midfield. Karlos Dansby was called for roughing the passer after a Ben Roethlisberger pass fell incomplete. The call was borderline, but acceptable. In addition to the deflating affect it appeared to have on Arizona’s defense; Pittsburgh now had the ball 1st & 10 from the Arizona 35, instead of 2nd & 10 from midfield.
The play symbolized the feeling of the game at the time, as everything was going right for Pittsburgh and poorly for Arizona. The Arizona comeback attempt would soon follow, but not before this personal foul ridden drive put them even further behind the eight-ball.
4Q---:42---PITT BALL---2nd & 6---ARI 6
Last year we had a play that will never be forgotten—Manning to Tyree. The deciding play of Super Bowl XLIII was just added to the list. Pittsburgh could have been conservative and played for the game-tying field goal. It would have been the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.
However, overtime wasn’t on Pittsburgh’s mind. They went for the win. The drive as a whole was fantastic. Facing 1st & 20 from their own 12, Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes went to work. Ben to Holmes for 14. Ben to Holmes for 13. Ben to Holmes for 40. And then came the dagger.
Out of the shotgun, with the end-zone six yards away, Roethlisberger dropped back to throw. He cocked and fired a rocket towards the back of the end-zone. Three Cardinals were standing right there, but the throw was perfect. Perfect. And the catch by Santonio Holmes was equally mind blowing.
He stabbed it from thin air, tapped both feet, and held on to the ball as he fell to the Raymond James grass. It officially launched the Roethlisberger era in Pittsburgh. And this era will be remembered, like Bradshaw to Swann, for all of the memories Roethlisberger to Holmes left engrained in our minds during this drive. Especially the last one.