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Published: 2/2/2009

Pittsburgh Steelers slip past Cardinals in Super Bowl

BY ED BOUCHETTE
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

TAMPA - The Pittsburgh Steelers not only have another Super Bowl victory to celebrate, it came in what may have been the greatest of them all, and they have another play and a winning drive for the ages to go with it.

Santonio Holmes caught Ben Roethlisberger's six-yard touchdown pass, keeping the toes of both his feet in bounds as he stretched out along the sideline for the winner with 35 seconds left. It was Holmes' 40-yard reception with 49 seconds left that put the Steelers in position to win it on a drive that covered 88 yards.

And those were not even the most dynamic plays of this super Super Bowl that finished with the Steelers edging the Arizona Cardinals 27-23. It gave the Steelers their sixth Lombardi Trophy, the most of any NFL team.

"My feet never left the ground," said Holmes, the former Ohio State Buckeye who was named the game's most valuable player. "All I did was extend my arms and use my toes as extra extension to catch up to the ball.

"We're going down in history with one of the greatest games ever played in the Super Bowl."

Holmes' touchdown catch saved the Steelers from what had been a fourth-quarter collapse at the hands of Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald.

Warner threw two touchdown passes to Fitzgerald to wipe out a 13-point Steelers lead in a span of five minutes as the Cardinals stormed ahead against the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense.

Fitzgerald scored on a short pass that he turned into a 64-yard sprint up the middle with 2:37 to go, giving Arizona its first lead at 23-20. It came after a safety at

2:58 cut the Steelers' lead to 20-16.

"I was thinking if they were going to score [it was best] to score quickly," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, at 36 the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl. "Actually, this has been our story all year."

Up stepped Roethlisberger (21 of 30, 256 yards) to direct a winning drive in the final period for the sixth time this season - and throw his first Super Bowl TD pass.

They took over with 2:30 left on their 22 and then were pushed back to the 12 by a holding call.

"I said it's now or never,"

Roethlisberger said he told his offense. "I told the guys all the film study you put in doesn't matter if you don't do it now."

They did it, especially

Roethlisberger and Holmes, who caught nine passes for 131 yards including four receptions on the winning drive.

"I said to him that I wanted to be the guy to make the plays," Holmes said he told his quarterback on the drive. "Great players step up big time and make great plays."

The furious fourth quarter came after what many believe was the greatest play in Super Bowl history.

Call this one the Immaculate Interception, because the 100-yard interception return by James Harrison helped deliver a sixth Super Bowl victory.

Harrison's stunning touchdown on the last play of the first half turned the game around - until it was turned inside out in the final quarter.

Some quickly labeled it the greatest play in Super Bowl history, and one that rivals the

Immaculate Reception of Franco Harris in a 1972 playoff victory by the Steelers.

"Not even close," said Edwin Pope, the esteemed columnist of the Miami Herald who has covered all 43 Super Bowls.

Harrison's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown on the last play of the first half may have represented a 14-point swing in the game.

The Cardinals had a first down at the Steelers' 1 with 18 seconds left and were ready to either take the lead or tie the game with a field goal on the next play. The Steelers led 10-7 at the time.

Warner, fearing a blitz, threw a quick pass toward Anquan Boldin on the left. Harrison was in position to rush but instead dropped into coverage, stepped in front of the pass and ran down the right sideline for the longest play in Super Bowl history.

Harrison escaped a few tackles before he was hit just before the goal line. He landed on top of Arizona Fitzgerald and into the end zone. Officials reviewed the play, and it stood as a touchdown.

Without that, the Steelers likely would not have won.

They moved the ball well at times but had trouble scoring touchdowns. Twice, they had first downs inside Arizona's 5 and had to settle for Jeff Reed Field goals of 18 and 21 yards.

The Steelers did manage one offensive touchdown, a one-yard run by Gary Russell in the second quarter that staked them to a 10-0 lead.

Warner threw three touchdown passes, including a one-yarder to tight end Ben Patrick in the second quarter, and likely would have been the game's MVP had the Cardinals hung on.

Fitzgerald caught a fade pass over cornerback Ike Taylor, who had held him relatively quiet until then, to bring Arizona within 20-14 with 7:33 left in the game.

A punt later pinned the Steelers at their 1, and center Justin Hartwig's holding penalty in the end zone, by rule, cost them two points, making it 20-16.

Fitzgerald's lightning touchdown came 21 seconds later and turned the raucous, overwhelming Steelers crowd deadly quiet.

But the place erupted when Holmes caught Roethlisberger's 40-yard pass to the 6, and the Steelers called their final timeout with 49 seconds left.

Two plays later, Holmes made his incredible catch.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Ed Bouchette is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.



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