View Full Version : Steelers persevere in greatest Super Bowl ever played

02-02-2009, 06:09 AM
Steelers persevere in greatest Super Bowl ever played
By Matt Sohn (msohn@pfwmedia.com)
Feb. 1, 2009

“Steeler football is 60 minutes.”

Those were the words of Mike Tomlin in the immediate aftermath of the most thrilling, nerve-racking, awe-inspiring and downright unforgettable Super Bowl in the event’s 43-year history.

Technically, Mike’s right. Football — especially Steelers football, as they proved last night in Tampa — is 60 minutes. Two halves consisting of two 15-minute quarters. But the spectacle we bore witness to Sunday evening should at least give us pause to ponder that truism, because this was not merely one game we witnessed. A game has a theme. A game can be described succinctly in a sentence or two.

Super Bowl XLIII? For three quarters, it mostly followed a singular script. Namely, a Steelers butt-whipping, delivered in much the manner we’ve come to expect from them. Stifling defense. Efficient, steady offense.

Then came the fourth quarter. Suddenly, offenses could do no wrong. It was part football, part track meet, and — as evidenced by James Harrison’s pummeling of Aaron Francisco on a fourth-quarter punt-return sequence, resulting in a personal foul on Harrison — part boxing. Flags littered the field like confetti. Some of what transpired channeled the spectacular; some was downright ugly. But all of it was good.

Because NFL guidelines stipulate that singular conclusions must be derived from what was clearly a fragmented game, Santonio Holmes took home MVP honors. He certainly makes a compelling case. Nine catches for 131 yards, the last of which will go down in Super Bowl lore as one of the greatest ever for his ability to come down with it under the coverage of a trio of Cardinals and somehow getting both feet in bounds before falling out of the corner of the endzone.

But was that effort really more MVP-worthy than Ben Roethlisberger’s, whose 21-of-30, 256-yard stat line is about as indicative of his performance as saying Drago had a training advantage over Rocky? He dodged, weaved and powered his way out of certain sacks more than a couple of times and routinely hit his targets with laser precision, looking nothing like the intimidated pup he portrayed on this stage three years ago.
Steelers OLB James Harrison

Steelers OLB James Harrison's
100-yard interception return
Or what about Harrison, whose 100-yard interception return on the final snap of the first half stands as perhaps the most defining play in Super Bowl history? And he was so much more than a one-play pony. The league’s Defensive Player of the Year was every bit the force in Tampa he was throughout his flagship 2008 campaign, with his four-tackle total not accounting for the two holding calls he induced against Cardinals OLT Mike Gandy and the numerous other times he hurried Kurt Warner into premature decisions.

Harrison’s abuse of Gandy illuminates another time-honored gridiron mantra debunked in this Super Bowl: “It all starts with the offensive line.” Right. Because getting Warner’s imprint in the Tampa turf and allowing Darnell Dockett to treat Pittsbugh’s front like practice dummies were part of the Cardinals’ and Steelers’ respective game plans.

No, Super Bowl XLIII wasn’t about the down and dirty. It was about what was happening on the edge, which is exactly the part of the seat the millions treated to this epic contest were watching from. The Steelers, for years defined by the brutality of bullish backs, executed the quick outs and bubble screens with artistic flair. While Dick LeBeau rightfully deserves all the credit he’s showered with for his defensive schemes, his counterpart, Bruce Arians, is perhaps underappreciated for affording the Steelers’ offense such creativity in what is essentially an underneath, ball-control scheme.

Meanwhile, Larry Fitzgerald demonstrated in the climactic final 15 why no trench dweller can stake claim to being the league’s most unstoppable force, albeit doing so in a losing cause.

With their sixth Super Bowl triumph, the Steelers now sit perched atop the heap in terms of championship hardware. And although nothing is cemented in the fluidity of the NFL, they’re structured in such a way that makes a return to the winner’s circle next season a realistic possibility. Sure, the Rooney Rule may very well be about fostering change throughout the league, but Dan Rooney deserves much of the credit for ensuring the continuity of his franchise.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, have personnel questions aplenty — Warner, Anquan Boldin and Karlos Dansby’s futures are just a few of them — and may have well blown the best opportunity to win a title they’ll have for a very long time.

Then again, scripts in the NFL can flip with stunning suddenness. Just look back to Quarter Four in XLIII.

02-02-2009, 07:39 AM
“Steeler football is 60 minutes.”

That statement defines our 2008 and of course one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played last night. Perfect ending to a spectacular season.