Steelers postseason history: Feb. 1 -- Super Bowl XLIII

Written by Dan Gigler on .

Since the Steelers have the wrong kind of home field advantage this postseason, we'll take a look back at some of the highlights and disappointments of playoffs past ...

Today: February 1, 2009 -- Super Bowl XLIII vs. Arizona Cardinals

SBXLIII harrison run 

By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

(reprinted from the Feb. 2, 2009 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Steelers not only have another Super Bowl victory to celebrate, it came in what might 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 6-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.

SBXLIII tone toesAnd those were not the most dynamic plays of the game.

The final score in this super Super Bowl was 27-23, and it gave the Steelers their sixth Lombardi Trophy, the most of any NFL team.

"My feet never left the ground," said Holmes, the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII. "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 Arizona's Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. Sixburgh nearly became Sicksburgh as the underdog Cardinals stormed back.

Warner threw two touchdown passes to Fitzgerald to wipe out a 13-point Steelers lead in a span of five minutes 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, 23-20. It came after a safety against the Steelers at 2:58 that cut the Steelers' lead to 20-16.

"I actually was thinking that if they're going to score, that's how you want them to score, extremely quickly as opposed to just milking it," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, at 36 the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl.

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 touchdown pass.

The Steelers took over on their 22 with 2:30 left and 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, 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."

SBXLIII starksThe 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 this 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 -- and it likely created a 14-point swing.

The Cardinals had a first down at the Steelers' 1 with 18 seconds left and were ready to take the lead or tie the score 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 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 Fitzgerald, and they tumbled into the end zone. Officials reviewed the play, and it stood as a touchdown, perhaps the most astounding one in Super Bowl history.

"It was very tiring but it was all worth it," Harrison said. "I was just thinking that I had to do whatever I could to get to the other end zone and get seven."

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 managed one offensive touchdown, a 1-yard run by Gary Russell in the second quarter that staked them to a 10-0 lead.

Warner threw three touchdown passes, including a 1-yarder to tight end Ben Patrick in the second quarter and likely would have been the MVP had the Cardinals persevered. He was 31 of 43 for 377 yards with one interceptioin.

With 7:33 left in the game, Fitzgerald caught a fade pass for a 1-yard touchdown over cornerback Ike Taylor, who had held him relatively quiet until then. That brought Arizona within 20-14.

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 64-yard touchdown came 21 seconds later and turned the raucous, overwhelming Steelers crowd deadly quiet.

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

Two plays later, Holmes made his incredible catch.

"I tried to throw it high, so he was going to catch it or no one was," Roethlisberger said, "and luckily he made a heck of a play."

Post-Gazette coverage


Full game broadcast, pt. 1

Full game broadcast, pt. 2


Just Harrison's interception

Just the drive

Halftime show: Bruce Springsteen

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.