Final Score: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
In what has to be the single greatest fourth quarter in the history of the Super Bowl, Ben Roethlisberger connected with Santonio Holmes on a miraculous tippy-toe catch in the back-right corner of the end zone for the game-winning score with only 35 seconds left on the clock. Holmes proved to be just about uncoverable most of the evening, finishing with nine receptions for 131 yards and that score – the former Ohio State Buckeye, named the game's MVP, was huge on the deciding march and set up the TD with a 40-yard catch-and-run a few plays earlier. Ineffective for much of the second and third quarter, Roethlisberger came back strong to complete 21 of his 30 passes for 256 yards and has now won two Vince Lombardi trophies at the age of 26.
Fitzgerald was dynamite but came up short in the fourth quarter. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh's crazy comeback was necessary because of a fourth-quarter barrage from the Cardinals, who improbably took a 23-20 lead after the second touchdown grab of the evening by Larry Fitzgerald – he racked up 115 yards and two scores in the final period alone. Arizona also got a two-point safety thanks to an offensive holding call in the Steelers' end zone. Kurt Warner was fabulous yet again with 377 yards passing and a trio of TD tosses, although his last dropback of the evening resulted in a lost fumble when he couldn't get the hail mary airborne in time.
The Steel City just won its sixth Super Bowl title, becoming the first franchise in NFL history to do so.
Third Quarter: Steelers 20, Cardinals 7
There was only one score in the third quarter, a lay-up field goal from Jeff Reed of the Steelers, and almost the entire drive was courtesy of some questionable calls that went against the Cardinals. First there was a 15-yard facemask against rookie Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie that didn't look of the personal-foul variety, then there was a ridiculous roughing-the-passer whistle on Karlos Dansby that never should drawn a flag, and then Adrian Wilson tried to pull up before running over the holder on a field-goal attempt – he got a personal foul, too.
Pittsburgh has been tough on the Arizona wide receivers. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Arizona has been successful offensively during the playoffs in large part because the running game was rediscovered, but tonight Kurt Warner and Co. have been completely one-dimensional. Edgerrin James only got nine carries through the first three quarters of the game, and he never picked up more than nine yards on any of them. Larry Fitzgerald, a good pregame bet for MVP, has one catch for 12 yards and pretty much been a non-factor.
We've still got a ballgame here because the underdogs can put points on the board in a hurry, but one more mistake will probably be the end.
Second Quarter: Steelers 17, Cardinals 7
Back in Super Bowl XLI, Devin Hester took back the ballgame's opening kickoff for a touchdown, becoming the first player ever to do it and just about setting Dolphin Stadium afire. And then not too long ago, James Harrison, the league's defensive player of the year this season, intercepted a Kurt Warner slant pass intended for Anquan Boldin at the goal line and returned it 100 yards for an I-don't-believe-what-I-just-saw TD – on the last play of the first half. Instead of the Cardinals taking the lead 14-10 just before intermission, the Steelers now hold a 17-7 advantage.
Harrison was not going to be denied this score before halftime. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
You can make a pretty significant case for that being the most miraculous 14-point swing the NFL has ever seen. Harrison should have been taken down on at least three separate occasions, but the undrafted free agent out of Kent State was not going to be denied. While you have to give Arizona a ton of credit for getting back in the game after an early 10-0 hole, that right there has backbreaker written all over it.
I imagine you can hear a pin drop in the Cardinals locker room right about now.
First Quarter: Steelers 3, Cardinals 0
Ben Roethlisberger appeared to have scored on a 1-yard scramble on third and goal, but Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt challenged the call. And after further review, the touchdown was taken off the board and Pittsburgh settled for an 18-yard chip shot from Jeff Reed. Count me among the people that were shocked Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn't go for it on fourth down.
Pittsburgh couldn't punch it in from the 1-millimeter line. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
It should be 10-0 already, but Roethlisberger overthrew speedy Nate Washington streaking down the middle of the field on a deep post pattern. Aside from that big miss, Roethlisberger is red hot. As for Arizona's dominant offense, Kurt Warner and his minions ran a grand total of five plays in the first quarter and didn't get either Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin involved once.
The Steelers really look ready to play right now, while the Cardinals came out of the gates a little sluggish.
Let's Get Ready to Rumble, Sports Fans
When the Steelers were announced over the loudspeaker and came racing out of the tunnel just before kickoff, Raymond James Stadium turned into a waving sea of Terrible Towels. There are some Arizona fans here, but they're getting drowned out by their Steel City compatriots at every opportunity. Detroit was the same way for Steelers-Seahawks in Super Bowl XL three years ago.
This might as well be a home game for the Steelers right now. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Alright, time for my official prediction. I know some people are smelling an Arizona upset lately, but I simply don't see it. Dick LeBeau is one of the legendary defensive coordinators in league history, and he's had two weeks to design some crazy blitz packages to throw at Kurt Warner ...
Steelers 23, Cardinals 13.
Momentum Toward Kickoff Starting to Build
For anybody who doubted whether Steelers receiver Hines Ward would suit up, he took the field not too long ago – to a thunderous ovation from the Pittsburgh faithful, of course – for his initial warmups. No knee sprain is going to keep this former Super Bowl MVP from playing, and I'd be willing to bet that he has another big game going up against an iffy Arizona defensive backfield. The biggest applause from the Cardinals fans just happened a few minutes ago when a short video montage of the late Pat Tillman played on the JumboTron.
There was no doubt Ward would suit up for the Big Game. (Mark Humphrey/AP Images)
As you'd expect, Kurt Warner looked quite comfortable and relaxed getting his arm loose, even waving to the Cardinals crowd that was cheering him on as he trotted back through the tunnel. Larry Fitzgerald Jr. got a ton of attention this week and rightfully so because he's an incredible player, but people forget Anquan Boldin was the best receiver in Arizona the first month of the season before having his face broken in the Meadowlands. I'm looking for my fellow Seminole to have a monster game, especially since he went to high school in not-far-away Pahokee.
And remember two years ago in Miami when Andy Rooney from "60 Minutes" was sitting two seats to my left and asleep for half the game? Well, he's two seats to my left and a row down this year.
Ready to Roll from Super Bowl XLIII
I've had an amazing seven days in Tampa, both at work and at play. Not only have I had the chance to talk with all kinds of current players, ex-players, coaches, media-types, and celebrities about the current state of the Bears, but I've even had an opportunity to run into some old friends I haven't seen in years – Lea and Paige, you're both gems. I'm sure my brother is ready for me to head back to the Windy City since I've raided his fridge and wrecked his spare bedroom since Monday, although he'll have to put up with me for one more night.
Not a bad seat for Super Bowl XLIII at Raymond James Stadium. (Bear Report Images)
On the way to the stadium this afternoon, I think it's safe to say that Steelers fans outnumbered Cardinals fans about 10 to 1. Nobody should be surprised by that, since Pittsburgh fans travel as well as any fan base in the league and there's no legitimate reason to leave the Phoenix area during the winter anyway. As a matter of fact, I encountered more Bible-thumping wannabe preachers on the way to the press entrance than Cards fans.
I wasn't aware of this until today, but apparently I'm going to hell when I die because I dig football.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.