On Balance, a Classic
6th Title Rests On Holmes's Steel Toes
Monday, February 2, 2009; Page E01
TAMPA, Feb. 1 -- The Pittsburgh Steelers became the most decorated team of the Super Bowl era with a memorably dramatic triumph over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. The Steelers were on their way to a relatively routine victory before squandering a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, then regrouped and got a breathtakingly acrobatic touchdown catch by wide receiver Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds remaining to win, 27-23.
The Steelers won their NFL-record sixth Super Bowl title in their seven appearances. They were coasting along with a 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter before surrendering 16 straight points to trail, 23-20. But quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took the Steelers 78 yards, the final six of them on a pass to Holmes, who somehow managed to get both his feet inbounds at the side of the end zone while stretching to make the grab.
"I thought it might have been out of bounds," Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "I didn't know. But what a catch by Santonio. We're world champions because of that play."
Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner lost a fumble on a sack with five seconds to go to finally seal the outcome.
"It hurts," Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "It hurts to be so close and have it snatched away from you."
The Cardinals had rallied with two touchdown passes from Warner to Fitzgerald, a one-yarder and a 64-yarder, sandwiched around a safety on a holding penalty called against Steelers center Justin Hartwig in his end zone.
"Your emotions were so high with two minutes to go in the game," said Warner, who completed 31 of 43 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns. "We were two minutes from being the champions of the world. Then the emotions flipped. But I'm so proud of this football team. We gave ourselves a chance to win a world championship, and that other team over there went out and won it."
Roethlisberger became a two-time Super Bowl winner a month shy of his 27th birthday. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 256 yards. His final throw was the one that mattered.
"We call it 'scramble left, scramble right, find someone open,' " Roethlisberger said. "He got open. . . . My first read wasn't open. My second read wasn't open. I thought he was open there for a split second. He made a heck of a catch."
Holmes was named the game's most valuable player with nine catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. He had four catches for 73 yards on the winning drive.
"Ben gave me the opportunity," Holmes said. "He put the ball where only I could catch the ball. Once I got my hands on the ball, I wasn't gonna let go. I knew I had gotten my feet in. My feet never left the ground."
Warner lost for the second time in three career Super Bowl appearances, the first two of which came with the St. Louis Rams.