By Chad Klassen
Love of NFL Correspondent
Certainly, James Harrison’s record-setting interception TD return was an absolutely monstrous play with Arizona eager to surge ahead before the break. However, it was a pair of Steelers’ offensive stars, Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes, that teamed up to make the big plays late to win the franchise’s NFL-record sixth Super Bowl, including the magical six-yard TD that’ll be remembered and replayed for years on NFL Films or wherever.
You can’t say enough about the Pittsburgh pivot, who earned his second championship ring in four seasons and joins only Tom Brady as the second quarterback to win two Super Bowls at the age of 26. Contrary to his dreadful performance in Super Bowl XL, where “Big Ben” allowed his nerves to almost single-handedly cost his team, this year he put the Steelers on his shoulders and showed his maturation as an NFL quarterback, going 21-of-30 for 256 yards and a touchdown for the crowning moment.
There was no touchdown, of course, more important than the game-winning toss to Holmes, lobbing it over three Cardinals defenders, to finish off his “legendary” 78-yard scoring drive that put Pittsburgh in front 27-23 with only 35 seconds left.
Even after Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald and the whole Arizona defense rallied the Cardinals for their first-ever lead in a Super Bowl (23-20), Roethlisberger was a calming force in a veteran huddle and marched the Steelers back.
He looked like a more mature and all-around better quarterback than three years ago in Detroit. Ben’s ability to scramble around the pocket and put the ball in his playmakers’ hands were key factors that won him that rare second Super Bowl – with only nine other quarterbacks having accomplished the feat.
But it was also Holmes, the Super Bowl XLIII MVP, who was an absolute force with 131 yards receiving, making four catches on that winning drive including his starring role in another remarkable Super Bowl reception that is becoming an annual affair following David Tyree’s heroics last year for the Giants.
The 25th overall pick in the 2006 Draft was dynamite during the postseason run and so badly wanted to be the Super Bowl hero in Tampa Bay. Well, Holmes stepped up accordingly for his squad when it mattered most. That spectacular grab in the back of the end-zone, having the concentrating and athleticism to keep his feet in bounds with three Cardinals in the vicinity, was simply amazing.
So, surprisingly, Pittsburgh’s offensive prowess came through in the clutch – not so much the vaunted No. 1-ranked defense that was pegged to be the difference-makers in Super Bowl XLIII as one of the greatest Steelers units of all time.
Sure, it can be easily argued that Harrison’s play won Pittsburgh the game. But Roethlisberger’s fabled performance was the definitive factor that stung the Cinderella Cardinals in the national spotlight.
“Big Ben” redeemed himself with his championship drive and emerged as a truly clutch performer that came through on the big stage.