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Steel Curtain folds to Satin Curtain

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In the fourth quarter, the Steel Curtain was more like a Satin Curtain. The vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers defence -- which had been its usual run stuffing, bone crunching, turnover forcing self for 50 minutes -- wilted when it counted.

But Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes and the Pittsburgh offence were left with enough time to stake their claim to Super Bowl XLIII, and handed the franchise its record sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy in a thrilling 27-23 win over the upset-minded Arizona Cardinals.

For the second straight year, the most hyped sporting event on the planet topped its advance billing. Roethlisberger capped a 78-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to a triple-covered Holmes with 42 seconds remaining.

For three quarters, the Steelers were the same team that had steamrolled its opponents all season long. The Cardinals had managed just seven points. Larry Fitzgerald, the best wide receiver in the solar system, had just one catch for 12 yards. James Harrison, the defensive player of the year, had scored on a 100-yard interception return -- the longest in Super Bowl history.

These were the Steelers that had kept the Cardinals coaching staff awake at night.

But all that changed in the fourth quarter, when the Cardinals, led by Kurt Warner, went to a no-huddle offence and marched down the field twice for touchdowns. After being lost in double and triple coverage from the opening kickoff, Fitzgerald started running short sideline routes and getting open for Warner.

The Cardinals capped what would have been the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, after trailing by as many as 13 points, with a 64-yard TD pass to Fitzgerald (his second of the quarter) that inexplicably saw him split the middle of the Pittsburgh zone.

One has to wonder why the Cardinals, knowing how capable Fitzgerald is of simply jumping over anyone who is trying to cover him, didn't force the ball to him more often.

At any rate, the Arizona defence -- which had kept the game within reach by forcing Pittsburgh to settle for two field goals at the goal line -- had a chance to shut the door.

The unit that ranked 28th in the league during the regular season in points allowed, but had righted its ship in the playoffs, gave up the six biggest points of the season.

And in the end, the Pittsburgh curtain was neither Steel, nor Satin. It was simply Super.


Some random observations from a penalty-filled Super Bowl XLIII...


"ö Sitting next to Bob Costas on NBC's pregame set were Mike Holmgren and Tony Dungy, two of the best coaches of the last 20 years. And next to them was Matt Millen, arguably the worst franchise architect in NFL history. Isn't that like the Food Network giving a show to some chef who has a habit of giving people food poisoning?

"ö During a 10-minute live interview with Barack Obama from the White House, NBC lost his audio for about 30 seconds, and the video froze several times. This could mean absolutely nothing. Or, this could be a terrible omen for the future of civilization.

"ö Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin became the third former Vikings co-ordinator to go on to win a Super Bowl as a head coach, joining Dungy and Brian Billick. Maybe Vikings owner Zygi Wilf should think about promoting Leslie Frazier, his promising defensive co-ordinator, before he leads the Buffalo Bills to the 2012 championship.

"ö Perhaps now the Kurt Warner Hall of Fame talk can go away for good. Yes, he's won two MVPs and played in three Super Bowls. But the fact is he's had exactly four good seasons. From 2002 to 2007, his record as a starter was 13-29. If he's a Hall of Famer, they'll need to build a bigger hall, and I'm going to invest in bronze futures.


Super Sunday Awards


"ö Offensive player of the week: Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh. Holmes made the two biggest plays on the Steelers' winning drive, after the Cardinals had taken their first lead of the game with less than three minutes remaining. His circus catch in the end zone, surrounded by three defenders and with the sideline looming, will join Lynn Swann's acrobatics in Steelers Super Bowl lore. He finished with nine catches for 131 yards.

"ö Defensive player of the week: James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh. The longest play in Super Bowl history was, as you might expect, the biggest play of the game. The interception alone was huge, preventing the Cardinals from scoring a tying field goal or go-ahead touchdown. Throw in a 100-yard return as the first-half expired, giving the Steelers a 10-point lead.

"ö Special teams players of the week: Dirk Johnson, P; Michael Adams, CB, Arizona. With the Cardinals facing a late fourth-and-20, and having no choice but to punt, Johnson and Adams combined to pin the Steelers inside their own two-yard line with 3:30 remaining. Three plays later, a holding penalty against the Steelers in the end zone let to a safety, cutting the Pittsburgh lead to four points, and giving the Cardinals the ball back.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2009 C3

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