A super finish to a thrilling Super Bowl

Posted Feb 1, 2016

Steelers' fans were holding their breath until the bitter end in Super Bowl XLIII.

February 1, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Florida
Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

It took last second heroics in both halves of Super Bowl XLIII for the Steelers to make history and become the first NFL franchise to win six Super Bowl championships.

The Steelers were holding on to a 10-7 lead near the end of the first half when the Cardinals Karlos Dansby intercepted a tipped Ben Roethlisberger pass at the Steelers 33-yard line. Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner moved his team into scoring position with completions to Tim Hightower, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

With the ball at the one-yard line and just 18 seconds to play in the half, the Cardinals were anticipating Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison blitzing, but Harrison gambled and dropped back in coverage and intercepted Warner’s pass at the goal line.

What happened after that, nobody could ever have expected. Harrison headed up the sideline, following his blockers and evaded would-be blockers for a 100-yard touchdown return and 17-7 Steelers lead going into the half.

“I got the pick,” said Harrison after the game. “You know we had them matched up and it was kind of like, give it time, and I slid over to the right and he threw it right to my hands, and I took off. I was just trying to get to the other side, and score seven. It was about my teammates helping me get to the other end. Will and determination to try and do what you need to do and help the team win the game.

“It was very tiring, but it was all worth it. I was just thinking that I had to do whatever I could to get to the other end zone and get seven. I just wanted to help my team win, that was it. That was all I was thinking about.”

The Steelers added a third quarter field goal for a 20-7 lead, but the Cardinals mounted a major fourth quarter comeback. Warner connected with Fitzgerald for a 1-yard touchdown to bring the Cardinals within a score at 20-14.

Things continued to go in the Cardinals favor when they pinned the Steelers back at their own one-yard line. On third down, center Justin Hartwig was called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety to close the gap to 20-16.

The Cardinals got the ball right back and scored in just seconds when Fitzgerald caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Warner, taking their first lead of the game, 23-20.

The odds were stacked against them, but the Steelers weren’t going to be denied. With just 2:30 remaining on the clock Roethlisberger took control, completing four passes for 78 yards, including a 40-yarder to Santonio Holmes, to give the Steelers the ball at the six-yard line. With time ticking away, Roethlisberger found Holmes in the corner of the end zone where he remarkably managed to keep both feet in bounds for the 27-23 lead.

“I said to (Ben) that I wanted to be the guy that made the plays for this team,” said Holmes postgame. “I wanted to continue to be great and great players step up in big time games and make great plays.”

The Cardinals had one final gasp at pulling out the win, but when linebacker LaMarr Woodley sacked Warner, forcing a fumble that Brett Keisel recovered, history was made.

February 1, 1972
Running back Franco Harris selected in the first round of the NFL Draft

Franco Harris will forever be remembered for the greatest play not just in Steelers’ history, but one recognized by many as the greatest play ever in NFL history, the “Immaculate Reception.”

“It’s still as exciting,” said Harris. “If you look at the season we had in 1972, after the first 40 years of the franchise, and then to have the incredible season, the team’s first playoff win and to win that first one in dramatic fashion really started to change a lot of things. What really made it special and big was the decade that was to come and the importance of the play, setting the tone for winning. We proved that no matter how dire the situation that we can win. All of the things that followed made that play so big and important to Steelers’ history.”

That play was just the start of Harris’ greatness as well. Harris, the Steelers first-round draft selection in 1972 out of Penn State and the 13th pick overall, finished his rookie year with 1,055 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.   

Harris, a member of four Super Bowl championship teams, carried the load for the team for 12 seasons, bringing his powerful style to the ground game, and also playing a key role in the passing game. He is the team’s all-time leading rusher with 11,950 yards and leads with 91 rushing touchdowns. He had eight 1,000-yard seasons, and rushed for at least 100 yards in 47 games. Harris added 307 receptions for 2,287 yards, and his net yardage of 14,622 yards ranked as third highest when he retired.

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