Their Steel Curtain shredded, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense ended a Super Bowl of incredible swings with a final-minute touchdown for a historic victory.
Santonio Holmes made a brilliant 6-yard catch deep in the right corner of the end zone with 35 seconds remaining Sunday night, lifting the Steelers to a record-setting sixth Super Bowl win, 27-23 over the Arizona Cardinals.
It was one of the most thrilling finishes to the NFL title game, certainly equaling last year's upset by the New York Giants that ended with Plaxico Burress' TD catch — with 35 seconds left, too.
But this one was even wilder.
The Steelers (15-4), winning their second Super Bowl in four seasons, led 20-7 in the fourth quarter, only to see Kurt Warner and the Cardinals stage a remarkable rally to go in front 23-20 with 2:37 remaining.
Warner hit All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald in stride for a 64-yard touchdown with 2:37 left. Already owning a slew of postseason receiving marks this year, Fitzgerald sped down the middle of the field, watching himself outrun the Steelers on the huge video screen.
Fitzgerald could only watch from the sideline as Roethlisberger engineered a 78-yard drive to win it in what resembled Heinz Field South. With waves of twirling Terrible Towels turning Raymond James Stadium into a black-and-gold tableau, Pittsburgh's offense rescued the title.
"Great players step up in big-time games to make plays," Holmes said. "I kind of lost a little composure, you know, but I knew our defense would give us a chance to make it back."
The stunning swings overshadowed James Harrison's record 100-yard interception return for a touchdown to end the first half. That looked like the signature play until the final quarter, when both teams shook off apparent knockout punches to throw haymakers of their own.
Big Ben and Holmes struck the last blow, and when Warner fumbled in the final seconds, the Cardinals' dream of winning their first NFL crown since 1947 were gone.
"I said it's now or never, I told the guys all the film study you put in doesn't matter unless you do it now," Roethlisberger said. "I'm really proud of the way they responded."
The Cardinals (12-8-1), playing in their first Super Bowl and first championship game of any kind since 1948, lost their composure after Harrison's heroics. They had three penalties to keep Pittsburgh's 79-yard drive going, a 16-play march that ended with Jeff Reed's 21-yard field goal for a 20-7 lead.
And they couldn't get Fitzgerald free until very late. But boy did he get free.
The All-Pro who already had set a postseason record for receiving yards and had five touchdowns in the playoffs was a nonentity until an 87-yard fourth-quarter drive he capped with a leaping 1-yard catch over Ike Taylor. He made four receptions on that series on which Warner hit all eight passes for all the yards.
And then he struck swiftly for the 64-yarder that put Arizona within minutes of a remarkable victory.
Arizona's defense then emulated the Steel Curtain with a big play. Bryan Robinson tipped Roethlisberger's pass high into the air and Karlos Dansby corralled it at the Pittsburgh 34. The Cardinals got to the 1, then, perhaps jealous, the Steelers' D asserted itself — magnificently.
Harrison stepped in front of Anquan Boldin at the goal line, picked off Warner's throw and began a journey down the right sideline to the longest play in Super Bowl history.Copyright © 2015, CT Now