- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009

TAMPA

On the cusp of the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history, the Pittsburgh Steelers rallied for one of the most stunning comebacks in the 43-year history of the game.

Having squandered a 13-point lead and trailing the Arizona Cardinals with 2:37 seconds remaining Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger calmly led his team down the field, throwing a 7-yard touchdown to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left to give the Steelers a thrilling 27-23 win.

Pittsburgh won its record sixth Super Bowl title in its seventh appearance in the game; Arizona was making its Super Bowl debut.

“This group of young players are just marvelous,” Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said. “I can’t say enough about them. We had the toughest schedule in the league, they kept going in Mike Tomlin’s direction. Mike’s done a marvelous job.”

Tomlin, the Virginia native who was the youngest coach in Super Bowl history, became the second African-American to win the Vince Lombardi trophy. The Rooney family made Tomlin the team’s surprise hire two years ago when long-time coach Bill Cowher stepped down.

“I’m blessed to work with this staff and this group of players,” said Tomlin, 36. “I can’t say enough about the guys and what they’re willing do for another one for Steeler Nation.”

Those Steelers fans came out in force, most of them wearing Terrible Towels. The stands were packed with black and gold paraphernalia.

The key play of the first three quarters was Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return for a touchdown as the first half clock expired. It was the longest play in Super Bowl history.

Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner threw touchdown passes of 1 and 64 yards, sandwiching a safety by the Arizona defense to give the Cardinals their first lead, 23-20.

It let both head coaches thinking the same thing: There was a ton of time left.

“I was thinking if they were going to score, score quickly,” Tomlin said.

Added Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt: “I thought, ‘There was too much time on the clock.’ I felt we could maybe hold them to a field goal and go to overtime.”

Last year, the New York Giants shocked the New England Patriots in the final minute, preventing the Patriots from completing a 19-0 season.

This year’s game belongs in similar category. Heavily favored Pittsburgh appeared to be a lock entering the fourth quarter before the great conclusion.

But, like every Super Sunday, the game played just a part of America’s favorite sports day.

Prior to kickoff, the crew of the US Airways jet that crashed landed into the Hudson River last month was recognized, Faith Hill performed at a second Super Bowl and Jennifer Hudson performed the national anthem. Hudson was making her first public appearance since the October slayings of her mother, brother and 7-year old nephew. An estranged brother in law has been charged.

The Super Bowl is the only sporting event where the timeouts remain must see television and Madison Avenue took advantage of its chance to debut new commercials. During the week, NBC said almost all of the 30-second spots had been sold with the rate $3 million. Officials said the network’s sales staff sold nearly all of the segments before the Beijing Olympics when the current economic crisis didn’t appear to be on the horizon.

In the first half, the commercials included Bud Light, Audi, Pepsi, Doritos, Toyota, Bridgestone, Castrol Edge, GoDaddy.com, Pepsi Max, Pedigree, Budweiser, Cars.com, Gatorade, Hyundai, E Trade, H&R Block, Teleflora and Monster.com.

Conan O’Brien and Bob Dylan starred in spots and the Gatorade ad alone included Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt, Jimmie Johnson and Peyton Manning.

And the storylines ran the gamut, a product computer-generated graphics and the lack of a budget.

Drinking beer at a staff meeting, breaking into a vending machine for unlimited tortilla chips, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head driving recklessly, chimpanzees fixing a guy’s car, the race car driver Danica Patrick showering, a runaway ostrich, a Clydesdale playing fetch, Pepsi Max’s claim of having “the first diet cola for men” and two babies talking about investments.

Hollywood also got in the act with trailers for “Angels and Demons,” “Year One,” “Fast & Furious 4,” “Land of the Lost ” and “Star Trek,” a collection of summer movies starring Tom Hanks, Jack Black, Vin Diesel, Will Farrell and Eric Bana.

The only notable omission was anything from the American automakers.

A new U2 song debuted in an NFL commercial before the much-hyped halftime show with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band delivered, performing “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Born to Run,” “Working on a Dream ” and “Glory Days.” The Boss yelled, “We’re going to Disneyland” before the stage was rolled off the playing surface. The performance probably featured more pyrotechnics than in Mr. Springsteen’s nearly 40-year Hall of Fame career.

With his sensational fourth quarter, Warner almost became the first quarterback to win Super Bowls with two franchises. He won with St. Louis in 1999 and lost with the Rams in 2001.

Warner’s resurgence this season was one of the league’s great stories. Most had written him off after Warner was benched one game into the 2003 season, a former passer who looked wary of the blitz, had fumbling problems and threw too many interceptions. Released by St. Louis after that season and the New York Giants in 2004, he signed a one-year contract with the downtrodden Cardinals. A three-year contract followed, but Warner ended last year as the backup to Matt Leinart.

Warner, though, won the job out of training camp in August but most around the team believed it was only because the early-season schedule included tough road games and Leinart would eventually reclaim the position. It never happened. The oldest player in Sunday night’s game finished the regular season with 30 touchdowns and 4,583 yards, throwing to super targets Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

While Warner went seven years between Super Bowl appearances, Roethlisberger was playing in his second Super Bowl in four years.

Roethlisberger became the 10th quarterback to win multiple Super Bowls.

Pittsburgh was making its seventh trip to the big game - second to only Dallas - and its second in four years.

And although the Steelers’ run of four titles in six years happened in the 1970s, those great names - most of them in the Pro Football Hall of Fame - still dominated the stadium Sunday night. Sprinkled with the jerseys of current Steelers in the stands were the No. 32 of Franco Harris, No. 88 of Lynn Swann, No. 75 of Joe Greene and No. 12 of Terry Bradshaw.


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