The joy of six: Steelers set ring record in workman-like fashion
XLIII wasn't glamorous for Steelers, but it will be remembered
These Steelers never buckle; they simply buckle down
In Pittsburgh and nowhere else, rings are worn on both hands
TAMPA -- They've been here before, and taken more than their share of confetti showers, but maybe never one they earned as much as this one. They've been tested and had to work hard to get the job done in the past, but maybe never harder than they did Sunday night against the upstart Arizona Cardinals.
That's all right with the Pittsburgh Steelers, of course. They've never been afraid of hard work, or of stepping up when the moment demands. Some would say they don't really know any other way.
Super Bowl XLIII won't be remembered as the Steelers' most glamorous Super Bowl win. But boy, will we remember it. It wasn't a win born out of start-to-finish domination and it won't start anyone talking about the arrival of a new Steelers dynasty. (At least it shouldn't.)
But the Steelers' record sixth Super Bowl win was still a thing of beauty. It was a game that tried Mike Tomlin's team like never before and found it ready for the challenge. There might not be a better feeling than to win, lose and then win a Super Bowl -- all on the same night -- because the sweetness of the victory is in reclaiming what for a time seemed lost.
There has never been a Super Bowl team that blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead, let alone managed to survive it and still celebrate. But these Steelers did it.
There has never been a clutch game-winning touchdown pass and catch that had more artistry than Ben Roethlisberger's six-yarder to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds remaining, the difference-maker in Pittsburgh's 27-23 win. But these Steelers authored it.
And there has never been a Super Bowl defensive touchdown quite like Steelers linebacker James Harrison's 100-yard sideline journey with a Kurt Warner interception to close out the first half. But somehow, some way, the Steelers and their best defensive player managed it.
Pittsburgh gave us all that and more Sunday night, and in the process they have re-enforced the image we've had of the rough, tough, never-flinch Steelers seemingly forever now. This is a team that rarely does things the easy way. But it almost always winds up doing them the right way.
"I think it really speaks volumes about this team, and why we were here in the first place,'' Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "All season long we've played tight, up-and-down games decided at the end. We've come through again and again this season in games like this. The game is never over with these guys until the last tick goes off the clock.''
LeBeau isn't guilty of hyperbole. The Steelers gutted out win after close win this season, never quite looking invincible, but never failing to produce when a game was hanging in the balance. The two narrow wins over Baltimore come to mind, as does the nail-biter at Cleveland, the 11-10 masterpiece at home against San Diego and that dramatic comeback win against visiting Dallas in December.
"If there's one word to describe us, it's resiliency,'' Steelers kicker Jeff Reed said. "Because we have a lot of close games, and I wouldn't want to play us in a close game.''
After leading the entire game, the Steelers got their ultimate Super Bowl test when Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald took a short Warner pass 64 yards for a 23-20 Arizona lead with 2:37 remaining. The shock of such a play, such a severe turn of events, would have rendered most teams almost paralyzed with the fear of failure.
But these Steelers never buckle, they just buckle down. And before the Cardinals could really get their Super Bowl party going, Pittsburgh had stormed 78 yards in eight plays and 2:02, capping their comeback with that Holmes touchdown catch that will take its place in the pantheon of great moments in Pittsburgh sports history.
"There's not a bunch of time to sit around and say, 'Woe is me,' if you've got intentions of winning, '' said Tomlin, the second-year Steelers head coach who now has as many rings as Bill Cowher won in 15 season in Pittsburgh. "But our guys don't blink.''
The Cardinals were the sexy story in this Super Bowl, the underdog that refused to go away and play down to expectations. But just as they have done all season, the Steelers found a way to clear the hurdle presented, albeit just barely. The Cardinals might have changed the image of their franchise forever with this game, winning all kinds of respect and admiration as a worthy challenger.
But we'll all wake up Monday and the Steelers will still be the Steelers. They never really change. And they refuse to fold, even when everything seemed perfectly conducive to their doing so. Depending on the necessity of the moment, they can beat you with their defense, their passing game or their running game. But they almost always beat you, just when their victory seems out of reach.
"It's amazing,'' safety Troy Polamalu said afterward. "We're the first to win six [Super Bowls] and the way we've done it, with humility, is a great example to carry forward. It's a team that has really taken on the personality of its city. We're very blue-collar, and very hard working. And very nasty as well. This game was so amazing. You are seconds away from me crying in the locker room, and [the Cardinals] being out here. I can't believe it.''
Believe it. The Steelers are Super Bowl champions once more. It's a second championship in four years, and a league-record sixth for Pittsburgh. And this one might wind up being the most special of all. Given the toughest schedule in the NFL this season, the Steelers worked harder than ever for this title.
They took it down to the last minute of the last game of the season, then made the plays that had to be made. It was a game for the ages, and the Steelers found a way to win it. In Pittsburgh, where they now wear Super Bowl rings on both hands, there's nothing new about that.