Best Super Bowl ever?
By Mike Batista
February 6, 2009
As we bask in the gleam of another Lombardi Trophy, here are 20 more thoughts on Super Bowl XLIII and the Steelers'
- This is truly the golden age of the
Super Bowl. The last two have been the best two. This won't be a popular opinion, but Super Bowl XLII was just a little bit better than Super Bowl XLIII. Don't forget, the Steelers didn't
need a touchdown on their final drive. They could have tied the game with a field goal. The Giants were down four points and needed the touchdown against the Patriots (by the way, both the
Giants last year and the Steelers this year scored their winning TDs
with 35 seconds left). Santonio Holmes' touchdown catch and David Tyree's catch against his helmet are a wash. But the Giants' monumental upset of the unbeaten Patriots gives the game
the edge. Hey, Super Bowl XLIII is the second-best of all-time. What's
wrong with that?
- Just so we're not hearing for the rest
of our lives that Kurt Warner's fumble should have been reviewed at the end of Super Bowl XLIII, let me explain why it wasn't. If the call was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass, the
Cardinals would have had time for a Hail Mary, and Bible Boy Warner has
said enough Hail Marys.
- Super Bowl XLIII didn't have to
be that close, by the way. All the Steelers needed to do was haul in truckloads of fake snow. We know the Cardinals don't like playing in the snow.
- Having watched the game in Massachusetts, I listened to WEEI in Boston the day after the game, and they were pretty
much saying the game was fixed so the Steelers would win. Yup, they
hate the Steelers up there. After hating the Patriots for so long, it feels so good to be hated back.
- This is an indictment on my housekeeping, but when I did get back to New York,
I looked on my floor and smiled when I saw the December 1 Boston Globe
sports section with the headline "'Burgher Joint." This was the day after the Steelers beat the Patriots 33-10
at Gillette Stadium, establishing themselves as legitimate Super Bowl
- Speaking of that game, I can't believe I haven't
written this yet. But the Steelers beat the Patriots 33-10. My seat was in Row 33. The Steelers' last touchdown was scored by No. 33, Gary Russell (No. 3, Jeff Reed, scored the game's final point). And Ben Roethlisberger
attempted 33 passes.
- Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt handled
the loss pretty well. He had to. Mike Holmgren needed a shoulder to cry on.
- A church in Pittsburgh had to cancel confession because of the Steelers' victory parade. This on top of beating
a team of Cardinals, with a Pope at tight end and a deeply religious
quarterback. God's gonna be pissed!
- Now that the Steelers
have won two Super Bowls in four seasons, they are officially not the Atlanta Braves of this decade.
- Reason No. 867 Mike Tomlin is the NFL's coolest coach: According to ProFootballTalk.com,
at the team meeting the night before the Super Bowl, he played Phil
Collins' "In the Air Tonight" to get the Steelers in a meditative mood.
- Speaking of Tomlin and his tactics, I wonder if more teams will use starters in "meaningless" games at
the end of the regular season. Having already wrapped up the No. 2
seed in the AFC, the Steelers played to win against the Browns in Week 17. It almost cost them their starting quarterback, but it also helped them tune up for the playoffs.
- How nice was it to see Tomlin with his arm around Hines Ward on the sideline just
before the game on Sunday? A much better sideline image than Tomlin
trying to comfort Ward last January when play got chippy during their playoff loss to Jacksonville.
- The Steelers need to make no apologies after navigating the toughest regular-season schedule in the NFL, but they
got slight relief in the playoffs. They were one round away from facing
three of the teams that beat them this season. They beat the Chargers after the Chargers took care of the Colts. They beat the Ravens after the Ravens took care of the Titans. They beat the Cardinals after the Cardinals
took care of the Eagles. For that matter, the Eagles took care of
the Giants. So the Steelers beat the teams who beat the teams who beat them. That works.
- If the Steelers repeat, they could make a claim as Team of the Decade. The Patriots and Steelers both would have
three championships since 2000.
- Unlike Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady has never had to come from behind on his final drive in a Super Bowl. In Super
Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII, the game was tied and the Patriots drove
to set up the game-winning field goal.
- Roethlisberger joins
Brady, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Joe Montana, Jim Plunkett, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese and Bart Starr as quarterbacks to win more than one Super Bowl. Pretty nice company. Now let's
take a look at some of the quarterbacks who have won just one Super
Bowl: Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Steve Young, Brett Favre and, ahem, Warner.
- There are some parallels between Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. Both are capable of epic greatness and epic
stupidity. Hopefully Holmes is done doing stupid things.
- Thanks to Holmes, Steelers fans no longer cringe when they see uniform No. 10.
Kordell Stewart does not evoke fond memories of that number, but
it does have some impressive lineage. Also wearing the number were Roy Gerela, kicker for their first three Super Bowl teams,
Earl Morrall, their quarterback in 1957 before going on to a productive
20-year career, and Byron "Whizzer" White, who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice.
- Speaking of uniform numbers, the Steelers
haven't officially retired any except for Ernie Stautner's No. 70. But they don't give out Terry Bradshaw's
No. 12, Franco Harris' No. 32 or Joe Greene's No. 75. And
I suspect they won't give out Jerome Bettis' No. 36. But they have given out Lynn Swann's No. 88 and John Stallworth's No. 82. No one has those numbers now, and I wonder if it has something
to do with more and more receivers wearing numbers between 10 and
19, like Holmes and Limas Sweed (No. 14). Perhaps the NFL has only recently allowed receivers to wear those numbers. It should give the Steelers the flexibility to unofficially retire No. 82, No. 88 and eventually No. 86.
- Not only are the Steelers the only team to win six Super Bowls, but their only
Super Bowl loss was a great contribution to the Super Bowl era. Before
the Steelers played the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX, 10 of the previous 12 Super Bowls were decided by at least two touchdowns.
Very often in the 1980s the game was lampooned as a Super Bore. But
the Steelers fought the Cowboys until the end, trailing 20-17 in the closing minutes before Neil O'Donnell threw his infamous interception into the waiting arms of Larry Brown. The Cowboys
went on to win 27-17. Only five of the 13 Super Bowls since then have
been decided by two touchdowns or more. It's the Steelers who have made the Super Bowl Super.
Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
By Mike Batista
February 2, 2009
It looked like the Steelers were about to win another dull Super Bowl, just like they did three years ago.
I would have been fine with that. The Steelers had pulled out their share of heart-stopping
victories during this great 2008 season. I didn't think I could handle another one.
With the Steelers leading 20-7 after three quarters, I was looking forward to them winning a record sixth Super Bowl
in a nice and tidy fashion.
Then, as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin
would say, the wheels came off.
Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio
Holmes put the wheels back on when the Steelers drove 78 yards in eight plays to set up Holmes' game-winning, 6-yard touchdown catch with 35 seconds left.
It was Roethlisberger's 19th career fourth-quarter comeback. But to just call it a fourth-quarter comeback doesn't
begin to describe the way Roethlisberger turned a tide that was swallowing
up the Steelers.
Not only were the Steelers down 23-20 in the game's final minutes. On defense,
they were gassed and desperate. On offense, it looked like their inability
to run the ball and protect Roethlisberger was finally going to catch up with them.
It all started when the Cardinals went no-huddle with 11:30 left in the game, using less than four minutes to move
87 yards. Kurt Warner finally exploited Larry Fitzgerald's height
advantage over Ike Taylor by hitting him on a fade route from the 1, narrowing the Steelers' lead to 20-14.
Then the Steelers went three-and-out. One of those plays was a Darnell Dockett
sack of Roethlisberger for a 10-yard loss. In fairness, the offensive line
yielded just two sacks, both of them by Dockett. Roethlisberger avoided more by doing his impersonation of a pinball on several
On their ensuing drive, the Cardinals got a boost
on the first play when Taylor was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The Steelers committed five of their seven penalties
in the final quarter.
Meanwhile, some of their defensive players
appeared to be breathing heavily. I didn't like the looks of things.
The Cardinals punted, but downed the ball on the Steelers' 2. Another unnecessary roughness call, this one on
James Harrison, put the ball on the 1. The next Steelers' penalty
cost them two points. Center Justin Hartwig held in the end zone to give the Cardinals a safety, narrowing the Steelers' lead to 20-16 with three minutes left.
At the time, I didn't think a safety was the worst thing in the world for the Steelers. They could kick the ball
away from the 20 instead of punting it from the shadow of their own
goal post. Down four points, the Cardinals still needed a touchdown.
The Cardinals got a touchdown, and they got it quickly.
the game in Tampa, Fla., and the Steelers' safeties lining up in Clearwater, Warner threw to Fitzgerald, who ran straight
down the middle of the field for a 64-yard touchdown and a 23-20 Cardinals lead. That play made it look like the Steelers'
defense had nothing left. They were well on their way to being pasted for more than 400 yards.
Roethlisberger had 2 minutes,
37 seconds to work with. Before he could reattach the wheels, however, a tail light went out. Chris Kemoeatu was caught holding, backing the Steelers to their own 12.
Then Santonio Holmes started etching his name in Super Bowl lore.
Perhaps it was fitting that Super Bowl III MVP Joe Namath brought out the Lombardi Trophy after the game.
Namath is famous for his bold prediction that the Jets would beat the heavily favored Colts.
Holmes' lips were just as loose during Super Bowl week. But unlike Namath, he'd probably like to have his
words back. He admitted that he sold drugs as a teen-ager.
So while infamy beckoned for both Holmes and the Steelers, who were about to set
the record for the biggest blown lead by a Super Bowl loser, Holmes
caught a 14-yard pass to turn a first-and-20 into a second-and-6 at the Steelers' 26.
The Steelers came out of the two-minute warning facing a third-and-6, and Holmes hauled in a 13-yard reception to
put the ball at the Steelers' 39.
The game changer came
three plays later, with 62 seconds remaining. A 40-yard Holmes reception, including about 30 after the catch, put the ball
on the Cardinals' 6, and the Steelers used their last timeout
with 49 seconds left.
The clock stopped again when a Roethlisberger
pass went through Holmes' fingers in the left corner of the end zone. Then they tried the same play in the right corner of the end zone. Roethlisberger, either ballsy or color blind, threw the ball over three red
shirts into the hands of Holmes, who barely got a toe from each foot
down in the end zone for the winning touchdown, sealing the Super Bowl MVP award with nine catches for 131 yards, and putting his checkered past in the background.
Woodley's strip sack of Warner and Brett Keisel's recovery locked up the Lombardi Trophy. It turned out the defense
had a little something left, after all.
Holmes not only responded on that final drive. With Hines Ward limited, he filled
the void the entire game.
Despite nursing a sprained knee, however,
Ward was a factor.
He sort of made like Willis Reed by catching
a 38-yard pass on the game's second play, helping to set up a field goal.
The Steelers made it 10-0 on their second possession with Gary Russell's 1-yard touchdown run.
But this wouldn't be one of those vintage 1980s Super Bowl blowouts. Suddenly
I thought we'd have a halftime score reminiscent of the last time the Steelers
played a 9-7 team in the Super Bowl. The Cardinals pulled to within 10-7 and had a first-and-goal at the 1 with 18 seconds
left in the half.
I was getting ready to accept a 14-10 halftime
lead for the Cards, which would have been eerily similar to the 13-10 halftime lead the Rams had over the Steelers 29 years ago in Super Bowl XIV. That had me worried, considering the Cardinals had Kurt Warner and those
Rams had Vince Ferragamo.
But Harrison eased my worries, intercepting
a Warner pass at the goal line and returning it 100 yards for a touchdown and a 17-7 halftime lead for the Steelers. What a night for Harrison. He ran for the longest play in Super Bowl history and the refs actually
called holding a couple of times on guys trying to block him.
Deja vu, Part II
Before Super Bowl XLIII became one for the ages in the fourth quarter, I had one more Steelers Super Bowl flashback.
The Steelers put together a 16-play drive, aided by a facemask penalty and two
personal fouls on the Cardinals. Up 10, they were deep in Arizona
territory late in the third quarter.
When did we see this before?
I'll tell you where. In Super Bowl XL, the Steelers led the Seahawks 14-3 in
the third quarter and got to the Seahawks' 7. But instead of making it a three-possession game, Roethlisberger threw an interception that was returned 76 yards, and the Seahawks eventually
pulled to within 14-10.
In that situation on Sunday, the Steelers
settled for a field goal to make it 20-7. They didn't get the touchdown, which kept it a two-possession game. But I felt that by getting points and not turning the ball over, Roethlisberger got the job done.
Little did I know that Roethlisberger's work was far from done, that the events
of the fourth quarter would make Super Bowl XLIII a memorable one.
Stock this, Warner!
By Mike Batista
January 31, 2009
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he didn't have a motivational speech prepared for Super Bowl Eve. He said he'd
Here's some help, Mike: Losing to Arizona
would be a Cardinal sin.
That doesn't mean the Cardinals
aren't worthy opponents. They earned their way to Tampa.
said, the Steelers didn't go 12-4 against the toughest schedule in the NFL, then survive a bloodbath with the Ravens so
that they could lose to the Arizona Freaking Cardinals in the Super
The Steelers' biggest deficit of the season was 17
points. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have trailed 34-0 to the Jets (a 56-35 loss), 31-7 to the Eagles (a 48-20 loss), 28-0 to the Vikings (a 35-14 loss at home) and 44-0 to the Patriots (a 47-7 loss).
If the Cardinals beat the Steelers, the New England Film Crew would use that 47-7
win over the Cardinals to make a BCS-type claim to the world championship.
The Steelers cannot lose to this team.
How Big Ben ticks
One reason people
go to Arizona is for witness protection, because they possess valuable information.
As their former offensive coordinator, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt possesses valuable information about the Steelers,
and in the Super Bowl he will take the stand.
When he was hired as the Cardinals' coach, Whisenhunt took with him from Pittsburgh offensive line coach Russ
Grimm and probably a shitload of notepads and pens from the supply
closet. Grimm, by the way, might have raided the snack drawer before he left.
Whisenhunt has since acquired former Steelers Sean Morey (special teams ace), Brian St. Pierre (backup quarterback),
Clark Haggans (linebacker on injured reserve) and Jerame Tuman (tight
end). Speaking of tight ends, isn't it funny that a guy named Leonard Pope is on the Cardinals?
Those former Steelers might be able to supply some intelligence, but the real mother lode for the Cardinals is Whisenhunt's
knowledge of Ben Roethlisberger's tendencies, how his mind works.
That's going to get the Cardinals at least an interception, and hopefully not much more than that.
When it comes to coaches against their old team in the Super Bowl, history doesn't
bode well for the Steelers. In Super Bowl XXXVII, Jon Gruden led the
Buccaneers to a 48-21 whipping of the Raiders, who he coached the year before.
Steelers fans can take solace in the fact that there's been an extra year since Whisenhunt's departure from
the Steelers. That's given Roethlisberger two years to mature
since he's been under Whisenhunt's tutelage.
think that Whisenhunt doesn't want to show Dan Rooney that he made a mistake by letting him go to Arizona and hiring Tomlin
over him. Tomlin has to prove the Steelers made the right call.
One thing Tomlin doesn't have to prove is that he's cooler than Whisenhunt.
He's Shaft to Whisenhunt's Taggert on "Beverly Hills Cop."
I wonder how much red meat Whisenhunt eats.
Book of Kurt
The Cardinals are supposed to be a feel-good
I don't feel so good about them.
If that chip on Whisenhunt's shoulder (and now Grimm's because he didn't
get into the Hall of Fame) isn't enough to work up a hatred for the Cardinals,
then how about Bible Boy Kurt Warner?
What's that you say?
How can we hate someone as inspirational as Warner, who went from stocking grocery shelves to winning the Super Bowl?
the 1999 St. Louis Rams to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV was wrong on so many levels.
The Rams were the first indoor team to win a Super Bowl, and they didn't have to play any road games in the playoffs.
That gives Warner automatic hate points.
I think every indoor and warm-weather team should be required to win at least one game in the elements to be considered
a legitimate Super Bowl champion. How'd that snowstorm in New
England work out for the Cardinals? And they didn't exactly absolve themselves with that road playoff win at Carolina. It was 45 degrees. Not cold enough.
Another reason I didn't like seeing Warner's Rams win the Super Bowl was because it was like watching video-game
football with all the points they scored. Great champions should be
known for their defense, not their offense.
And the Rams don't
belong in St. Louis. They belong in Los Angeles. Just like the Cardinals don't belong in Arizona. They belong in St. Louis.
In 2001, when Warner and the Rams could have made themselves useful by beating
the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI, they choked.
The 2008 Cardinals
are a poor man's version of Warner's Rams. On Slate.com, Charles P. Pierce referred to the Cardinals as "a glorified Arena Football League team." I can't think of a better way to say it.
And another thing,
the Cardinals' offensive line has played together for all 19 games this season, and in the Super Bowl they'll be allowed
to hold James Harrison.
Let's see how Warner does behind the Steelers' offensive line. He'd better be holding a Bible.
Here's more fuel for Cardinal hatred: For a team that's not a rival, they have a history of being a pain
in the Steelers' ass.
The Steelers and Cardinals have only
played eight times since the merger, with the Steelers going 5-3. But the Steelers are only 2-3 against the Cardinals since they moved to Arizona.
first career loss as Steelers coach came last season at Arizona. Steve Breaston returned a punt for a touchdown to break a 7-7 tie in the fourth quarter (I know Breaston's from Pittsburgh,
but let's face it, he's named for a female body part). The
Cardinals went on to win 21-14 at their spaceship of a stadium.
By the way, Heinz Field is way cooler than University of Phoenix Stadium. People
from the University of Phoenix call me all the time asking if I want
to take classes. People from Heinz never call and ask me to use their ketchup.
The Steelers and Cardinals met twice in the 1990s, both overtime games at Sun Devil Stadium. In 1997, the Steelers
won 26-20 on a Jerome Bettis touchdown in OT. In 1994, they lost 20-17.
In both of those seasons, the Steelers would lose the AFC championship
game at home. Coincidence? I think not. I swear an ancient desert tribe put
a curse on the Steelers that kept them out of the Super Bowl those years.
In 1988, their first year in Arizona, the Cardinals were vultures. At Sun Devil Stadium, they beat the Steelers 31-14,
picking at their carcass during the rock-bottom lowest point of the
forgettable 1980s. The Steelers went 5-11 that season. The Steel Curtain days were a distant memory and Bill Cowher was still the Browns secondary coach.
The Steelers beat the Cardinals 24-21 at St. Louis on the way to winning their fourth Super Bowl. But they had to
come back from a 21-7 deficit in the fourth quarter. That victory
improved the Steelers to 3-0. It was two weeks before I watched the Steelers for the first time. Figures it was their first loss of the season that I saw, a 17-14 loss at Philadelphia.
If the Cardinals didn't suck so much, maybe that game would have been on national
TV and my introduction to the Steelers would have been that resounding
Thou shalt not lose
I wrote in an
earlier column that the Steelers would avoid being one-hit wonders by winning Super Bowl XLIII. They would have multiple championships in their era. They'd need another one to match what the Patriots
did in the first half of the decade. But if Tomlin hands Rooney the Vince
Lombardi Trophy, it will give the Steelers two championships in four years. In the last five years, no other team has won
That would make the Steelers not just the only team with
six Super Bowl titles, but the best thing going in the NFL right now.
That's a much loftier status than their Flavor of the Month opponents could achieve with a win.
That's why losing to this team of Cardinals, with a Pope and a Bible Boy, would
be a sin.
By Mike Batista
January 30, 2009
Tuesday was Media Day at the Super Bowl. Today is Picture Day on Steelahs.com.
Sean's Ramblings asked members of the Steelers blogging community what their attire will be for Super Bowl XLIII, as well as a prediction.
I sent him this photo:
Plain old Steelers T-shirt on the left. Reebok Steelers hoodie on
the right. Steelers cap on top of T-shirt.
It's important to not wear anything indicating past Steelers championships.
Bad luck. The only thing in the photo I won't be wearing is the cap on the right. I had been wearing it for a few years
and retired it after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. It was the official good-luck cap of 2005. The cap on the left would
earn the same status if the Steelers win Sunday.
Not pictured is the Rolling Rock I will drink. I'll be enjoying
the taste of Old Latrobe in New York or Massachusetts. Not sure yet where I'll be watching the game.
Steelers 33, Cardinals 31
MVP: Santonio Holmes
Other stuff that will happen: Troy
Polamalu will get an interception. Limas Sweed will make a key third-down catch.
let me explain that wacky score. No, I didn't drink a six-pack of Rolling Rock before typing it. Rather, it
is a tribute to the intoxication of youth.
Sometime in the early 80s (see first
photo below under "Growing up Steelers"), when Terry Bradshaw was still with the Steelers and the Cardinals were
still in St. Louis, I wrote some predictions on a sheet of three-ring binder paper. I picked the playoff teams and the results
for each game. My Super Bowl pick was Steelers-Cardinals, with the Steelers winning 33-31. It wasn't based on research.
The Steelers were getting old and the Cardinals sucked (although not as bad as they did six weeks ago). I was just playing
Now I'm serious. I'll even break down the score by quarters. Cardinals will lead 21-7 after the first quarter. They'll increase the lead to 24-7 before the
Steelers go no-huddle and pull to within 24-21 at halftime. Two Jeff Reed field goals will make it 27-24 Steelers after three
quarters. Two more Reed field goals will make it a two-possession game, 33-24. The Cardinals will get a late touchdown and
try an onsides kick. But the Steelers will recover and secure a record sixth Lombardi Trophy.
There you go, pick your squares now.
The Steelers' comeback from a 17-point
deficit will be a Super Bowl record. Santonio Holmes will earn the MVP by becoming the first player to return a punt for a
touchdown in a Super Bowl, catching a pass for a touchdown and hauling in another long reception to set up one of the field
Honest, officer, I've had nothing to drink.
Growing up Steelers
By Mike Batista
January 30, 2009
As I count down the hours until I watch the Steelers in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in my life, here's
a pictoral history of my years as a Steelers fan.
Age 9: Sold on the black and gold
This was taken within a year after the Steelers beat the Rams in Super Bowl XIV,
which is the first Super Bowl I watched. I began following football in 1979, just in time for the last year of the Steel Curtain dynasty. If only this fresh-faced young lad knew the mediocrity he would
have to endure for the next decade.
Age 20: Here comes the sun
As you can see, all those years of crappy Steelers football left me loopy. Or it could have been the 20-mile Walk
for Hunger I had just completed when this photo was taken. This was May of 1992. Chuck Noll retired four months
earlier, and the Steelers hired a coach who I had never heard of named Bill Cowher. After 14 years, Cowher led them to that
long-awaited fifth Super Bowl title. A year later, he retired, and the Steelers hired a coach I had never heard of named Mike
Yes, that is a Boston Celtics shirt I'm wearing. Remember, I'm
a Boston sports fan in every sport except the NFL, hence the "ahs" in Steelahs.com. Besides, this Walk for Hunger
was in Boston.
Age 37: High on the hog
This is what years of stuffing your face with pizza, wings and beer while watching the Steelers at sports bars will
do to you. I'm skinny no more. In fact, at 5-foot-7, 185 pounds, I'm proud to say I weigh more than two Steelers:
cornerbacks Fernando Bryant (5-10, 175) and Anthony Madison (5-9, 180) and the same as wide receiver Nate Washington (6-1,
185). So don't screw up Sunday, guys. I'll kick your asses!
By Mike Batista
January 29, 2009
I was wrong about Mike Tomlin.
No, I'm not talking
about my feelings when he was hired as Steelers coach. Except for the initial shock, I had no problem with his hiring.
I'm talking about Tomlin's demeanor during Super Bowl week. I thought he
was so due for a meltdown. Both before and after Ben Roethlisberger got the concussion in the final regular-season game against
the Browns, Tomlin started to get a little testy toward reporters. His relationship with Ed Bouchette, the dean of Steelers
scribes, was a bit strained.
I figured he would explode after
the first stupid question during Media Day.
seems to be winning over the media. He's already won over the fans, who voted him Motorola Coach of the Year.
There was a story in the New York Times earlier this week that said Tomlin was
a reluctant intellectual in his younger years. Tomlin would throw away the "My Child is an Honor Roll Student" bumper
stickers that came in the mail before his mother could get a hold of them. He made fun of a classmate in school by calling
him "Poem Boy." Then he goes and quotes Robert Frost after the Steelers win the AFC championship.
A childhood literary favorite of Tomlin's was "Curious George," which
he affably revealed to a young reporter during Super Bowl Media Day, perhaps providing a glimpse of Tomlin the Dad.
I've been curious about Tomlin since he was hired as Steelers coach. He's
always had a mystique about him. With the Steelers in the Super Bowl, we're
finally learning more about him.
If the Steelers win Super Bowl
XLIII, I hope someone does a book on Tomlin. I'd love to write it, but he probably could write it himself.
Taking the fifth (and sixth?)
By Mike Batista
January 28, 2009
The Steelers are in Super Bowl XLIII, and I've been writing about nature,
fashion and music.
I can understand if you're tired of reading
about cardinals (the bird, not the team or the Pope wannabes), jersey colors and one-hit wonders. And you might be tired of
what I'm about to bring up. But it might make you feel better about a certain subject.
Did the Steelers win Super Bowl XL because of the officials?
Well, the Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl ring that day, and I'm taking the fifth on that question.
The officiating in that game, which I'll admit was poor, is still being talked
about three years later. But the Steelers don't get enough credit for the resourcefulness of that 21-10 victory.
I think the
week off before the Super Bowl hurt the Steelers more than the Seahawks. To get to the Super Bowl, the Steelers not only had
to win three playoff games on the road, they also had to win seven games in seven weeks. The week off ebbed their wave of
momentum (by the way, I think the week off will hurt the Cardinals Sunday for the same reason). The Steelers weren't at
their best on the day of the Super Bowl.
On top of all that,
the Seahawks came out throwing screen pass after screen pass to negate the Steelers' pass rush. They had the upper hand.
The Steelers didn't get a first down until 19 minutes into the game, and even
then Antwan Randle-El bobbled the pass from Ben Roethlisberger before catching it.
If people think the Steelers got help from the refs during Super Bowl XL, they certainly didn't get much help
from their quarterback, and Roethlisberger has admitted as much this week.
But if you look at his performance another way, Roethlisberger was the MacGyver of quarterbacks. He threw a shovel
pass to Hines Ward on third-and-6 during their first scoring drive. Then on third-and-28 from the Seattle 40, Roethlisberger
provided the first glimpses of his now famous ability to keep plays alive.
On a broken play that seemed to last 45 seconds, Roethlisberger found Ward near the goal line to set up first-and-goal
and an eventual touchdown. You can't complain about the officiating if you can't get off the field on third-and-28.
Roethlisberger completed just nine of 21 passes in the game, and two of his completions
were the shovel pass to Randle-El and a pass that Ward had to bend over to grab just inches off the ground. That's what
you call winning ugly.
The performance of both teams, not
just the Steelers, made this one of the least exciting Super Bowls in recent memory to fans outside of Seattle and Pittsburgh.
For general audiences, perhaps the only moment in the game more entertaining than
the commercials was Willie Parker's Super Bowl-record, 75-yard touchdown run, which gave the Steelers a 14-3 lead early
in the third quarter.
After the Seahawks narrowed the gap to
14-10, the Steelers put the game away when Randle-El took the ball on a reverse and threw a touchdown pass to Hines Ward.
A trick play, with Roethlisberger throwing a key block. That's what I call resourceful.
The Steelers won Super Bowl XL because they made the big plays and found a way to keep drives going by turning junk
But if you're Catholic like me (and the Rooneys)
and you still can't flush out that Catholic guilt about how the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, the Steelers can absolve that
guilt by doing unto the Cardinals what the Jets (56-35), Eagles (48-20), Vikings (35-14 at Arizona) and Patriots (47-7) did
unto them. If they can do that, they certainly won't need any Hail Marys.
By Mike Batista
January 26, 2009
What do the Steelers have in common with Debby Boone, Kajagoogoo, Nena, Soft Cell and Spandau Ballet?
They're all one-hit wonders.
But the Steelers have an opportunity to change that in Super Bowl XLIII.
In football terms, the Steelers are in the same boat as the Buccaneers, Ravens, Rams, Packers and Bears. All of those
teams won just one Super Bowl during their era.
The Packers won the first two Super Bowls, but their Super Bowl XXXI title is set
apart from those because it came three decades later. By the same
principle, the Steelers' One for the Thumb is on a stage separate from their first four.
With a victory over the Cardinals on Sunday, the Steelers would not only win an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl, they
would also win their second in four years.
Two championships in four
years would put the Steelers a notch above the one-hit wonders, teams whose Lombardi Trophies sit like only children on their
But it wouldn't quite put them in the same class as
the Audio-Visual Society of New England, who won Super Bowls in 2001, 2003 and 2004, the Broncos (1997, 1998), the Cowboys (1992, 1993 and 1995) or the 49ers (1981, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1994).
My definition of a dynasty is three championships in four years or four in a decade.
That makes the Patriots of the 2000s, the Cowboys of the 1990s, the
49ers of the 1980s and the Steelers of the 1970s the only dynasties of the Super Bowl era. No team has won three straight
championships. But if one ever did, I obviously would consider it
Teams winning two titles in a row, like the Broncos,
Dolphins (1972, 1973) and Packers (1966, 1967) are mini-dynasties.
the Steelers wouldn't be a dynasty with a win Sunday. Not yet, anyway.
One and done
When it comes to Super
Bowl one-hit wonders, the 1985 Bears are Dexy's Midnight Runners (although "Come on, Eileen" gets played a little
more in dance clubs these days than the "Super Bowl Shuffle").
The '85 Bears might have been one of the most dominating Super Bowl winners, beating the Patriots 46-10 in Super
Bowl XX. But the closest they got to another Super Bowl during their window was the 1988 NFC championship game, where they
were pounded at home by the 49ers.
Brett Favre led the Packers
to the championship in 1996 and brought them back to the Super Bowl the next year. The Rams with Kurt Warner won the 1999 title and got back to the Super Bowl two years later. But both teams saw
their dynasty hopes dashed by underdogs. The Packers were upset by
the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII and the Rams were stunned by the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI.
It wasn't exactly the quarterbacks who led the Ravens (Trent Dilfer, 2000) and Bucs (Brad Johnson, 2002) to the promised
land. They won their titles with defense and showed that you don't
need a star quarterback to win a Super Bowl. But if you want to win more than one Super Bowl, that's a different story.
It's the quarterback, stupid
In the 30 years since Terry Bradshaw won his fourth Super Bowl, the only quarterbacks
to win multiple Super Bowls are Jim Plunkett, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman,
John Elway and Tom Brady.
Nice company to be in, and either
Ben Roethlisberger or Kurt Warner will be joining them Sunday.
Manning brothers aren't bad, either, and they still have a chance to give their Lombardi Trophies some company. Just not this
Warner was third in the NFL this season with a quarterback
rating of 96.9. Roethlisberger was 24th at 80.1, but won four games with his fourth-quarter magic.
Having a Warner, a Roethlisberger, a
Brady, an Elway, a Montana or a Manning gives teams a chance to win multiple Super Bowls. On the other hand, Super Bowl champs led by Johnson, Dilfer and Mark Rypien (1991 Redskins) have never been back to the Big Game.
Since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, both Warner and Roethlisberger have plunged
into depths that would make great material for a "Behind the Music"
But they're both back in the Super Bowl. Warner is
fronting a new band, while Roethlisberger can drive the Steelers back to the top of the charts.
As Steelers fans, it would light up our lives.
|The Steelers' offensive line allowed 49 sacks this season, 19 of them when they wore white.
Men in white
By Mike Batista
January 23, 2009
Super Bowl XLIII hasn't even started yet, but the Cardinals already have made their first mistake.
As the designated home team, they chose to wear their red jerseys.
That means the Steelers will wear their white jerseys, their underdog jerseys (even
though they're favored), their us-against-the-world jerseys.
Steelers reached Super Bowl XL in 2005 by winning three straight road playoff games, all in their white jerseys.
To help keep that mojo going, Bill Cowher decided they would wear white for the
Super Bowl. They could have worn their black jerseys, which is probably what most of their fans would have preferred. Hey,
if I ever bought a Steelers jersey, it would be a black one, and it's not just because I'm a slob and would be afraid
to spill food on a white jersey.
That said, I like seeing the
Steelers in their white jerseys. Since the long and winding road toward One for the Thumb began in 1980, some of the biggest
and most surprising Steelers wins have come in white. Here are their top 10 white-uniform wins of the last 29 years:
1. Steelers 21, Colts 18 (2005 AFC divisional playoffs): After
this shocking win over the mighty Colts, who started the season 13-0, there was no way in hell the Steelers were losing to
the Broncos the following week. They were getting Jerome Bettis home to Detroit.
2. Steelers 21, Seahawks 10 (Super Bowl XL): This isn't No. 1 because it wasn't the huge
turning point that the seismic upset of the Colts was. But it did officially end the 26-year wait for One for the Thumb.
3. Steelers 33, Patriots 10 (2008): This victory, the Steelers'
first in Foxboro since 1997, established the Steelers as Super Bowl contenders, and look where they are now. It could ultimately
prove to be the changing of the guard in the AFC.
Steelers 13, Ravens 9 (2008): As big as the win over the Patriots was two weeks earlier, the Steelers didn't
need it as badly as they needed this one. It not only secured a playoff spot, but it clinched a first-round bye.
5. Steelers 24, Patriots 21, OT (1997): Of their white-jersey
wins over the past three decades, this is the Steelers' most improbable comeback. A stupid Drew Bledsoe interception made
6. Steelers 24, Broncos 17 (1984 AFC divisional
playoffs): The Steelers reached the playoffs with a 9-7 record, and proudly wore their white jerseys in upsetting
John Elway and the Orange Crush Broncos.
26, Oilers 23, OT (1989 AFC wild-card game): The Steelers wore white on New Year's Eve, outdressing the Luv Ya
Blue Oilers. The Steelers kicked the mediocre 1980s out the door, and offered a peek into what would be much better days in
the two decades to come.
8. Steelers 13, Raiders 7 (1984):
This was when the Raiders were perennial Super Bowl contenders and Al Davis still had control of his bowels. The men in white
beat the Silver and Black, who then played at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Steelers needed this win on the last weekend of
the regular season to make the playoffs, where they upset the Broncos.
9. Steelers 17, Buccaneers 7 (2002): The Bucs didn't lose again after this Monday-nighter in
the next-to-last week of the regular season. They went on to win the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the Steelers didn't get
another shot at the Bucs, losing at Tennessee in the divisional playoffs. But they do return to the site of that win for the
first time on Super Bowl Sunday.
10. Steelers 20, 49ers
17 (1984): I know very little about this game, except for the fact that it was the only game the 15-1 49ers lost
that season. The Steelers were one win away from getting another shot at the 49ers, but they lost 45-28 at Miami in the AFC
Honorable Mention: Steelers 23, Redskins
6 (2008): This makes the list because of the surprise factor. Historically, the Redskins are one of the few teams
that wears its white uniforms at home. I fully expected the Steelers to be in black and the Redskins in white for this Monday
night game. But the Redskins, who were 6-2 at the time, came out in burgundy, and the Steelers came out in white. Look what
The Cardinals might have the charm and motivation
of underdogs in this Super Bowl. But they have no idea that those white threads somehow make the Steelers play like they have
something to prove.
By Mike Batista
January 21, 2009
On Sunday, the Steelers vanquished the Ravens, a bird with a foreboding place in
American literature, and one that had haunted them the whole season.
The victory ensured the Steelers of more bird watching, since the other spot in Super Bowl XLIII was being contested
by two more teams named for birds.
Many in Pennsylvania anticipated
that the Steelers would today be studying the tendencies of a more majestic bird, the Eagles.
Instead, the Steelers get the Cardinals.
the cardinal is a rare sight in the trees and skies of the northeastern United States, the Arizona Cardinals are a rare and
surprising sight in the Super Bowl.
When I see a cardinal, everything
stops. I'll look at the splash of red perched on the branch - and if possible run for my camera - until it flies away.
The Arizona Cardinals are the subject of that same type of fascination. Theirs
is an inspiring story. They overcame a dubious history and silenced a chorus of naysayers during the playoffs to reach the
first Super Bowl in franchise history.
But enough already.
By Feb. 1, we're going to be sick of seeing Cardinals, especially the one decorating
the team's helmet. That Cardinal is trying really hard to look bad-ass. But unlike ravens and eagles, there's nothing
fearsome about cardinals.
We're also going to be sick of
hearing about the Cardinals. America seems to be falling in love with these perennial underdogs.
Am I the only one who feels like telling everyone that the Steelers are in the Super Bowl too?
Did anyone see the suit on Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell during the NFC championship
trophy presentation? Red jacket. Red tie. He looked like Captain Kangaroo! For that matter, the whole team looks like Captain
Kangaroo with those uniforms.
The Steelers need to show the
Cardinals that the Super Bowl isn't kid stuff.