´ Steel Curtain Rising: Steelers Win Super Bowl XLIII - The Steel Curtain Rises Again!

What position(s) should be the Steelers highest priorities in the draft?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Steelers Win Super Bowl XLIII - The Steel Curtain Rises Again!

The Steel Curtain Has Risen Again!

The 2008 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers might not enjoy living on the edge, but they are certainly are a team that thrives on it. They lived on the edge throughout the 2008 regular season, and they finished the season true to form.

All season long, the Steelers treaded Bill Cowher’s oft cited “fine line between winning and losing,” and most often they came out on the right side.

And so it was again in Super Bowl XLIII, and for good reason.

Credit the Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon for being clairvoyant. He openly vacillated in his annual Super Bowl prediction column, ultimately concluding that the Steelers would “win 21-20, on the strength of a sack-strip-fumble recover in the final 90 seconds.” You can't get much closer than that. Super Bowl XLIII will be remembered for a long, long time.

One for the Ages

Super Bowl XLIII was one for the ages. It had everything one could ask for:

  • A Cinderella story vs. a dynasty in the making
  • Well prepared and well executed coaching schemes vs. even better adjustments
  • PrimeTime plays made by PrimeTime players at critical moments

In the end, only one team was going to come out on top, and the Pittsburgh Steelers prevailed, but only after pushing the faithful in Steelers Nation to the edge of a collective heart attack.

In a game that was so evenly matched, what made the difference?

Its We Not "I" in Sixsburgh

Calm and closeness.

The scoreboard doesn’t really indicate how close the Steelers came to thoroughly dominating the first three quarters. The score was 20-7 entering the fourth, but easily could have been 28 to 7 had the Steelers been able to punch it in during their three goal line situations.

Had the Cardinals won, their defensive would have been the unsung heroes of the victory.

The Steelers not only had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, but the Cardinal’s defense made the adjustments they needed to make to prevent the Steelers from running the ball, and thereby controling the clock, during the second half. In the same vein, the offensive line, which had protected Ben so well in the first half, saw its pass coverage become leaky.

But you never would have known it watching the Steelers on the sidelines or in between snaps.

  • There was no finger pointing, no sighs of exasperation, no shouting matches.

Mike Tomlin has a different style than Bill Cowher but this year he has certainly succeeded in establishing a “there’s no ‘I’ in the team” mentality.

And that was the difference in this game.

Both teams have All Stars, and perhaps legitimate Hall of Famers. And as these caliber players are wont to do in big games, they delivered. James Harrison, Ben Roethlisberger, and Santonio Holmes (and perhaps LaMarr Woodley) all have a legitimate claim on the MVP trophy.

But had things gone the other way, the exploits of Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald would have become the stuff of legend and lore.

Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau and yes, Bruce Arians, had an excellent game plan that their players executed almost flawlessly in the first half, but Ken Whisenhunt, Russ Grimm, Todd Haley and their defensive staff adjusted well enough in the second half to take the lead with less than three minutes to go in Super Bowl XLIII.

But the Steelers came out on top because they held their poise and hung together.

Consider:

Santoino Holmes could have actually caught Ben's first pass in the endzone on the last drive. It slipped through his fingers.

  • Ben went right back to Holmes on the next snap and together they made one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history

On the drive that preceded Arizona’s first fourth quarter touchdown, the Steelers forced a 3 and out. As Kurt Warner walked off the field the cameras flashed to the world an image of an upset quarterback who was yelling in anger.

  • While Arizona did come back to score the next time they got the ball, you didn’t see Ben anything like that from Ben after the safety was scored, nor at any other moment in the game

After Larry Fitzgerald burned Ike Taylor and the rest of the Steelers secondary to put the Cardinals on top, Ben simply turned around and strapped on his helmet – he was ready to play.

  • Contrast that with the image of Kurt Warner after Holmes’s winning touchdown; he cast aside his towel in anger and shook his head with a aggravated sigh

All of this is superficial, of course, and it would be far too much of a stretch to say that Ben was more well prepared mentally to play than Warner, who had a fablous game.

But considering the context, in the waning moments of the Super Bowl the contrast cannot be sharper.

  • Ben Roethlisberger relished having the ball in his hands with the game on the line...
  • ...Kurt Warner seemed exasperated

Neither team’s execution on either side of the ball was consistent for four quarters. Both teams’ offensive units made history-making plays and their defenses made heroic goaline stands, but both teams’ units had some pretty large lapses mixed in between.

But the Steelers poise and camaraderie were consistent for four quarters. The men in Black and Gold never lost their belief in themselves nor their faith in one another. When faced with adversity, they persevered, they remained determined. And they did it together. That’s been the case all season.

And that’s why the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers are Super Bowl Champions.

Thanks for reading Steel Curtain Rising. Let us know what you think. Share you your comments and memories in the comment box and make sure to vote in our on-line poll.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good article but you should proof read it next time, several errors made it difficult to read, other wise it rocked....

KT said...

Anonymous -

Thank you very much. It is difficult to spot your own errors, and I greatly appreciate your pointing them out. Please visit us again.

Anonymous said...

dude, steelers are champs. bruce is family friend. often coaches are the fall guys. what are your credentials? he has coached with bear bryant, instrumental in development of peyton, and now two rings. bloggers talk a lot of smack. the players ultimately have to execute. ask the players. most bloggers are morons who think they know. later.

KT said...

Anonymous,

You've got a strong view of Bruce Arians.

Excellent, and thanks for sharing, your points about his resume are well taken.

While Steel Curtain Rising's hasn't been terribly high on Bruce Arians this year, the record shows that we've been balanced.

I stand by the analysis presented here in this blog. In cases where Steel Curtain Rising has been in error (see pre-draft analysis to name one) I've stepped up to the plate and admitted it.

Likewise, I've freely admitted to being all over the map on the decision to Transition Max Starks, which was a pretty good move.

You're welcome to share opposing or contrasting view points about Arians or anything else, all that we ask is that you keep it civil.

Anonymous said...

that is fair. little biased on my part. interesting story about bear bryant. think it was mississippi state bruce was assistant coach calling plays and upset alabama that year. bryant was on the phone shortly after hiring him. when the cleveland deal went down as did tim couch, the players were very supportive of him. thanks.

KT said...

Anonymous,

I would be very two faced right now if, in light of the Super Bowl victory, I attempted to say, "gee, I were behind Arians all along."

But from the get go during training camp, I made the point that any honest evaluation of Arians has to take into account that the Steelers no longer have the offensive line up front to use the kind of power running game that so many Steelers fans would like to see.

Arians does have his credentials, as you point out, and has been successful both elsewhere and in Pittsburgh.

Thanks for your comments and please visit again.