By Ron Griffitts
Super Bowl XLIII took place on Feb. 1, 2009, in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. between the Arizona Cardinals (12-7) coached by Ken Whisenhunt (a former Steeler offensive coordinator) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4) coached by Mike Tomlin, who was in his second season as coach there and remains coach of the Steelers.
Whisenhunt’s offensive coordinator was Todd Haley and his defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, and the Cardinals were led on offense by 37-year-old quarterback Kurt Warner who threw for 4,583 yards and 30 touchdowns.
The running backs were Tim Hightower (399 yards, 10 TDs) and Edgerrin James (514 yards, 3 TDs) while Warner had three 1,000 yard receivers in Anquan Boldin (1,038 yards, 11 TDs), Steve Breaston (1,006 yards, 3 TDs) and Larry Fitzgerald (1,431 yards, 12 TDs).
Their place kicker was Neil Rackers who converted on 25 of 28 field goal attempts, and they were led on defense by Carlos Dansby (119 combined tackles, 4 sacks), Bertrand Berry (5 sacks), and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (4 interceptions).
Mike Tomlins’s offensive coordinator was Bruce Arians (the present Tampa Bay head coach), his defensive coordinator was former Bengal head coach Dick LeBeau and had former Bengals’ Ken Anderson (quarterbacks’ coach) and Ray Horton (defensive backs’ coach) on his staff.
The offense was again directed by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who threw for 3,303 yards and 17 TDs with running backs Willie Parker (791 yards, 5 TDs), Mewelde Moore (588 yards, 5 TDs) and receivers Hines Ward (1,043 yards, 7 TDs), Santonio Holmes (821 yards, 5 TDs) and field goal kicker Jeff Reed who made 27 of 31 field goal attempts.
The defense was anchored by James Farrior (133 combined tackles, 3.5 sacks), James Harrison (101 combined tackles, 16 sacks, 1 interception), LaMarr Woodley (11.5 sacks), and Troy Polamalu with 7 interceptions.
The Steelers took the opening kickoff down the field to the Cardinals’ 1-yard line but had to settle for an 18-yard field goal by Jeff Reed and the score after one quarter was 3-0 Pittsburgh.
Late in the first quarter and into the second quarter Roethlisberger led his team 69 yards downfield culminating in a one yard scoring run by Gary Russell and the Steelers were up 10-0.
On the next series Warner led the Cardinals 83 yards for a score starting at their own 17-yard line with a 45-yard completion from Warner to Anquan Boldin being the big play and Ben Patrick scoring on a 1-yard pass from Warner and the score is 10-7 in favor of the Steelers.
Then in a key play in the game with 18 seconds left in the half and Arizona at the Pittsburgh 1-yard line, a Kurt Warner pass intended for Anquan Boldin was intercepted by James Harrison and returned 100 yards for a score and the Steelers went into the locker room at halftime with a 17-7 lead.
The only scoring in the third quarter was a 21-yard Jeff Reed field goal to give Pittsburgh a 20-7 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
Arizona’s offense went into action and they scored on a 1-yard TD pass from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald, on a safety and with 2:47 left in the game on a 64-yard scoring play again from Warner to Fitzgerald and the Cardinals went ahead 23-20 with Pittsburgh getting the ball with 2:30 left in the game on their own 22-yard line.
A penalty took them back to the 12-yard line and Roethlisberger engineered them downfield with short passes until, with 1:02 left on the clock, he completed a 40-yard pass play to Antonio Holmes to place the ball at the Arizona 6-yard line with 48 seconds left on the clock.
Two plays later he again completed a pass to Holmes, this time for 6 yards in the corner of the end zone with three Cardinals defending for a touchdown and the Steelers lead 27-23 with 42 seconds left in the game.
The Cardinals could not get down the field for a score and the Steelers won 27-23 with Santonio Holmes getting the game MVP and the Steelers returning in 2011 while the Arizona Cardinals have not been back to the Super Bowl.
The 4th-quarter comeback was one of 40 Ben Roethlisberger has engineered in his 18-year NFL career — third on the all-time list. He is also fifth all time in passing yardage with 63,844.
Two of Ken Whisenhunt’s assistants, Freddie Kitchens and Todd Haley, would go on to be head coaches in the NFL.
Statistics for this article are from pro-football-reference.com and from YouTube.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.