TAMPA, Fla. - Santonio Holmes won the MVP and James Harrison made the play that will be replayed until Super Bowl C, but this one was all Big Ben. The city of Pittsburgh wouldn't be planning a Super Bowl parade if it weren't for Ben Roethlisberger, believe that.
TAMPA, Fla. - Just wow them in the end. Like any good screenwriter knows, the final act is the only one that the audience remembers. And the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIII was pure theatre, sublime football, an ending that would be rejected from by any studio for its sheer improbability.
Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner - who was sacked and lost the ball at the Steelers' 44 with five seconds left - was wondering why it was so hastily determined he fumbled. He thought it was an incompletion.
Forget about the Arizona Cardinals you watched in December. Forget about the Cardinals teams that you haven't watched for the last 60 years because they never made national television. None of that prologue matters. In today's NFL, the only thing that counts is now. And no one is playing better playoff football than the Cardinals.
TAMPA, Fla. - Maybe it would have been easier if it hadn't been raining and the fans weren't huddled in their hotel rooms waiting for the weather to break. Or maybe the reason it took three hours to find two people dressed in Cardinals red and warming up for the big game with a beer or six was because Arizona fans simply haven't yet figured out what to do when their team wins.
And yet, what if some Cardinal or Steeler were to be named Most Valuable Player come Sunday and lead off his interview in front of the entire world, by saying, "I'd just like to thank L. Ron Hubbard and the church of Scientology?" Or, "I'd just like to express gratitude to my dark lord Beelzebub?"
The Cardinals will try for a fast start, but I think they'll stall on early drives. Pittsburgh seems like the more likely team to keep its cool and hold the lead after the first quarter. But by the second half, Arizona should settle down defensively. And the fourth will be something to watch.
TAMPA, Fla. - Larry Fitzgerald is the type of receiver that keeps defenders up at night, asking questions that don't have an answer. How can you stop a wide receiver that is always open, no matter how well covered he is?
Any discussion about the greatest defenses of all-time inevitably will include the Steelers. But will it include the 2008 Steelers? Certainly, this defense does not have the mystique of the Steel Curtain of the 1970s. But if this defense wins a second Super Bowl title Sunday, that mystique will grow. There really is little question the Steelers defenses of old had better personnel.
Polamalu, at the time coming off a brilliant career at USC, was projected as one of the top safeties in the draft. But the havoc-wreaking play Polamalu put on tape did not match the voice coming from his mouth. He was so serene, so soft-spoken.
TAMPA, Fla. - Kurt Warner already did the rags-to-riches story. He's done the rise from obscurity to dominance in the blink of an eye before. What he's doing for an encore with the Arizona Cardinals is far more rare; rising again, but from the inevitable decline of old age. Rising from mediocrity.
TAMPA - Heath Miller was asked what Hines Ward means to the Steelers offense. The Pittsburgh tight end didn't pause a second. "He is the heart and soul of our offense," Miller stated. But this week, the heart and soul has a bad right knee. And that's bad news for the Steelers as they take on the Arizona Cardinals in Sunday's Super Bowl.
TAMPA - Cliff Hite has called himself a "nationally-known knucklehead." He isn't. He is a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, a former college quarterback at the University of Kentucky, a long-time high school teacher and a smart football coach.>>INSIDE: Coach's son named QB, Big Ben WR
It goes without saying that the week before the Super Bowl is over-hyped and some stories will be beaten into our collective brain until we want to scream. We can even anticipate the tiring stories about the hype before they happen.>>INSIDE: Steelers legend | Edgerrin James returns | More...
Somebody will write about the wretched excess of it all, but, c'mon, folks. We need distractions in life, and when times are hard, we need them more. If people want to fling some dollars around having fun and taking in the game, why spoil their fun by telling them they shouldn't? It would be like telling a man standing before the firing squad that he shouldn't have that last cigarette because smoking is bad for his health.
There are teams more renowned and teams that are more glamorous than the Pittsburgh Steelers. But for nearly 40 years now, there hasn't been a franchise in any sport that is more true to the town whose name it bears, more down-to-earth, and more consistent.
Arizona closed the regular season with just two wins in its final six games and allowed at least 35 points in each of those losses. Still, maybe everyone's been too quick to write off the Cardinals. Here are 10 reasons why.>>INSIDE: Top ten list
The Cardinals' defense these past two weeks has left many of us rubbing our eyes, squinting and taking another look. Our minds are telling us their defense is an oasis in the desert - surely a mirage. But our eyes keep saying something else.
PITTSBURGH - In September 2007, a few days before the Pittsburgh Steelers faced Ken Whisenhunt's Arizona Cardinals, Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel took a stab at what the game meant to Whisenhunt.
You don't need a bad guy to make a great Super Bowl. But it sure helps Super Bowl Week go by if you have one handy. This is why we should be sending e-mails and test messages of thanks to Anquan Boldin of the Arizona Cardinals. >>INSIDE: What Boldin said
There aren't enough crows in the world for all the humble pies that all of us in the expert analysis business are going to have to eat. And there aren't enough words in Webster's lexicon to give sufficient credit to the Arizona Cardinals for what they did Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
There always seems to be a "yeah, but" when discussing Ben Roethlisberger. Know what? It's time to take the "yeah, buts" out of the conversation and call it the way it is. Thanks to the Steelers' 23-14 win over the Ravens in the AFC Championship, 26-year-old Ben Roethlisberger is headed to his second Super Bowl.
The NFL's version of The Final Four includes one grizzled coach still searching for that elusive Super Bowl championship - hang in there, Andy Reid - and three newbies that represent a developing trend in the league.