American Football: 'Big Ben' drives Steelers on to Super Bowl glory

Numbers add up for Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh's game-winning quarterback
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The Independent Online

Steely efficient when it mattered most, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ended a game-winning drive with a six-yard scoring pass to Santonio Holmes as the Pittsburgh Steelers secured their record sixth championship with a 27-23 triumph over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Roethlisberger completed 21 of 30 passes for 256 yards. More importantly, the numbers added up to his second Super Bowl title in four years.

"Winning the Super Bowl is all that matters," Roethlisberger said. "That's what makes me the most happy and I think I played a little bit better this time." By doing so, he joined New England's Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to win two Super Bowls by the age of 26. While Brady has three rings and a pair of Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honours to his credit, "Big Ben" is also carving his own niche.

On the Steelers' final drive, which began at Pittsburgh's 22-yard line, Roethlisberger hooked up four times with Holmes, who was named the game's MVP. "I said it's now or never, I told the guys all the film study you put in doesn't matter unless you do it now," Roethlisberger said. "I'm really proud of the way they responded."

After an offensive holding penalty pushed the Steelers back 10 yards, the duo combined on gains of 14, 13 and 40 before the six-yard score in the back corner of the end zone. Roethlisberger lofted a pass over three defenders in the right corner of the end zone and Holmes hauled it in, dragging his toes just in front of the sideline.

The sequence marked the sixth time in 19 games this season that Roethlisberger led a winning drive in the fourth quarter.

It was a much different story on 5 February 2006, at Detroit's Ford Field, the site of Super Bowl XL. In only his second season at the helm, Roethlisberger was admittedly "overwhelmed" on the sport's grandest stage – and his numbers were underwhelming at best. "Big Ben" came up small, completing 9-of-21 passes for 123 yards, throwing no touchdowns and two interceptions, although he did rush for a score.

"I played a little better than I did last time," Roethlisberger said. "So it feels a lot better to be able to come back on that last drive, probably a drive that will be remembered for a long time, at least in Steelers history. So, it feels really good, really special."

The Pittsburgh coach, Mike Tomlin, added: "He's not the same guy he was in the last one. He was a young guy in the last one. He's a franchise quarterback that we have a long-term commitment to. He's our guy, and he showed why today."

Roethlisberger underlined nerves did not play a part in this Super Bowl. "I felt a lot better. I didn't have the jitters," he added. "I actually didn't feel really nervous but when the planes flew over, that's when I was the most nervous."

James Harrison turned in the biggest defensive play of the game – the longest in Super Bowl history – when he returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown. Aside from the sheer magnitude of the play – it was the longest touchdown in Super Bowl history – the timing could not have been scripted any better.

With 18 seconds left in the first half and the Steelers holding a 10-7 edge, the Cardinals appeared poised to take the lead with a first-and-goal at the one-yard line. Enter Harrison, the league's Defensive Player of the Year. He stepped in front of a short pass by Kurt Warner at the goal line and ran 100 yards down the sideline, stumbling into the end zone as time expired. The score gave the Steelers a 17-7 half-time edge.