TAMPA, Fla. - Please don't mention the word "repeat" when you're around Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. And don't bother with the catchphrase "defending champions." He won't be referencing either in the months ahead as the Steelers attempt to repe ... er ... defend ... um ... try and win next year's Super Bowl.
"The thing that I'll sell to our football team is that we're not attempting to repeat," said Tomlin, who at 36 became the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl title. "That special group of men , that's gone forever. There will be a new 53 men."
OK, when Tomlin says "we're not attempting to repeat," he doesn't mean they won't try to win Super Bowl XLIV next year in Miami. It's just that he won't use the word to his players as he prepares them for the 2009 season.
New season. New team. New challenge. But no additional pressure necessary to get the job done.
"A lot of faces will be the same, but nothing stays the same," Tomlin said. "We're not different than anyone else. I think 'repeating' and 'defending champions' is somewhat of a misnomer. You won't hear me say those words because it will be a brand-new year."
The Steelers pulled off an incredible comeback as Ben Roethlisberger led a drive capped by Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes' 6-yard touchdown reception with 35 seconds left in Pittsburgh's 27-23 win over the Cardinals.
It was the Steelers' sixth Super Bowl championship, the most by any team in NFL history. The Cowboys and 49ers each have won five Vince Lombardi Trophies.
The win came in what has to be considered one of the greatest fourth quarters in Super Bowl history. The Steelers saw a 20-7 lead evaporate on Kurt Warner's spectacular comeback bid. But after Warner and receiver Larry Fitzgerald hooked up for two touchdowns to put Arizona up 23-20, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to the game-winning score on a 78-yard drive in the final minutes. He capped it with his touchdown pass to Holmes, who extended his body fully and got both feet - actually, more like toes - inbounds to make the catch.
"I'd like to tip my hat to the Arizona Cardinals organization," Tomlin said. "That was a fierce battle last night. We appreciate the spectacle of today's NFL and we realize that it's because of the work of people that have come before us. It was a very blessed evening, and I was excited to be a part of it. It was surreal in a way, being a lifelong fan of the game. It's humbling to consider what happened to us last night."
Tomlin became only the second African-American coach to win the Super Bowl. Former Colts coach Tony Dungy won the Super Bowl two years ago.
"Coach Dungy paved that road, and I just have to walk down it," Tomlin said. "I benefited from the sacrifices. It makes it all the sweeter that I consider him a personal friend of mine. It's great. It's beautiful."
As Tomlin looks to prepare his team for next season, he'll look to do so with the same core players from this year's team. Roethlisberger, 26, continues to develop into one of the most successful quarterbacks at such a young age in league history. Holmes is emerging as a big-time receiver and combines with Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward to form an elite starting tandem. The offensive line, while a bit suspect in pass blocking, was good enough to win a championship.
Just as important, the defense will remain intact next year. Led by Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison and fellow linebackers James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley, as well as All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, the Steelers are loaded heading into the 2009 season.
Good enough to repeat?
You bet . . . even if Tomlin won't admit it.
Top 10 catches
Newsday NFL columnist Bob Glauber's top moments in Super Bowl history
1) SUPER BOWL XLII David Tyree from Eli Manning. On third-and-5 with 1:15 left and the Giants trailing 14-10, Manning narrowly avoided a sack and threw downfield to Tyree. He leaped and caught the ball, pinning it against his helmet with his right hand while Rodney Harrison was trying to rip it out of his grasp. Four plays after the 32-yard reception, Manning threw a 13-yard pass to Plaxico Burress for the winning score against the previously unbeaten Patriots.
2) SUPER BOWL XLIII Santonio Holmes from Ben Roethlisberger. The pass to the right corner of the end zone eluded three defenders, and Holmes caught it fully extended, getting his toes in bounds before falling. The 6-yard play with :35 left gave Pittsburgh a 27-23 win.
3) SUPER BOWL X Lynn Swann from Terry Bradshaw. This was Swann's most impressive catch in his MVP performance. Bradshaw threw deep downfield, and Swann leaped over Cowboys cornerback Mark Washington for a 53-yard gain.
4) SUPER BOWL XII Butch Johnson from Roger Staubach. The Cowboys' quarterback hit Johnson on a post route, and Johnson stretched out to make a diving catch at the goal line for a 45-yard touchdown that gave Dallas a 20-3 third-quarter lead over the Broncos.
5) SUPER BOWL XIV John Stallworth from Terry Bradshaw. The Steelers trailed 19-17 early in the fourth quarter when Bradshaw connected with Stallworth on a 73-yard pass. Bradshaw got the ball just past the outstretched hands of Rams defensive back Rod Perry.
6) SUPER BOWL X Lynn Swann from Terry Bradshaw. Swann reached over his shoulder for a 64-yarder with 3:02 left to take a 21-10 lead over Dallas.
7) SUPER BOWL XXXIV Isaac Bruce from Kurt Warner. With 2:05 left, Bruce outleaped the Titans' Denard Walker and ran 73 yards for the winning TD.
8) SUPER BOWL XXIII John Taylor from Joe Montana. With the 49ers trailing Cincinnati 16-13, Montana capped one of the most memorable drives in Super Bowl history with a 10-yard TD for a 20-16 win.
9) SUPER BOWL XXI Phil McConkey from Phil Simms. In the Giants' first Super Bowl, Phil Simms threw to tight end Mark Bavaro, but the ball caromed off him and into McConkey's arms for a 6-yard touchdown.
10) SUPER BOWL V John Mackey from Johnny Unitas. The pass was tipped by receiver Eddie Hinton, then went off Dallas' Mel Renfro and to Mackey, who went 75 yards for a touchdown.
TOP 5 SUPER BOWL GAMES
1) SUPER BOWL XLIII
Had Kurt Warner's comeback held up, it would have gone down as one of the greatest ever. The fact that Ben Roethlisberger led the winning comeback drive after Warner went ahead clinched it as the best.
2) SUPER BOWL XLII
Giants 17, Patriots 14
The previously unbeaten Patriots were 12-point favorites and were expected to roll over the Giants, a wild-card team. The Patriots went ahead on a Tom Brady-to- Randy Moss touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Eli Manning rallied the Giants with a late fourth-quarter drive that was highlighted by David Tyree's catch, in which he pinned the ball to his helmet and desperately held on to keep the drive alive. Plaxico Burress caught the winning TD pass with 35 seconds left.
3) SUPER BOWL XXV
The Giants contained the Bills' high-powered offense by running MVP Ottis Anderson and eating up more than 40 minutes on the clock. The game wasn't decided until Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal in the final seconds.
4) SUPER BOWL XXXVI
Patriots 20, Rams 17
The Patriots, who were 14-point underdogs, got the ball back late in regulation with the score tied. In Tom Brady's first year as a starter, he drove the Patriots nearly the length of the field to set up Adam Vinatieri's winning field goal as time expired. The Patriots were the second-biggest underdogs in Super Bowl history to win.
5) SUPER BOWL XXIII
With the 49ers trailing 16-13 in the final minutes, Joe Montana led one of the most memorable late-game drives in Super Bowl history, going 92 yards in 11 plays. He capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor.