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Holmes' TD with :35 left makes Steelers champs

TAMPA, Fla. - The Iron City has its six pack of Lombardis.

In front of a crowd of mostly Steelers fans - just about all of them waving black and gold Terrible Towels, turning Raymond James Stadium into a Florida version of Heinz Field - Pittsburgh edged Arizona, 27-23, last night in Super Bowl XLIII.

The Steelers earned a record sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy and made Mike Tomlin, 36, the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl. But it wasn't nearly as easy as many expected it would be.

It was quite an encore to last year's Super Bowl, which many considered the best ever. And those who would argue that last night's game surpassed the Giants' upset of the Patriots have a strong case.

In a fourth quarter for the ages, the final dramatic play in a night full of them came with 35 seconds left. That was when MVP Santonio Holmes somehow kept both feet in bounds on a 6-yard touchdown pass, capping a 78-yard drive. Ben Roethlisberger completed four passes to Holmes for 73 yards on the drive, including a 40-yarder that put the ball at the 6.

"We're going down in history with one of the greatest games ever played in the Super Bowl," Holmes said. "We finished it up the way we needed to and brought another championship back to Pittsburgh."

Said Steelers chairman Dan Rooney: "They are all special. They are all meaningful from one all the way to six."

Holmes' catch answered a remarkable comeback led by Kurt Warner. The 37-year-old very nearly pulled off the improbable.

After trailing 20-7 midway through the fourth, the Cardinals went ahead 23-20 with 2:37 left when Larry Fitzgerald caught his second TD of the quarter, a 64-yarder from Warner. Warner hit Fitzgerald on a slant, with the standout receiver escaping from cornerback Ike Taylor to temporarily silence much of the pro-Steelers crowd.

Tomlin's thoughts when Fitzgerald scored?

"I was thinking if they were going to score, you want them to score quickly," he said.

Roethlisberger completed 21 of 30 for 256 yards, a TD and an interception. Holmes caught nine passes for 131 yards.

Roethlisberger, 26, played far better than he did in his first Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XL, he threw for only 123 yards with two INTs. "I felt a lot better," he said. "I didn't have the jitters. I didn't feel really nervous."

Neither did Warner, who torched the Steelers in the fourth and became the first quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards in three Super Bowls. Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 127 yards and Anquan Boldin had eight catches for 84 yards.

Warner passed for 377 yards, completing 31 of 43 for three touchdowns and an interception - a 100-yard return for a TD by linebacker James Harrison as time expired in the first half.

After an interception by linebacker Karlos Dansby on a deflected pass, the Cardinals drove to the 1. On first-and-goal with 18 seconds left, Warner tried to find Boldin on an inside route. Harrison, the league's Defensive Player of the Year, stepped in front of Boldin and rumbled 100 yards. The longest play in Super Bowl history gave the Steelers a 17-7 halftime lead.

Harrison, exhausted, stayed down for several moments. It took several minutes for referee Terry McAulay to review the play; he ruled the nose of the ball broke the plane just before Harrison was down.

"I was just thinking that I had to do whatever I could to get to the other end zone and get seven," Harrison said.

The Cardinals won the coin toss but deferred to the second half. The Steelers easily drove downfield, going 71 yards in nine plays, missing out on a touchdown by inches. On third-and-goal from the 1, Roethlisberger scrambled into the end zone for an apparent - and called - TD. But Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt challenged and won, and Tomlin sent out Jeff Reed for an 18-yard field goal that made it 3-0.

After the Cardinals punted on their first possession, the Steelers went 69 yards in 11 plays, the final one a 1-yard TD plunge by Gary Russell. The Steelers led 10-0 with 14:01 left in the half and had a 145-13 edge in yards. But Arizona would go 83 yards in nine plays, and Warner's 1-yard pass to tight end Ben Patrick made it 10-7 with 8:34 left in the half.

For three quarters, Pittsburgh controlled much of the game. Then the Cardinals turned it into a thriller.

When Steelers center Justin Hartwig was called for holding in the end zone with 2:58 left, the safety made it 20-16 and set up a free kick that gave the Cards the ball at their 36 with a chance to take the lead. They did, but couldn't hold it.

"I think there was too much time on the clock," said Whisenhunt, a former Steelers assistant. "They made the plays at the end of the game, and that's what good teams do."

STEELERS' SUPER SIX

IX: Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6

MVP: Franco Harris

X: Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17

MVP: Lynn Swann

XIII: Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31

MVP: Terry Bradshaw

XIV: Pittsburgh 31, Los Angeles 19

MVP: Terry Bradshaw

XL: Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10

MVP: Hines Ward

XLIII: Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23

MVP: Santonio Holmes

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