It was time for a Joe Montana moment. Time for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to glance toward the stands and say, “Hey, it’s Will Ferrel,” or something like that. Something to break the tension for an offense huddled at one end of the field and needing to get to the other if they didn’t want to lose the Super Bowl.
Here is what Roethlisberger said he told his offensive lineman before his final drive Sunday night:
“It’s now or never guys. You’ll be remembered forever if you do this. All the film study, all the hard work, all the stuff that people talk bad about us, it will be for nothing. We have to go out and do it.”
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And then Roethlisberger went out and did it.
“That was kind of Joe Montana-ish,” Steelers receiver Hines Ward said.
It was Montana who spotted comedian John Candy in the crowd before leading the San Francisco 49ers on the game-winning drive in Super Bowl XXIII in Miami. It was Roethlisberger who did it 20 years later in Tampa. Not spotting any comedians in the stands, but leading the Steelers on a game-winning drive in the final minutes of Pittsburgh’s 27-23 win at Raymond James Stadium.
The guy who played so bad in his first Super Bowl, his 22.9 quarterback rating was the lowest of any Super Bowl-winning quarterback, played so great in his second.
Roethlisberger did not throw a touchdown pass in the Steelers’ win in Super Bowl XL.
In fact, the only touchdown pass thrown that day for the Steelers was by a wide receiver. He was the winning quarterback, sure, but only because this team won. Most of the game Roethlisberger seemed to be in the way.
Roethlisberger admitted he played awful against the Seattle Seahawks four years ago. The reason: He was nervous.
Not many athletes, not many quarterbacks, will admit to playing poorly let alone say it was because they were overcome by the moment.
Big Ben wasn’t nervous Sunday.
“I felt a lot better,” he said after the game. “I didn’t have the jitters.”
The only time he felt any kind of butterflies was during the fly-over following the national anthem.
Still, the game headed into the final minute and Roethlisberger had yet to throw a Super Bowl touchdown pass.
Here is what Steelers linebacker James Farrior said he was thinking as Roethlisberger took the field for that final drive:
“Just be me. Just be yourself, make plays and be smart.”
Roethlisberger picked apart the Arizona Cardinals defense. He completed 5-of-7 passes for 83 yards. He threw a laser to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds to play for his first touchdown pass in almost eight Super Bowl quarters.
Despite three defenders in the area, Roethlisberger threw the ball where only Holmes could catch it, and Holmes needed every inch of his 5-foot-11 body plus his arms and whatever extension his toes could give him to pull in the pass for the winning score.
“He made a heck of a catch,” Roethlisberger said.
“He gave me the opportunity to make the play,” Holmes said. “I became the Super Bowl MVP thanks to his help.”
The Steelers are six-time Super Bowl champs, thanks to Roethlisberger, who is now 8-2 in the postseason. Only Bart Starr at 9-1 has a better record.
Only Brady, with nine, had more postseason wins in his first five seasons than Roethlisberger.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to play with Ben,” Steelers tight end Heath Miller said.
Roethlisberger deflected the praise after Sunday’s win. He gave it to Holmes and the offensive line and the rest of the team and the coaches.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said in the week leading up to the game that he didn’t think Roethlisberger would be haunted by his first Super Bowl, because individual performances are not important to the Steelers. Winning is.
Roethlisberger was out to make amends from his performance against Seattle, but only because he knew he had to play big for the Steelers to beat the Cardinals.
Game-winning touchdown passes in the final minute of a Super Bowl are rare. Only Montana and Eli Manning turned the trick until Roethlisberger went to work late Sunday night.
That winning drive will be remembered forever; remembered for as much for the guy who caught the winning pass as for the guy who threw it.
“Tip your hat to (Roethlisberger),” Cardinals defensive end Bertrand Berry said. “Most quarterbacks would not have been able to make those plays. They are champions because of the way he played.”
Roger Mooney, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.