Mark Cornelison/Lexington (Ky.) Herald-LeaderAriuzona's Darnell Dockett sacks Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa last Sunday.
If Denny Green were still coaching the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, he could have done a reprise of his famous rant about the Chicago Bears. He could have said the "Steelers are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook." The Cardinals were underdogs because they had a 9-7 regular season record and allowed 47 or more points in three games. Because the Steelers have become something of a brand name, there's a tendency to think they're better than they really are. These Steelers were the best team this season, but they bore little resemblance to the Steel Curtain teams of the 1970s. They're a typical team of the salary cap era and don't have nine Hall of Famers the way the Steelers did in the 1970s when they won four times. The Steelers' top-ranked defense couldn't hold a 13-point lead against the Cardinals in the fourth quarter. Then there's the shaky offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked only twice, but he was constantly scrambling, bouncing off defenders and making plays while being pressured. Roethlisberger is the perfect quarterback for a Steelers team that lacks a strong line in front of him, and he's showing the game isn't always decided on the lines. He's so big he can bounce off defenders and keep plays alive and win without a great team around him. And with Tom Brady's health still an issue, he might be about ready to stake a claim to being the best quarterback in the game. Because he won't turn 27 until next month, Roethlisberger is young enough to win one or two more. Teams of the decade Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after the game that he doesn't like to use the word repeat, because each team is different in the salary cap era each season. But the Steelers, the only team to repeat as champions twice, have a shot to do it a third time. And if they do it next year, it will have special significance. The New England Patriots staked a claim to Team of the Decade honors by winning after the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons. But if the Steelers repeat, they'll also have three in this decade, meaning there won't be a clear cut Team of the Decade for the first time since the 1950s. The Packers in the '60s, Steelers in the '70s, 49ers in the '80s and the Cowboys in the '90s all won more titles than any other team in those decades. It will be interesting if the Steelers and the Patriots meet in the playoffs next season because they could decide it on the field for the first time since Super Bowl XIII after the 1978 season between the Steelers and Cowboys. Refs missed call after TD In a season when officiating was such an issue, it's not surprising that the officials made a mistake in the final minute of the Super Bowl. Santonio Holmes should have received a celebration penalty after his game-winning touchdown catch. He used the ball as a prop to mimic LeBron James' pregame ritual. He held the ball in his right hand the way James holds a bottle of talcum powder, shook the ball, then flipped it in the air. Mike Pereira, the head of officials who's retiring after next season, said on the NFL Network that Holmes should have been penalized, but the officials didn't see what he did. If they had, the Steelers would have kicked off from their own 15 and the Cardinals would have had better field position for the final desperation drive. Pereira also said the referee should have reviewed Kurt Warner's fumble on the final play on the field. He said it was clearly a fumble, which is why the replay official in the booth didn't send it down to the field. But with so much at stake, Pereira said there should have been a review just to remove any question about it. Quiet MVP award ceremony An obvious sign of the economic downturn was the manner in which Holmes was presented an $85,200 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Platinum for being the Most Valuable Player. The car is usually in the ballroom where the MVP conducts his Monday news conference, and General Motors executives are usually on hand to personally make the announcement. This time, there was no car in sight, nor even an announcement that he was awarded the car. With General Motors receiving federal bailout money, the company decided it was not a good time to advertise they were giving away an expensive car. It was awarded in private away from cameras and reporters. This is the eighth year Cadillac has presented the car, and they have a multi-year deal to do it, but the New York Daily News reported the company wanted no publicity this time. Future labor pains The most depressing aspect of the Super Bowl was all the signs pointing to a work stoppage in 2011. With commissioner Roger Goodell calling the NFL Players Association claims that the league is prosperous "fiction," the owners seem to be heading toward locking out the players in 2011. The players won't strike because they want to continue the status quo. The owners want givebacks. There's always a chance the owners are talking tough and won't really lock them out. They caved in at the last minute in 2006, when they accepted the current deal. The changes start Feb. 27, when free agency begins with complicated new rules in place to make it more difficult to stay under the cap. Then in 2010, the salary cap will be eliminated and the qualification for free agency jumps from four to six years. Quotable "A lot of other quarterbacks have a lot better stats. The only thing that matters with Ben is that he's a winner." - Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, on Roethlisberger winning two Super Bowls in his first five seasons. This story includes information from interviews, other beat writers and news service reports. firstname.lastname@example.org, (904) 359-4279