TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Steelers captured their record sixth Super Bowl by defeating the upset-minded Arizona Cardinals 27-23 Sunday on a dramatic touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drove the Steelers 78 yards in eight plays and found Holmes on a six-yard scoring strike in the far corner of the end zone to provide the winning margin.
Holmes, the game's most valuable player, caught nine passes, including four in the final drive.
"I want the ball in my hands no matter what, no matter where it is," Holmes said he told Roethlisberger before the final drive.
"I wanted to be the one to make the play."
Pittsburgh was cruising 20-7 in the final quarter before the Cardinals made a late charge under the guidance of gritty veteran quarterback Kurt Warner.
Larry Fitzgerald caught a one-yard pass from Warner to trim the lead to 20-14 with less than seven minutes remaining. A safety with three minutes left then pulled the Cardinals to within four points on a chilly night at Raymond James Stadium.
Warner then hit Fitzgerald on a short post pattern, the All-Pro speedster finding the end zone virtually untouched to give Arizona a stunning 23-20 lead with 2:37 left.
Roethlisberger then took over, guiding the Steelers to the game-winning drive. For the game, he completed 21 of 30 passes for 256 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Prior to the Steelers' final drive, Roethlisberger said he told his team mates: "It's now or never. You'll be remembered forever if you do this."
The loss was bitter for the Cardinals, who were making their first Super Bowl appearance.
"It is always disappointing when you are leading late in the game," said Warner, a 37-year-old veteran and a former Super Bowl MVP with the St. Louis Rams.
The Cardinals were 9-7 this season before breezing through the playoffs with upset wins over Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia.
"We made it to a place that no one thought we would be," added Warner. "No one expected us to be here.
"Obviously you want to win but we took the best in the league down to the wire. They had to make great plays to win. I am proud we gave ourselves a chance to win."
The late drama came in stark contrast to Pittsburgh's early dominance that culminated in a stunning play at the end of the first half when linebacker James Harrison returned an interception a Super Bowl record 100 yards for a 17-7 lead.
With Arizona on the Steelers' one-yard line and looking to take a lead into the locker room, Harrison stepped in front of Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin and intercepted Warner's pass on the goal line.
The NFL's Defensive Player of the Year rumbled down the sideline, breaking several tackles along the way, and stumbled into the end zone as time expired to close the opening half.
"It was very tiring but it was worth it," Harrison said of his touchdown, the longest in a Super Bowl.
"I was just thinking that I had to do whatever I could to get to the other end zone and get seven."
After the game Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin received a congratulatory call from U.S. President Barack Obama.
"That's been our story all year," said Tomlin, at 36 the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl.
"We've got a team that doesn't blink in the face of adversity.
"They've got a great deal of resolve and it was put on display. We simply do not care about style points."
The triumph marked Pittsburgh's second title in four years and gave the Steelers one more Super Bowl victory than the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
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