Super Bowl XLIII Victory Parade
|After Steeler fans had waited 26 years for a championship, it seemed
like they would be waiting longer for another after coming off the win of
Super Bowl XL. Off-field issues surrounded the team in the
post-celebratory climate, and some didn't even wait until the confetti was
done raining down in Detroit. Long-time Steeler and fan favorite,
Running Back Jerome Bettis, announced his retirement on the podium at Ford
Field. However, the worst was yet to come for these newbie
On June 12, a little over four months after winning the team's fifth Lombardi Trophy, Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was involved in a near fatal accident in Pittsburgh at the intersection of 10th Street Bridge, Armstrong Tunnel, and Second Avenue en route to Steeler Headquarters. A Chysler New Yorker made a left turn in front of him and he went over the handlebars of his 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle, shattering the windshield of the car then hit the pavement with his unprotected head. The first paramedics to arrive on the scene managed to stop the bleeding from a major blood vessel in his mouth, which would have been life-threatening if left to bleed any longer. While reported as "alert and conscious," Roethlisberger was transported to Mercy Hospital in "serious but stable" condition in the operating room where he underwent more than seven hours of surgery. His injuries included fractures to the jaw and right sinus cavity, a nine-inch laceration to the back of the head, the loss of two teeth as well as several chipped teeth. His facial injuries were so severe that witnesses to the accident did not recognize him even after he said his name was "Ben."
Roethlisberger was upgraded to fair condition the following day and released on June 14. On June 15, he released a statement apologizing to friends, family, his fans, and the Steelers organization. Four days later, Pittsburgh Police said Roethlisberger would be cited for not having a motorcycle license or learner's permit as well as failure to operate a motorcycle without a helmet for those riding two years or less as a resident of Pennsylvania. Health woes would not escape Ben Roethlisberger, as he missed the 2006 Season opener due to an emergency appendectomy on September 3.
The defending Super Bowl Champions began their quest for another title well by winning the season opener in Pittsburgh against the Miami Dolphins, but things went downhill after that game. The team had two victories but six losses halfway through the season, and a return to the playoffs was looking less and less likely. Then something seemed to change in the second half of the season and they were beginning to win more games than they lost, but even with that late drive, they ended the season eight and eight and failed to make the playoffs.
The 2007 Season was a special one for the organization as it marked its 75th year. Hopes were high, as usual, for a return to the playoffs and the team was proving it could do it this time with a four and one record before the bye week, with their only loss coming at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals which were now coached by former Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The team entered the playoffs as the fourth seed in the AFC, which meant they'd be hosting a wildcard game. Unfortunately, the Steelers would drop that game to the Jacksonville Jaguars, thus ending the 2007 Season.
The 2008 Season began with worry from the fans, but not because of any issues with the players or coaching staff. The Steelers received the hardest schedule for any NFL team in the past thirty seasons, with them facing eight teams that went the playoffs the year before including the defending Super Bowl XLII Champion New York Giants. Not to surrender to the daunting task, the Steelers made it look easy as they made it to a record of six wins and two losses by the halfway point of the season and went on to become AFC North Champions for a second year in a row with a record of 12 wins and four losses. The playoffs began with the Steelers defeating the San Diego Chargers in the Divisional Round and they would end up facing off against their AFC North rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, for the AFC Championship at Heinz Field.
To show whose side he was on, Pittsburgh's Mayor Luke Ravenstahl changed his name to Luke Steelerstahl to drop the "Raven" in the week leading up to the game. The game was close as the score at Halftime was 13-7 in favor of the home team. The Steelers managed to score a field goal in the Third Quarter to bring the score to 16-7. The Ravens got on the board with a touchdown in the Fourth Quarter to bring the score to 16-14. In the late part of the quarter, the Ravens were marching down the field to a potential game-winning score when a pass by Joe Flacco was intercepted by Troy Polamalu and run back for a touchdown. The game ended with a score of 23-14, marking the seventh time the Steelers had won the AFC Championship and the first time they won it in Heinz Field. The team was heading to Super Bowl XLIII which would be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Super Bowl XLIII would see the Steelers face the Arizona Cardinals, now led by former Steelers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The game began with the Steelers taking a 10-7 lead into the Second Quarter, but the excitement would not come until the very last play of the first half. Just before Halftime, Cardinals' Quarterback Kurt Warner was leading his team down the field to the Steelers one-yard-line for a potential go-ahead score, when his pass was intercepted by Linebacker James Harrison. He ran the interception 100 yards back for the touchdown, giving the Steelers a ten point lead going into Halftime, and it also became the longest play in Super Bowl history. The historic play was the basis for a segment of Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update, with anchor and Steelers fan Seth Meyers interviewing cast member Kenan Thompson in the role of James Harrison.
The second half of the game saw the Steelers tack on another field goal to make the score 20-7. That score remained as the final quarter of the game began, but it was nowhere near to being over. The Cardinals managed to score two touchdowns and helped by a safety, scoring 16 unanswered points to make the score 23-20. The Steelers got the ball back on their own 22-yard line with 2:37 left in the game and two timeouts, but before things could get moving forward, they were moving backward as a holding penalty cost them ten yards. Ben Roethlisberger marched his team down the field with the longest pass in the drive going 40 yards to Santonio Holmes who was tackled at the Cardinals six-yard line. On Second Down and Six, he threw to Holmes once again, this time connecting with him for a spectacular touchdown which he made by his tip toes in the back corner of the end zone. A booth review of the play confirmed that he did indeed catch and control the ball, with his toes hitting the turf before he fell out of bounds. The score was now 27-23 back in favor of Pittsburgh, but there still remained 35 seconds on the clock. After moving the ball down to the Steelers 44-yard line, Linebacker LaMarr Woodley forced a fumble and Defensive End Brett Keisel recovered the ball with five seconds left. Ben Roethlisberger came out and took a knee to put Super Bowl XLIII in the books. Santonio Holmes was named the Most Valuable Player. The win was historic in that not only did it mark the first team in the NFL to win six Super Bowl championships and the first to win three in the same state, but Mike Tomlin became the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl at the age of 36.
It was also a notable event for a few other reasons as well. Hall of Fame Quarterback Joe Namath, who won Super Bowl III when he was playing for the New York Jets and born in Beaver Falls just west of Pittsburgh, participated in a pre-game ceremony celebrating four decades of champions, handed the winning trophy to the team he grew up watching. Broadcaster John Madden became the first person to announce a Super Bowl for each of the four major American networks, having called five for CBS, three for Fox, and two for ABC previously. It would also mark the last one he would call as he announced his retirement on April 16, 2009. Super Bowl XLIII would also be the last to be broadcast on analog over-the-air television in the United States, as the first stations to covert would do so 16 days later and the remaining full-power stations to stop on June 12. Ironically, that was when the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, which was the second professional sports championship to be broadcast on NBC in 2009.
The victory parade for the champions was held on February 3, 2009 in downtown Pittsburgh. The route was changed from the one for Super Bowl XL in that the parade began at Mellon Arena, but instead of continuing through downtown, turned south onto Grant Street then west on the Boulevard of the Allies, following wider streets and allowing the almost 350,000 attendees a better viewing experience. To prepare for the parade, the Boulevard of the Allies was closed to traffic at 6:30 AM and other streets shortly after 8 AM. PennDOT helped fans leaving to the north by opening the HOV Lanes on Interstate 279 and Interstate 579 two hours earlier.
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Page updated February 05, 2011 .
Content and graphics, unless otherwise noted, copyright © Jeffrey J. Kitsko. All rights reserved.
Header background image courtesy of Getty Images.
Information courtesy of ESPN, the National Football League, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.