Two things could have happened this Sunday during Super Bowl 43: the beginning of a Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty or the Arizona Cardinals first championship win. Unfortunately for the romantic sports fan, the expected happened. The Steelers earned victory in a nose-to-nose battle that proved to be a nail-biter right up to the last seconds of play.
The Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay erupted as the Steelers finished the night with a 27-23 win against the red and white Cardinals to claim their second title in four years. The night however told the tale of two quarterbacks chasing their own pinnacle moment of their NFL careers.
The Cards were considered as a Cinderella story entering the 2008 playoffs, but this time the slipper just didnt fit for quarterback Kurt Warner with his last win in Super Bowl 34, eager to win one more before the end draws near.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger faced his second Super Bowl challenge in his four-year career, making him one of the youngest quarterbacks to win it twice in his early career. This created a movement for the Steelers in possibly starting a new dynasty with the number one defence in the NFL.
Both quarterbacks threw for over 250 yards and more than 20 completions, making it one of the wildest Super Bowl match-ups in NFL history. Warner, who swung back from his ailing slump, held his end of the bargain and proved he still was a competitive asset to any team with more passing yards and touchdowns than Roth.
I said its now or never. I told the guys all the film study you put in doesnt matter unless you do it now, Roethlisberger said after the game.
The story exhibited the leadership and heart of two offensive captains chasing their childhood dreams as repeated champions. The anxiety and pressure each player felt only motivated them to perform like no game theyve played before.
It was the old versus the new, the aged versus the young, and the chance for the new breed to break into the new age of football by emulating the feats of past icons.
However, more fell into this game than a match between two quarterbacks. The Super Bowl became a forecast for what to expect from the runner-ups the season after.
In 2008 the nearly-undefeated New England Patriots lost to the New York Giants, leading the Pats to a 11-5 win loss record the following season, thereby missing the playoffs despite their strong record.
The Chicago Bears failed to even hold a winning record in 2007 after their loss at Super Bowl 41, the same season which earned them the tag of best defence in the NFL. In 2006 running back Shaun Alexander and the Seattle Seahawks followed the same road for not contending for the championship the preceding year. The Philadelphia Eagles in 2005, Carolina Panthers in 2004 and Oakland Raiders in 2003 all lost hope in their next season at a chance for glory. Will the Arizona Cardinals face the same fate as past runner-ups?
But this should be a story focused on the Steelers and their supposed upcoming attempt to create a dynasty within the next five years. Especially with Super Bowl 43 MVP wide-receiver Santonio Holmes entering the next season as an aspiring contributor and Roethlisberger keeping their defence and secondary intact. But, its a concern for the Cardinals as they undoubtedly look to continue their offensive game with wide-receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin; not to mention the work needed for young quarterback Matt Leinart.
It was the speed of Boldin and leap of Fitzgerald that sprung the Cards up the rankings. Warners experience certainly helped, but without his receivers, he and the Cards would not have achieved as much as this.
The Cards finished with a 9-7 record in the NFC West after playing in one of the worst divisions in the NFL. With the opportunity of keeping their offensive weapons in-hand — especially if they can re-sign Boldin — there is little doubt whether the Cards should finish first in the division again. Of course, the same should have happened with the Bears and Pats (the Pats however, have the excuse of Tom Bradys absence to fall back on).
What are the odds that well see a rematch next season? For history to repeat itself, both teams have to hold first in each of their conferences. The Steelers and their surge hold the best chances to a second-consecutive appearance, leaving the Cards an expected failure next season or a lost in the wildcard. Fitzgerald and Boldin are prime receivers who will always fight to the last seconds for a win, especially with Fitzs phenomenal hand-eye coordination and ability to catch any ball in a four-metre radius from him.
The question here really rests with the quarterback. Warner holds a bad streak of inconsistency when it comes to backto- back star-studded performances, and Leinart is nowhere near ready to take on a leadership role on such a young talented team. With Leinharts shaky arm, no promises are made for what is to happen behind the Cards line of scrimmage, and this insecurity can affect the teams confidence going into next years campaign.
Are we ready to see the Steelers chase another title next season, or will the Cards worries fade in a distance? This Super Bowl has brought on more about the organizations future than their present status and its a time-will-tell scenario to see if the trend continues. Except this time, we almost saw the first overtime Super Bowl in history — it was so close.