(Ben Roethlisberger photos courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Now the truth can be told.
The game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLIII – you know, that Ben Roethlisberger dart to Santonio Holmes that launched Pittsburgh to a 27-23 come-from-behind defeat of Arizona – yeah, well, it's what Roethlisberger calls “the dumbest throw ever.”
And, yes, that’s going to need an explanation.
Lucky for you we have one. Or, rather, Ben Roethlisberger does.
When he spoke to us recently on The Talk of Fame Network he acknowledged that his game-winning pass might be a “combination of the greatest catch and throw” of any championship game, and he’ll get no complaint from our Rick Gosselin. He puts it at or near the top of his list.
Rewind the videotape, and you’ll see why.
(Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)
Pressured out of the pocket, Roethlisberger flushes right before placing a 6-yard laser in the smallest of windows, with Holmes making a fingertip catch as he stands tall and tightropes the sidelines at the back of the end zone. Time left: 35 seconds.
It’s an astonishing throw-and-catch, right up there with "The Catch" of Joe Montana and Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC championship game, and no need to remind Big Ben. He grew up a 49ers’ fan who watched that play. So he knows where this one stands, and ... well, let him explain it.
“I never like to toot my own horn,” he said on the Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “but I will say I probably put that ball in the only spot where it could’ve been caught. If it’s one inch higher he probably doesn’t make the catch. If it’s one inch lower, it’s probably intercepted.
“But then for him to make the catch … I think (it) may be the combination of the greatest catch and throw. Because, if you remember, on the play before he had a chance to make an easier catch … and he didn’t. And then it works out.
“That play … I don’t think it gets enough credit, if I say so myself. Like I said, I may be biased. But I grew up a Niners’ fan, so obviously (there’s) Montana-to-Clark in the back of the end zone and some of the greatest catches in Super Bowl or NFL history. But for that play to happen in the corner of the end zone … for him to drag the toes to make the catch to basically win the Super Bowl … to me, it will go down as one of the greatest plays of all time.”
But that’s where Roethlisberger started dissecting … and re-evaluating … his throw and decision. The Steelers were down 23-20 at the time, so a field goal would’ve tied the game and forced an overtime – meaning Pittsburgh could afford to play it cautious. But that never happened … mostly because Roethlisberger made one of the most courageous … and accurate … throws in NFL history.
“I will tell you, honest to goodness on that drive, I don’t know what happened,” he said. “We were down three, I think at the time, and, honest to goodness, when we were driving down the field – once we got inside the 50 – and this is the honest to goodness truth … as we’re driving I forgot that a field goal ties it.
“I wasn’t thinking about a field goal, good or bad. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing, but I never, ever should have made that throw. That throw was the dumbest throw ever. Why take that chance? Because when it left my hand I thought it was intercepted. I really did. I was like, `Oh, my goodness, we blew it.'
“I knew I put a good ball out (there), but the guy (defensive back Ralph Brown) was kinda undercutting it, and he got twisted around or whatever. But when it came out of my hand the initial thought was: OK, it’s a good ball, but it’s probably going to be intercepted or tipped or something.
“Never in my mind did I say, ‘Don’t throw that ball; just kick the field goal and tie it. It was: Go win it, throw it and it comes out of your hand. I threw it right where I wanted it to, but it sure scared me when it came out of my hand.”