TAMPA, Fla. (BP)–Two champions were crowned Sunday night in Tampa. The Pittsburgh Steelers became the most successful team of the Super Bowl era, winning their record sixth title with a last-minute, come-from-behind 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
But faith-filled players from both teams emerged as champions regardless of Sunday’s outcome, stating that their eternal perspective remains as strong as ever.
“My faith is everything,” a devastated Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner said in a quiet post-game interview room. “I’m just so proud of these guys on the team and what we accomplished together.
“We had a chance to win the world championship and we were two minutes away,” Warner said.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lofted a pass to receiver Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone with 35 second left in the game to cap a 78-yard drive for the victory in Super Bowl XLIII, their second in four years.
It came just two minutes after Warner had led a 64-yard drive for the first Arizona lead, capped by a touchdown pass to receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Pittsburgh defensive end Travis Kirschke, who had shared his faith during Tuesday’s media day, said the last-second win may have tested his nerves, but not his perspective.
“I never stopped believing,” he said late Sunday, walking the confetti-strewn field with his wife and son. “Our God can do big things and I’m grateful for this chance.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, the youngest coach ever to win a Super Bowl, described himself as “the most blessed coach to work with this staff and these players … to see what these guys are willing to do for one another.”
Steelers’ tight end Health Miller said he was grateful for the win in order to have a larger platform to share his faith in the future.
“I think God has really blessed this team,” Miller said. “We’ve been together all year long and really have some solid guys. I’m glad He gets the glory.”
Moments before kickoff in the sold-out Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Warner was presented with the Walter Payton Man of the Year for his work with a number of faith-based charities, including his First Things First Foundation which has raised more than $1.5 million dollars to help others.
“I’m humbled the Lord has given me such an amazing life to impact others,” Warner said. “Of all the awards given to NFL athletes, the Walter Payton Man of the Year is the one that stands out over the rest because of what it represents.
“When people look back at my career, I want them to see a fierce competitor, but more importantly, I want to be remembered for my consistency of character and the legacy I hope to leave through my First Things First Foundation.”
At age 37, Warner is a free agent and has given thought to retirement next season. After the game, he said he wouldn’t be making a decision until he had time to reflect on the year and talk to his wife and family.
Whatever career decision he makes, it would be based on an eternal standard, Warner said.
“I want to be excellent every time I step on the field. I want to be excellent in practice,” he said. “But I want to be excellent when I go home to my wife and kids as well.”
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based correspondent for Baptist Press who covered Super Bowl-related activities in Tampa, Fla.