Seven-step drop

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

This is the final installment of the seven-step drop to wrap up what has been an amazing football season in the AFC North.

Here are seven notes and observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII:

  • Let's start by saying there is no doubt that the Cardinals belonged in this game. They proved they were a legit Super Bowl team with their performance. The Cardinals were the hottest team in the NFL coming in, but Pittsburgh turned out to be the better team and needed the entire four quarters to prove it.

  • If Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes can display consistency, he could take over as Pittsburgh's No. 1 receiver -- possibly as soon as next season. Holmes has the talent, as evidenced by winning MVP honors with nine catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. He's also clutch and has the knack for the big play. But it's the routine plays week to week that sometimes get away from Holmes. Leaving those easy plays on the field is the difference between being a perennial 1,000-yard receiver and an 800-yard receiver.

  • The locker room atmosphere after the game was electric. Family, friends, players and team employees were all stuffed into the locker room to celebrate Pittsburgh's title. Most players wanted to hold the trophy alone, take a picture and savor the moment. Sometimes we forget that pro football -- like most sports -- is a child's game played only by the very best as adults. Then you see some of the toughest athletes in the world crying, hugging, dancing, celebrating and screaming like kids again, and it reminds you why they got into the game in the first place.

  • Do not underestimate the chemistry on this team. Pittsburgh was a tight-knit group from the first day of training camp and that played a factor in the Steelers handling all types of adversity this year. With most teams, winning breeds togetherness. But the Steelers were already close, which helped breed winning.

  • It's time to put Ben Roethlisberger "right up there with the big boys." Those were the words of Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians Sunday night, and we agree. Roethlisberger was 21 of 30 for 256 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 93.2 passer rating on his way to winning his second ring. He has more championships than Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers combined. Roethlisberger's backyard style will never look pretty, but it's time to appreciate his ability to lead and win big games.

  • Although I am tired of discussing the subject, once again the officiating was sub par on both sides. There were two missed calls that Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt had to challenge to get right. There were ticky-tack personal fouls on two teams trying to be physical in a championship game. There was no replay of Kurt Warner's fumble in the final minute, although I believe they got that call right. Overall, it was a shoddy performance from a crew the NFL felt was the league's best. Sorry for the rant.

  • Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney now has bragging rights over Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys, and the rest of the NFL. The Steelers became the first team to get their sixth Super Bowl championship. Dallas has five. There is a large trophy case at the Steelers' training facility that currently holds five Lombardi Trophies, and now more room needs to be made for another one.