Judge Victor Valdivia is a blue-collar smashmouth DVD reviewer.
Six-time Super Bowl champions.
As they do at the end of every season, the NFL has released a compilation of highlights. Super Bowl XLIII Champions: Pittsburgh Steelers isn't a DVD release of the actual Super Bowl; presumably that will occur later. This is a 70-minute highlight reel, with narration, of the Steelers' 2008-09 season. It will serve as a very good recap of the season for anyone who may not have been able to catch every game. At the same time, it's hard not to wonder if this really couldn't have been much better than it is.
The DVD gives a very good overview of the season. The Steelers certainly couldn't be accused of taking it easy; at one point they faced a series of brutal games against tough opponents like the Philadelphia Eagles, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Baltimore Ravens, with only an occasional game against the Cincinnati Bengals for relief. The Steelers definitely showed their mettle, particularly their offense. Led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the offense was the obvious stars of the season. Because running back Willie Parker was out with an injury for much of the season, the weight of the season rested on the shoulders of wide receiver Santonio Holmes. It was a fortunate choice. Holmes was phenomenal, especially in the postseason. His sixty-eight-yard punt return during the AFC Divisional Playoff against the San Diego Chargers was a thing of beauty. For his part, Roethlisberger proved to be just the leader the Steelers needed. He was not only a skilled passer but was adept at improvising and thinking on the fly, necessary skills for a great QB. The famous Steelers defense, however, was clearly the team's not-so-secret weapon. Safety Troy Polamalu seemed to be everywhere this season, making some of the most unbelievable interceptions ever filmed, including one where he was practically standing on his head. Linebacker James Harrison topped that in the Super Bowl with his hundred-yard interception and touchdown, known to Steelers fans as the "Immaculate Interception." It's no accident that the defense posted the best stats of any team this season, or that the Steelers, after yet another brutal and hard-fought contest against the Arizona Cardinals, finally emerged as Super Bowl champions, the only team in NFL history to win six times.
So yes, the best highlights of the season are captured here. However, at only 70 minutes, this DVD comes off as rather skimpy. Each game gets about two or three minutes of highlights and the narration is only superficial at best, never doing more than stating the obvious. As a rote recitation of facts, this gets the job done, and the editing and narration are competent enough that no one who is even slightly interested in football would be bored. It's hard not to wonder, though, why the producers didn't take advantage of DVD technology to go into more depth and analysis. Why did the Steelers seem to work better as a team this season than the previous one? What did Coach Mike Tomlin, in his second season, learn to make this his best season with the team? What makes Roethlisberger such a skilled improviser? Surely Steelers fans would be happier with far more content than is presented here. Non-Steelers football fans who buy this disc will probably only want to watch it once; it doesn't contain enough sustenance to reward repeated viewings.
The extras, such as they are, don't add much. "Post-Game Highlights" (7:38) and "Media Day Highlights" (11:20) are disposable montages of TV footage from the Super Bowl pre and post-game shows. There are also brief featurettes dedicated to Roethlisberger (4:01), Parker (4:12), Tomlin (2:52), defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau (5:06), the Steelers defense (3:50), and Steelers fans (5:10). Apart from a few snippets during the Tomlin and Roethlisberger pieces, these are generally pretty puffy and forgettable, with no interesting revelations or insights. At least the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer and Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 mix are both satisfactory.
Ultimately, it's hard not to wish this could have been better. Football fans won't regret buying this DVD; it's purely entertaining enough on its own terms. Given what a momentous occasion it commemorates, however, it really should have been better. No other franchise in NFL history has won as many Super Bowls as the Steelers, but you won't get any context or understanding of why the Steelers are so successful or how this team would rank with previous ones. Maybe the NFL will update its NFL Films: Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete History DVD set, because there's precious little historical analysis here. It's a pleasant enough souvenir of the season, but Super Bowl XLIII Champions: Pittsburgh Steelers is guilty of being too superficial to be anything more.
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