The Steelers, seeking a record sixth Super Bowl title, had a 140-13 lead in total yards, seven first downs to one for the Cardinals and held the ball for all but 3:28 of the opening period. Pittsburgh was at the Arizona 5 when the quarter ended, poised to extend its lead.
Ben Roethlisberger burned the Cardinals on the opening possession, faking a handoff to the left, then rolling right and finding Hines Ward all alone for a 38-yard gain. The Steelers also had plays of 25 and 21 yards in the opening quarter.
Pittsburgh had third-and-goal at the Arizona 1 on its first drive, and Roethlisberger appeared to power his way into the end zone on a scramble to the right, dragging Darnell Dockett along with him.
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, a former Steelers assistant, challenged the call, believing the burly quarterback was down before he got to the end zone. The replay appeared to show Pittsburgh center Justin Hartwig pulling Roethlisberger across the goal line, but referee Terry McAulay ruled the quarterback down at the 1.
Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, only the third black head coach in Super Bowl history, immediately sent Reed onto the field to kick an 18-yard field goal, the shortest in a Super Bowl since Roy Gerela of the Steelers punched one through from the same distance in the 1976 game one of the storied franchise's five Super Bowl titles, tied with Dallas and San Francisco for the most in NFL history.
Arizona, seeking its first NFL title since 1947, ran only five offensive plays in the first quarter.