Monday, January 19, 2009




There were 4:34 seconds left in this, another grueling contest between the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, only the stakes in this one were a lot bigger. Pittsburgh fans everywhere had this queasy feeling in the pits of their stomachs. The Steelers had been here before...several times in fact in AFC Championship games, and the losses, particularly the ones that took place at home were particularly galling. It couldn't happen again, could it?

This game seemed to be following an eerily-familiar AFC Championship script. The Steelers were dominating the game throughout, but because of missed scoring opportunities, bad calls, injury to a key performer (Hines Ward) and of course the never-say-die attitude of the Baltimore Ravens, the scoreboard read just Pittsburgh 16-Baltimore 14. That was just too close for comfort. Even Phil Simms, the game's color commentator, remarked that the Ravens, "Had the Steelers right where they wanted them." That was until it became "Troy time". The Steelers had built their lead on the strength of a fantastic Santonio Holmes touchdown catch and run and three Jeff Reed field goals. But it simply wasn't enough to slay this game Ravens team.

Above: The view that thousands of Steeler fans will be enjoying within the next two weeks,

The incredibly talented Steeler safety who had suffered a calf muscle injury in warmups the week before, showed that his calf was more than ready, willing and able by first reading the eyes of Ravens qb Joe Flacco. Then, forty yards later, Plamalu, #43, had whirled his way through the Ravens offense and had secured a place in SuperBowl 43 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the process, the play became an "instant Steeler classic" and certainly one of the biggest ever at Heinz Field.

The result was a euphoria among Steeler fans that literally shook the stadium. Or was that shaking of Heinz Field the evil spirits being excised from past AFC Championships lost?

Truth be known, there were several seismic events that occured at Heinz Field during this hotly contested championship. Among the more notable ones were: Limas Sweed inflicting the "Hines Ward effect" on Corey Ivy on a pass to Heath Miller. Ivy had to leave the game for about a quarter. He had first attempted to leave the field via the Steelers sideline. Bart Scott returned the favor to Willie Parker when he lit Parker up on a screen pass. Then,finally, there was the "piece de resistance", the freight train collision between Willis McGahee and Ryan Clark where both players left the field, one with help, the other on a stretcher. It was something to see Ray Lewis on one knee, his face buried in his hand. True, Lewis can be called a "drama queen", but the Ravens were never the same after the McGahee injury. It was another Ryan Clark hit that has helped define the dominating nature of this football team.

It was a game where you could truly see the difference between a rookie quarterback and a seasoned veteran. It doesn't seem that long ago that the Steelers were trying to protect "Little Ben", at the time, from making rookie mistakes of his own. Now he's the odds-on favorite to win his second title.
We'll have several more stories coming out of this contest during the week, but I thought for now that we would leave you with some pictures of Tampa where many of you will be heading soon.

"Above: The warm and cozy confines of Tampa Bay, soon-to-be home for "Steelers Nation".

Above: As an added bonus, "The Boss", Bruce Springsteen, will be your halftime entertainment. Below: Seating guide for Raymond James Stadium (so you're sure to get the right seats). Another public service from your friends here at "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold".

GAME NOTES: Roethlisberger scrambled then hit Santonio Holmes for an awesome pass/run play that covered 65 yards and gave the Steelers a 13-0 lead...Limas Sweed dropped a sure touchdown pass then fell to the ground simulating an injury. The injury caused a timeout to be charged to the Steelers, actually costing them a field goal attempt as the half ended...The "Renegade" song and video once again whipped up the Steeler crowd and the Steelers defense. "Renegade" was played at 6:50 of the fourth quarter, here's what followed: First down, two yard loss, McGahee hurt, 5:13, Baltimore wastes second time out. Second down, Lamarr Woodley sacks Flacco for second time. 4:34 Polamalu intercepts Flacco, returns for game-winning touchdown.....Mike Tomlin is the youngest coach to ever get his team into the SuperBowl....In the post-game press conference, Hines Ward remarked, "They asked for us...they got us."