For the third time this year, two division rivals met. The Baltimore Ravens came to Pittsburgh Sunday night to take on the Steelers, and did not leave happy. They were defeated 23-14, in a battle of two titanic defenses. The Steelers #1 defense was more dominant than their rival’s #2 defense, which won them the game.
Two Jeff Reed Field Goals and a 65-yard Santonio Holmes TD reception put the Steelers up 13-0 early on, in a game they never trailed. While they allowed two Willis McGahee TD runs, the Steelers held the Ravens to just that, and had a 16-14 lead late in the 4th quarter. Rookie QB Joe Flacco made a fatal mistake, getting picked off by Pro Bowl SS Troy Polamalu, who took the interception to the house and made it a 9-point, two-possession game. In their next two possessions, the Ravens had a chance to make a comeback, but turned it over on each drive against a defense that will make you pay if you take for granted. The game ended with a Tyrone Carter interception, and one final rookie mistake from Flacco.
Ben Roethlisberger was decent behind center today, as he was 16-of-33 with 255 yards and a passing TD, but the key was that he was not picked off by a defense that feeds off of interceptions. Big Ben hit Santonio Holmes twice for 70 yards, and a 65-yard TD reception. He also threw 3 times to Heath Miller for 62 yards, and Hines Ward had 3 catches of his own for 55 yards. Willie Parker was the only effective RB for Pittsburgh, carrying the rock 24 times for 47 yards and fumbling for the first time since December 2007. While the Steelers D matched the Ravens in one fumble recovery, they did something Baltimore didn’t: intercept the ball. Three different Steelers had an interception, including Troy Polamalu’s interception that he returned for a TD. Defense has won for the Steelers all year round, and the defense did it’s job yet again to get the Steelers back to the Big Dance.
Rookie QB Joe Flacco, after winning his first two playoff games, could not perform like he had all season tonight in Pittsburgh. He had a terrible game, as he was 13-of-30 with 141 yards, 0 TD’s, and 3 INT’s. Ray Rice and Derrick Mason lead the team with 3 receptions, with 43 and 41 yards, respectively. Willis McGahee seemed to be the only player on the Baltimore offense to have a good game, with 20 carries for 60 yards and Baltimore’s 2 lone TD’s, while also fumbling the football once. The Baltimore D did not perform as well as many would have thought. Ray Lewis forced a Willie Parker fumble, but the Ravens could not do what they did best; that being intercepting the ball. Ed Reed and the secondary could not make any picks that had been so huge for the Ravens playoff run, and that is why the Baltimore Ravens will be watching Superbowl XLIII instead of playing in it.
The Steelers reach their 2nd Superbowl in 4 years, both of those times against an NFC West team. Pittsburgh defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Superbowl XL. Big Ben will try to do the same against the Cardinals, and earn his 2nd Superbowl ring, while Mike Tomlin tries to become the youngest Head Coach to win the whole thing (he has already become the youngest coach to lead a team to the Superbowl). If the Steelers make the Cardinals’ first trip to the Superbowl one they’d rather forget, and win Superbowl XLIII, they will have 6 Superbowl Championships, which would surpass the Dallas Cowboys and San Fransisco 49ers for most all-time.