Posted by: Staff | 02.03.2009

On It With Offit: AFC Championship Edition

ADAM OFFIT ’09

Steelers Suffocate Birds: 23-14

Every football game can be described as a battle, but only a few can be deemed as a war. On Sunday night in Heinz Field Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, two teams took the field with a passionate hatred for each other. On one side of the field was the home team, the Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have the #1 defense in the league led by All-Pro Hawaiian Safety, Troy Polomalu, with 65,000 roaring fans willing to sit in the cold for their team. On the other side, the visiting Baltimore Ravens. Led by rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco and first year head coach, Jon Harbaugh, the Ravens silenced their critics by making it this far into the playoffs. Their defense, ranked #2 to the Steelers, is led by Future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and ball-hawking safety Ed Reed.

As the final seconds ticked away, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin received the traditional ice-bath of gatorade (above) while Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco, (below) silently walked off the field after a disappointing performance.

As the final seconds ticked away, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin received the traditional ice-bath of gatorade.

It was a hard-hitting affair, right from the opening kickoff down to the last whistle. Both teams combined for only 126 rushing yards, which meant it was up the quarterbacks to help their teams overcome lack of running production Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, 16/33 255 yards with 1 TD, came through for his team when they needed him most and created just enough offensive production to let the Steelers’ defense do its job. The Steelers only offensive touchdown came on a broken play when Roethlisberger threw a wounded duck to wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Holmes created something from nothing as he scampered 65 yards for the first touchdown of the game, giving the Steelers a 13-0 lead. With 4:39 left, and the Steelers up by only two with The Ravens driving for a potential score, Troy Polomalu lived up to his name and returned a Joe Flacco interception 40 yards to the house(for a touchdown) while pounding a stake in the Ravens coffin.

The Ravens had already lost to the Steelers twice this season, and did everything they could to keep that number from rising. The Ravens defense was the high-point for the team, limiting the Steelers to only 272 yards and 16 points. It was the Ravens offense, however, that lacked the “umph” needed to push the team to the Super-Bowl. Watching the Ravens offense on Sunday was like watching paint dry. Quarterback Joe Flacco, 13/30 141 yards and three interceptions, struggled tremendously in the game. In the end, we knew both defenses would live up to their names, it was just a matter of which offense would “muster” enough points to win the game, and the Steelers did just that.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will advance to their 7th Super Bowl in Franchise history. If they win, they will hold the NFL record for Super Bowl wins with six. The Steelers will be facing the Arizona Cardinals, a team that went .500 last year and is one of the best underdog stories in sports this year. The Steelers will face their most daunting task of the season by trying to stop Arizona’s high-flying, pass-happy offense. Should be an entertaining Super-Bowl.

I was fortunate enough to be at Heinz Field on Sunday for the game. My dad’s side of the family is from Baltimore, so I flew up to Pitt with some family members. Sporting an Ed Reed Jersey, a Ravens hat, Ravens gloves, and purple snow pants, I sat in the stands in a sea of black and gold rooting for my second favorite team. (Don’t worry, the Birds will NEVER replace the Patriots). This stadium probably contained some of the stupidest fans I’ve ever been around. They seemed to boo every call, even the ones that were blatantly correct, and they had mixed feelings about every player. (For instance, the woman behind me screamed out “I LOVE YOU BEN [Roethlisberger]!” minutes before cursing his name.) Although it was ultimately a losing experience, I had a blast watching the Ravens triumph against the Steelers. Maybe its just me, but watching a football game in hostile territory is the kind of exhilaration that I live for. Heinz Field is one of the most virtriolic sports stadiums in the nation, so if you ever plan to travel there as a visiting fan, wear you’re colors proud but keep your head down!

Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco, silently walked off the field after a disappointing performance.

Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco, silently walked off the field after a disappointing performance.

My MVP: As always, I present my audience with one player who stood about above the rest in the field of play. Since this was a defensive battle, it would make most sense give this award to a defensive player. Steelers Safety Ryan Clark collected eight tackles and a forced fumble, including this ethically unstable but MONSTER hit on Ravens running back Willis McGahee.

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