[QODLink]
Sport
Pittsburgh steal the show
Steelers win Raven grudge match 23-14 to set up Super Bowl tilt against Cardinals.
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2009 05:22 GMT

Troy Polamalu drops Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco [GALLO/GETTY]

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat Baltimore Ravens 23-14 in a bone-jarring AFC Championship game to set up a Super Bowl XLIII clash against the dark-horse Arizona Cardinals.

The Steelers will be seeking their sixth Super Bowl crown in the 43rd NFL title game in Tampa on February 1, while the Cardinals booked their first trip to the season finale with a 32-25 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles to claim the NFC crown.

In a game of ferocious hitting between the top two defences in the league, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu stood out.

Whipping

Polamalu flew around the field making crunching stops, leapt over the line to crush Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's fourth-and-one sneak and scored the final touchdown with a 40-yard interception return, his long hair whipping the air.

"I was just running for my life," Polamalu said on Sunday.

A violent hit by safety Ryan Clark on Ravens running back Willis McGahee late in the fourth quarter brought the game to a sombre close.

McGahee, who scored both Baltimore touchdowns on short runs, was flattened by a high-speed, helmet-to-helmet collision that snapped his head back.

As a cart and stretcher were sent to take McGahee off the field, players from both teams bowed their heads.

Able to move

Officials said McGahee had significant neck pain but was able to move his limbs.

"It's always the same against them," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.

"This is a 12-round slugfest. It's violent from start to finish. That's the nature of this rivalry."

McGahee is stretchered off [GALLO/GETTY]
Pittsburgh went against pre-game expectations by relying on the passing of Roethlisberger rather than try to move the ball on the ground against the rugged Ravens.

They surged to a 13-0 lead during the first half on field goals of 34 and 42 yards from Jeff Reed followed by a 65-yard catch-and-run by Santonio Holmes.

The Ravens fightback was sparked by a stunning 45-yard punt return by Jim Leonhard that set them up at the Pittsburgh 17 yard line.

Three plays later McGahee burst three yards for a touchdown that closed the gap to 13-7 at half time.

Reed gave the Steelers some cushion at 16-7 with a 46-yard field goal with 3:38 left in the third quarter after an 11-play drive that covered 51 yards.

Weak punt

The Ravens, who had lost by three points in overtime and by four points in two regular season jousts with Pittsburgh, clawed back again, taking advantage of a weak punt by Mitch Berger that gave them the ball at the 37.

A double-reverse run by Mark Clayton and two completions to Derrick Mason put Baltimore in striking range.

A pass interference call in the end zone against Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor put the ball on the one yard line and McGahee ran it in to make it 16-14 with 9:29 left before Polamalu put a finishing touch to the Steelers win.

"We congratulate them and I also want to say how proud I am of our football team," Ravens rookie coach John Harbaugh said.

"I thought our guys throughout the course of the season and throughout the course of this game demonstrated who they are as men, what they're all about."

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
Since independence, Zimbabwe has faced food shortages, hyperinflation - and several political crises.
After a sit-in protest at Poland's parliament, lawmakers are set to raise government aid to carers of disabled youth.
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
Iran's government has shifted its take on 'brain drain' but is the change enough to reverse the flow?
Deadly attacks on anti-mining activists in the Philippines part of a global trend, according to new report.
join our mailing list