Men Of Troy: Polamalu's INT Propels Pittsburgh Over Plucky Ravens For AFC Crown

Vincent JacksonCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2009

Things looked bleak for Pittsburgh.

The Ravens had all the momentum and then Troy Polamalu took it all away.

Polamalu took a Joe Flacco pass 30 yards for a touchdown to seal an exciting 23-14 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game.

The Steelers took a 6-0 lead off of two Jeff Reed field goals and neither team could really grab the momentum.

Ben Roethlisberger (16/33, 255 yards, 1 TD) then did what he does best and that's make plays with his feet to find Santonio Holmes for a 65-yard touchdown.

Baltimore would not back down and with a little help from a 45-yard punt return and a helpful pass interference call, the Ravens cut the lead to 13-7 off of a Willis McGahee 3-yard touchdown run.

Both defenses played extremely physical, resulting in multiple injuries on both sides.  Neither side was safe in a grueling, gritty war for the Lamar Hunt trophy.

The two teams then exchanged defensive stands until Reed made his third field goal of the game to increase Pittsburgh's lead to nine but that's when Baltimore began to seize the momentum.

The Ravens defense denied the Steelers on the next few drives before the offense broke through.  Flacco (13/30, 143 yards, 3 INT) attempted four passes, completed two and the other two resulted in penalties against the black and gold. 

The latter penalty allowed Willis McGahee to score his second touchdown from a yard out cutting the lead to two.

A three-and-out on the ensuing Pittsburgh drive gave the Ravens the ball with 6:50 left and a chance to take the lead but Flacco was picked off three plays later and Heinz Field went into a frenzy. 

The Steelers now meet the Cinderella Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII as they face former offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt and Hall of Fame offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

The win also ends Pittsburgh's home-field AFC Championship game struggles as Mike Tomlin won on his very first attempt, outdoing both Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher. 

Only the Steelers, 49ers and Cowboys have won five Super Bowls.  Pittsburgh, now in its seventh Super Bowl, can be the first to win six.