Heady times come with clinching a Bowl berth at home in these parts. In a season where they succeeded in winning on the road in Baltimore and New England, it makes sense that they can end the home AFC Title Game slide as well. In keeping with the tenor of this season, this win wasn't going to be pretty. The Steelers jumped to a 13-0 win despite being unable to get any run game going. With Hines Ward injured midway through the first quarter, the offense struggled to get anything going. It didn't help that Bruce Arians was a little too determined to have Willie Parker fall forward for one-yard gains.
Now, as then, as always, the defense was suffocating. Flacco was made to look every bit like a rookie. When the Ravens were granted a short field after a FWP fumble, the Steelers forced a turnover on downs when the Baltimore couldn't convert on consecutive short yardage plays. With Baltimore's focus on James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley went wild with two sacks and continued pressure.
It looked to almost come unglued in the second half when the Ravens closed the lead to 16-14. The offense missed its opportunity to get points late in the first half with drops and poor clock management, and that seemed like it would come back to bite them. At least until the rookie showed why he doesn't belong on the grandest stage.
The team gets to take the trip to Tampa to reunite with Whisenhunt on the big stage. Larry Fitzgerald looks pretty much unstoppable when he gets man-to-man coverage. Can the 'Zona defense continue to come up big? Can the Steelers make Kurt Warner finally show his fumbling ways? All of this is sure to be speculated over the next two weeks.
Before we get to those questions, a few requests. Please die Limas Sweed. Die Mitch Berger. Okay, Mitch booted a few decent punts for a change in this game and even prevented a Jim Leonhard touchdown with a fumble forcing tackle, but then he had to go and shank one in the clutch. The thought of the two of these clowns possibly getting a Super Bowl ring rivals Tommy Maddox getting one in 2005.
Finally, Troy -- I came into this game more worried about how he would play more than anyone else considering his injury. And he was his usual whirlwind self - throwing Flacco down seven yards in the backfield and making the game-sealing pick-six. Is there any doubt he's the best safety in the game?
Here's your bonus Sunday Ed Reed fail. Caw, caw, Santonio.