Big Lead Sports Bar



STEELERS (14-4) 23
RAVENS (13-6) 14

PARKER 24-47
HOLMES 2-70, 1 TD

If I may set the backdrop: it's midway through the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game; CBS returned from their 289th commercial break of their nearly four-hour broadcast; the now-famous "Renegade" video montage is blaring in the background, and the Ravens and their shaky rookie quarterback are backed up in their own territory. I think aloud, "Now would be a great time for a turnover." And Troy Polamalu granted my wish just moments later with a pick-six that sealed the game for the Pittsburgh Steelers, simultaneously punching their ticket to Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa on February 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.

It was an exciting way to end a game that the Steelers led from wire-to-wire yet never really put away until late in the contest. And for the long-suffering Steeler Nation, which has gone all of two seasons without a trip to the Super Bowl, it was the cherry on top of a dominant 2008 AFC Playoff run. The Steeler Complaint Department should be silenced in the wake of this performance, Limas Sweed transgressions aside (but of course it won't...nitpicking is our National Pastime).

Now that World War III is behind us, the Steelers will game plan for Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and the Cardinals. The Steelers are already 6.5-point favorites, and I'm guessing that the Super Bowl crowd will be heavily in their favor as well. At this point, the only thing stopping the Steelers from hoisting a sixth Lombardi Trophy in two weeks should be themselves. But enough looking forward. Let's look back to the game that was: the Steelers' third victory over the Baltimore Ravens in 2008.

1. Let me describe the CBS broadcast experience today. I'll start with "awful", and then use all of its synonyms: dreadful, terrible, appalling, unpleasant, poor, horrible, horrific, and shocking. Phil Simms was off-the-charts bad. My favorite Simms-ism was when he described how the Ravens had the Steelers right where they wanted them. I should add that this was when the Ravens were down 13-0 in the second quarter. Yep, that's exactly how John Harbaugh planned it.

2. Speaking of awful, the officiating was a train wreck. We had the usual holding of James Harrison, the Santonio overturned touchdown, some potential late hits on Ben Roethlisberger that were ignored, bad pass interferences that led to touchdowns, and heck, I'll even throw in the running into the punter call that went against Baltimore. We're lucky none of these calls ended up costing the Steelers more than they did.

3. OK, let's get this out of the way early: Limas Sweed's drop of a touchdown towards the end of the second quarter was an epic failure on multiple levels. Not only did he cost the team a sure seven points, but his lack of getting up as if he were somehow injured cost the team a time out, which would have been handy, I don't know...when they ran out of time at the end of the first half!

We're hard on old Limas (something else I just realized today: he's a 24-year-old rookie?) But his subsequent block on Corey Ivy should be near the top of next year's Renegade video. It's the first step on the long road of redemption.

4. It's hard to quantify the loss of Hines Ward, but consider that the Steelers scored 23 points while their offense managed just one touchdown. Yes, there were two scores (Holmes and Sweed) that should've been, but the fact is that they weren't. The offense was just not the same sans 86. And here I always thought he was indestructible. Hopefully he will be fully recuperated and ready for the Super Bowl.

5. Speaking of recuperation, I hope all is well with Willis McGahee after his near-decapitation courtesy of Ryan Clark. Word is that McGahee had "significant neck pain" but had movement in his arms and legs. And why were the Steelers playing music during the injury time out?

6. Time to talk Seven. No, I don't mean that old Brad Pitt movie, I'm talking about the fearless leader of the Steelers, who completed 16 balls to the tune of 255 yards and one touchdown on Sunday. I said a few years ago that as long as the Steelers had a healthy Roethlisberger, they would be in the mix for a title, and in his first five seasons as a starter, he's taken us to three AFC Championships and two Super Bowls.

On Sunday, he had the offense fully on his shoulders when Willie Parker was rendered ineffective, displaying the confidence and guts of a quarterback who has seen and done it all in a short amount of time. And I have full confidence that he'll do the same in two weeks, as the memory of a mostly disappointing personal performance in SBXL still lingers above his head.

*By the way, as I write this I'm listening to Bob Smizik discredit Roethlisberger's 2008 accomplishments on the KDKA Sports Showdown after the late news. If there's ever been a Human Wet Blanket, it's Bob Smizik. I thought he retired?

7. As I thought all week, the running games would be neutralized, and that pretty much came to pass. The Ravens had 73 yards, the Steelers 52, and neither made much of a difference, save for a few McGahee punch-ins. Baltimore's long carry was Mark Clayton's 16-yarder, and the Steelers' was a mere seven yards from Parker.

I thought that the game would come down to Roethlisberger vs. Flacco, and a quick glance at their numbers showed that the QBs made all the difference: Roethlisberger made the big plays and didn't make the miscues; Flacco made the miscues and didn't make any big plays, unless you consider questionable pass interference calls great offense.

Each time CBS flashed Flacco's stats, I wondered how the Ravens were still in the game. His passer rating was 18.2. His throws were off the mark all day, he got no help from his receivers, he never got into any kind of rhythm, he threw three picks and he was sacked four times. As the Ravens know best, if you lose the turnover battle in the playoffs, you will most likely lose the game.

8. Speaking of turnovers...can we give it up for the Steeler defense and one Dick Lebeau? The mad scientist was at his best on Sunday, and if he isn't a Hall of Famer someday I think they might as well close the doors of the place. The Ravens had 198 yards on Sunday, and for an offense, that's usually a recipe for defeat.

Lamarr Woodley was everywhere; Troy Polamalu, nursing an injury throughout the week, bested Ed Reed in the big play department; Ryan Clark delivered the big hits; and the secondary came up with three picks. The defense smothered the Ravens all night long.

9. And now, let us discuss "special teams".

-Jeff Reed is one of the game's true money kickers and it's a travesty that he's never even mentioned for the Pro Bowl. He was huge, delivering thrice on stalled drives.

-The Steelers have the least intimidating kick returners I've ever seen. Let's see, we have a goal-line back (Gary Russell) and a fullback (Carey Davis) running back kicks. Am I missing something? This is an area that needs an upgrade in 2009. Which is such a jerk thing to say about any unit of a team going to the Super Bowl.

-Mitch Berger managed to avoid getting opponent's spit in his mouth, but an early punt was nearly taken to the house, his average was 37 on seven punts, and there was that atrocious 20-some yarder in the second half. I can't wait to see Daniel Sepulveda next year.

-We're lucky this game didn't follow the scripts of AFC Championships in years past with special teams gaffes coming back to haunt the Steelers, although much like the San Diego game, we sure got a scare on an opponent's return.

10. Mike Tomlin is the youngest coach to ever reach a Super Bowl. Congrats to the man in charge for an incredible first two years on the job. Way back when Bill Cowher left and we thought the next man for the post would be a coin-flip between Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, Tomlin burst through the doors and blew the Rooneys away in the interview process. I'll bet Minnesota wishes they had him back right now.

11. Two words: Heath Miller. The guy never drops a ball, he's a great blocker, and he's always available for a timely catch. He's everything you could want in a tight end.

12. Something tells me that Ravens coach John Harbaugh could very easily grow on me as an annoyance in the coming years. He's constantly complaining/whining/griping about something. In other words, he's the perfect replacement for Brian Billick.

13. If you were listening to one of the countless yarns that Grandpa Simms spun on Sunday, you'll realize that Ray Lewis still won't be wearing his old Super Bowl ring, since the Ravens won't be earning one this year. Surprisingly, I shed not a single tear for ol' Ray-Ray.

14. Willie Parker just had another 2-yard run. I think he's now up to 42 carries for 84 yards.

15. Way to predict that Steeler win, Bill Cowher. And I like the vote for Polamalu over Ed Reed. You know where your bread is buttered.

16. Given that he participated as an honorary captain and presented Dan Rooney with the Lamar Hunt Trophy, I think it's pretty safe to say that Rod Woodson will go into the Hall of Fame as a Steeler.

17. How many guys got injured in this game? Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Willis McGahee, Frank Walker, Ryan Clark, and Corey Ivy all had some degree of discomfort, and that's just the players we know about. That was as violent a football game as you will ever see in a lifetime. At least they played it in a city known for world-class healthcare.

18. OK, let's get into a few essential SB43 specifics:

Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
Kickoff: 6:20 PM
National Anthem: Jennifer Hudson
Coin Flip: Roger Craig, John Elway, and Lynn Swann
Halftime Show: Bruce Springsteen
TV: NBC - Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer, and Alex Flanagan. The pregame show will be a record five hours long and will include Matt Millen.
Ads: $3 million for 30 seconds. The big one is a 3-D spot for Monsters vs. Aliens.

19. Some quick Arizona Cardinals roster notes: as you know, the coaching staff features former Steeler staffers Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm. There's also offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who hails from Upper St. Clair; special teams coach Kevin Spencer, another former Steeler assistant; D-backs coach Teryl Austin, a former Pitt Panther; receivers coach Mike Miller, from Clarion; defensive assistant Matt Raich, from Monaca; and strength coach John Lott, a former Steeler.

As for the players, there's Pitt products Larry Fitzgerald and Gerald Hayes; local boys Steve Breaston and Reggie Wells; and a number of former Steelers: Clark Haggans, Sean Morey, Jerame Tuman, and the great Brian St. Pierre.

In short, our opponent is pretty familiar with the way things are done around here.

20. To close, let me say that it's been a true pleasure to talk Steelers throughout the year with all of you. I welcome your comments, input, email, videos, photos, or whatever comes your way from now until the kickoff of Super Bowl 43 and beyond. Check back often, it's going to be a fun ride. Here we go, Steelers. Here we go. Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl.

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nuthinhere said...

Hey, I'm first!!

Not to nitpick, but would someone let Sweed know its ok to catch the ball. Its his job after all. He did make a hell of a block. How is Ward anyway?? I'm assuming he'll be fine for the SB. He's a bit of a dork, but I kind of like Kurt Warner. He reminds me of Jim Plunkett for some reason. Must be the dork part.


Paul Rupp said...

Couldn't agree more on Heath. What an underrated piece of the puzzle that is this Steelers team.

Before we put Mewelde back to return any more punts, can we teach him that rule where you can wave your hand in the air and then the other team can't hit you?

Finally, the Steelers are sitting on a gold mine in #14. I know Limas's stock is low right now, but if we can convert him to cornerback we could have an all-time great. That guy can knock down ANYTHING that's thrown his direction.

James Santelli said...

I am absolutely with you on #5. I play music for my high school's basketball and volleyball games, and the first thing you learn is to never play music during play, and never EVER play music when a player is injured.

I was livid that a professional in-game entertainment crew would make such a decision. Have some respect!

In any event...

Here we go Steelers!

(By the way, I believe Simms made the comment in #1 when the score was 13-7. Still doesn't change what a stupid remark it was.)

Brando said...

A few interesting notes about our beloved Steelers vs. the bewildering Cardinals:

1. The Cardinals are the oldest pro team in America. No really. They started in Chicago, moved to St. Louis because they were horrible and the Bears were hogging all the fans, and then moved to Arizona for a stadium.

2. The Cardinals are the second 9-7 team to make the Super Bowl. When one of the tv talking heads mentioned that the other was the 1979 LA Rams, I thought "wow, this is a good sign for our Pittsburgh Steelers", seeing as the Steelers seem to be the AFC's way of swatting down bad NFC teams that make it to the Super Bowl.

3. Big Ben is in second place in playoff wins accrued in his first five years - above Troy Aikman, and below Tom Brady. And people are saying Big Ben isn't a surefire Hall of Famer? Aikman always was, and Brady is - no one disputes either of those guys, but I'm sure some idiot (Bob Smizick is one, apparently, and he's a hometown guy) is going to argue against Roethlisberger. I swear, some people will argue against Big Ben no matter what - once they run out of reasons, they'll argue that his name is too long.

And I think that's it for me for now. Except that somehow, the Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl. I'll never figure that out, and hope that the Steelers figure out good ways to stop them, since they are a good team, and their staff knows us. We should beat them, but you never know . . . anyways, when I think this, I'll remember the LA Rams.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

* Sorry, wrong account


Let me start off by saying that the Pensblog sent me. Loved the recap, and you've officially made it onto my blogroll.. Thanks man.

Great detail about the events. Only thing that got to me was McGahee's injury. I'm glad to see him move a little on-field, but the constant camera-work on Ray Lewis pissed me off. I'm not sure if he was praying for his teammate, crying over the fumble (and loss), or ashamed for the "nasty" hit.

If I'm not mistaken, wasn't the whole "Steelers Bounty" a joke in the Raven's lockerroom, which the NFL and Ravens quietly dismissed? Then you have Mr. Badass himself saying he's going to rip through the Steeler's line one by one.... His player gets hurt, and the drama surrounded him. These guys wanted a hard hitting game, and a hard hitting game they got. Don't act surprised or hurt.

Oh well, that ring can collect another layer of dust.

Here's to McGahee, tho, for a full recovery and finally a chance to get some rest. Week 2's bye was a looooong time ago.


bohica said...

Man, days like today are days I miss The 'Burgh. Oh well, the fact that the super bowl will be played less than a mile from house will have to do.

Go Steelers, Go Pens, Go Panthers, Go Vulcans (gotta rep the alma mater) and what the hell Go Buccos...

Anonymous said...

Steeler Sunday 2009



RedHawks Hockey said...

Paul rupp That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Ben realizes what he has with limas which is why he keeps throwing him the ball after big drops. Limas will be good. Let us not forget the big first down catch he had and the great play in the endzone to break up that pick. Limas reminds me of nate Washington during their super bowl run in 05 and Nate is greatly improving. Like many steelers draft picks (see L timmons and L woodley) they are not drafted to have an immediate impact. Patience.

RedHawks Hockey said...


BurressWithButterflywings said...

I dont have enough words to describe the feeling of doing the "impossible" and beating those Ratbirds 3 times in a season.

There was no facemask on the play where Hines was injured?

Also, Coach T's post game comment on Sweed when asked if he atoned for the drop by making that block and catching that first down:
" I wish he would just catch the ball, then he wouldn't have to atone"..... classic

LeeTunnel said...

Re: the right where the Ravens want them comment - it was at this point that I estimated they had two first downs, I started yelling at the TV, calling Phil Simms a jerk, and my wife promptly left the room.

I haven't had a TV yeller of a game in some time, but this one definitely was.

Steve said...

Now everytime I hear CCR, I'll start to vomit and cry like A Clockwork Orange. "Goin off around the bend..." Seriously, I think they were just trying to lighten the mood a little but maybe they should have played something more appropriate like "Dancing Queen" or "Love Shack". Isn't it ironic that everyone was huddled around McGahee after that hit but there was no sympathy for Roethlisberger by the Browns when he was in the same immobilized situation? Actually, I wonder if Ray-Ray would have been even slightly concerned had it been the Ravens doing...seriously doubt it. I guess it's ok to kill the QB by driving his head into the turf with 300+ lbs of bacon enriched human fat.

I see for the second game in a row, Ike Taylor is still doing his best to keep the other team in games. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or an ex-Steeler coach to see the the Cards will design their whole passing attack around him and with Fitzgerald and Boldin to deal with, it could get ugly.

Are there any rules about players greasing themselves with teflon, graphite, or other super slippery substances? I'm thinking this is the only way Harrison is going to beat all the holds the league officials seems to be content on allowing. I've never seen anything like it and I'm sure the league is also aware and will actually soon modify what defines holding to allow offensive linemen to deal with the otherwise unstoppable forces like Harrison in the future because if they called the holds as they are currently defined, in Harrsions case, there cound and should be a flag on every other play...and a lot of hurting QB's.

Reggie Dunlop said...

nobody mentioned how polamalu got us all the front door cover. thanks, troy! for once, the steelers were the vegas side, as 70% of the bets were on balt. vegas always wins ...

Justin said...

I'm all for giving the refs a hard time about that game, because they deserved it, but the overturned touchdown?

a) It wasn't called a TD on the field, but a catch ending at the 1 yard line.

b) The ball DID come out when he slammed it off the turf and before the play was over.

I really didn't see what the big uproar was about there.

Hooks Orpik said...

"I think it's pretty safe to say that Rod Woodson will go into the Hall of Fame as a Steeler."

Sorry to nitpick, but this isn't baseball, you don't go into the hall as a member of a team.

No doubt that Woodson must identify himself with the Steelers organization a little more though.

Koz said...

NFL pundits can't have it both ways.

Today I'm hearing some (not everyone) criticize Ryan Clark's devastating blow on McGahee as a foul play and leading with the helmet. Skip Bayless (I know, I know) is one who has mentioned players using the helmets as weapons in leading on a tackle.

Yet most of these same people will laud a player for putting his helmet on the ball to create a fumble.

Can't have it both ways. Football is a sport designed around huge men crashing into each other at full speed. Expecting no one to occasionally be seriously hurt is asinine.

Anonymous said...

That block that Sweed laid on Ivy was great but it didn't absolve him for his otherwise horrible play. And that even includes him breaking up that int in the end zone.

Sweed has no focus and the staff has no confidence in him because of it.

joepepitone said...

I don't find the music situation to be that big of a deal.

I think it seems worse when the entire stadium is silent.

...Now the choice of music was definitely questionable.

Steve said...

You're taught in pee-wee to lead with your head when tackling and putting you helmet on the ball. Regardless, it's almost impossible to tackle properly without your head making contact first and if McGahee didn't lower his shoulders and head after the catch to take on the defender, it probably wouldn't have been "helmet to helmet" hit. Both players are responsible for the viciousness of the collision and if Clark try's doing it any other way he probably get's steamrolled there and McGahee get's a lot of yardage after catch.

Besides if Simms didn't bitch and wet his panties about it, I can't see how anyone else could find issue with the hit. Even the Ravens fans who look for any excuse in the would to belittle a Steelers win aren't complaining. They'd rather spend their time demanding an inquisition about music being played during injury time-outs.

Steve said...

It's going to be awesome seeing the Steelers in the SuperBowl that will feature Troy Polamalu redoing the Mean Joe, Coca-Cola commercial.

AJ said...

I don't think the choice to play music during the injury timeout was inappropriate. They selected a few mid-tempo rock songs to add ambient stadium noise to a nationally televised game. It wouldn't surprise me if it was the NFL's decision. It's not like they cranked up the Jock Jams and sent the cheerleaders onto the field (Tennessee Titans)

I can't wait to see how many times they show Kurt Warner's wife in the stands during the Superbowl. I think the over/under is at 8 right now. I hope she wears a feather collared sweater.

Anonymous said...

Why is Bob Smizik still relevant?

I loved how that E-mailer who made it to the air called him out about his vote for Jason White over Larry Fitz.

Smizik said that he didn't forget about Fitz cause he voted him 2nd.

Smizik is a clown.

Dame said...

“can we give it up for the Steeler defense and one Dick Lebeau? The mad scientist was at his best on Sunday, and if he isn't a Hall of Famer someday I think they might as well close the doors of the place.”

Have truer words ever been spoken?

johnny said...


Put me in the camp that Limas will be good as well. As you all recall, Plax had a lackluster rookie campaign, Santonio didn't exactly light the world on fire as well.

He's a big target and I'm not ready to stick a fork in him yet.

Onto other topics, any of you jobbers headed down to Tampa?

Unknown said...

This will sound crazy, but my favorite play of the game was watching Heath block for Santonio 60 freaking yards down the field.

Okay, maybe it was my second favorite play behind Troy's td...

bohica said...

The thing I found remarkable about that play is that Heath Miller lined on the left side of the line, stayed in and blocked, and then once Ben let go of the ball he took off following the play. How he caught up with him, to me, was insane. If you catch the replay from behind the line of scrimmage you can notice it quite clearly.

Also, I live near Ray Jay so if anyone wants to crush brewski's I can point you in the direction of Steeler friendly establishments, or bars in general.

There is pretty much any kind of place you can think of, but be forwarned, if anyone is coming down here to go to Busch Gardens, the hospitality tent will not be giving out free samples after January 25th. Hell, that was the only reason I would go.

bohica said...

Sorry, right side of the line*

johnny said...


I may be rolling into town via Tally if things go well. Definitely drop you a line between now and then if things work out.

Unknown said...

refs sucked.

sweed is killing me.

ben is great.

hines was missed.

parker better find his wheels.

Simms must die.

Troy is a god.

Steelers are going to the Superbowl. Life is great.

Jules said...

I can't stomach Skip Bayless but it is comical the way he loves to bust on Kordell regarding Pittsburgh's love for him. The best was when Kordell said we didn't like Kordell but we loved Slash....ha ha ha!

RPD said...

A few years ago, Rich Eisen asked Woodson which team's ballcap he would wear if the HOF did it like baseball.

He said "Steelers" as if it were obvious, and added that it was because he spent his first ten years there.

The NFL Network guys tease him by calling him "Mister Steeler" because he homes everytime picks come up.