Final

Ravens 14

(11-5, 5-3 away)

Steelers 23

(12-4, 6-2 home)

Coverage: CBS

6:30 PM ET, January 18, 2009

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA 

1 2 3 4 T
BAL 0 7 0 714
PIT 6 7 3 723

Top Performers

Passing: B. Roethlisberger (PIT) - 255 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: W. McGahee (BAL) - 20 CAR, 60 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: S. Holmes (PIT) - 2 REC, 70 YDS, 1 TD

Polamalu's INT return secures Steelers' Super Bowl berth

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Tough and mean, like the original Steel Curtain.

Fast Facts

• The Steelers advanced to their second Super Bowl in the last four seasons and the seventh in team history (only the Cowboys have been to more with eight), holding Baltimore to just 198 yards of total offense.

• Including the playoffs, the Steelers have won eight of their last nine home games against the Ravens.

• Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco finished with 141 passing yards, three interceptions and an 18.2 passer rating, the lowest in a title game since Daunte Culpepper's 13.7 passer rating in the 2000 NFC Championship Game against the Giants.

• Ben Roethlisberger finished with 255 passing yards and touchdown toss as he improved to 7-2 in the postseason. His seventh win passed Troy Aikman for the second-most playoff wins by a quarterback in his first five NFL seasons.

• Both of the Ravens' road postseason losses in their history have come in Pittsburgh (2001 and Sunday).

-- ESPN research

• AFC North blog

These Pittsburgh Steelers delivered too many hard hits and their quarterback was steady enough to outplay the kid and the rest of the Baltimore Ravens.

With Troy Polamalu ending any chance Baltimore had for a comeback with a 40-yard interception return, the Steelers bullied their rivals 23-14 on Sunday to reach their seventh Super Bowl.

"It was a typical, hard-hitting, physical game. It's the way every Baltimore-Pittsburgh game is," said Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, who missed most of the game with a knee injury. "Sometimes guys get hit so hard, you don't know if they're going to get up. They say defense wins championships, well, we have the No. 1 defense. And they're the reason why we're really going to the Super Bowl."

Next, Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh will play the Arizona Cardinals in two weeks in Tampa.

Simply The Best

The Pittsburgh Steelers are headed to their seventh Super Bowl, the second most appearances by a franchise behind the Cowboys (8). An XLIII victory over the Cardinals in Tampa Bay would give them six titles, breaking a tie with the Cowboys and 49ers (5) for the most in league history.

Most Super Bowl
Appearances, Team
Team Appearances Record
Cowboys 8 5-3
Steelers 7 5-1
Broncos 6 2-4
Patriots 6 3-3

After beating Baltimore for the third time, the Steelers set up an intriguing matchup -- Mike Tomlin vs. the Cardinals' Ken Whisenhunt, the offensive coordinator when the Steelers won the Super Bowl three seasons ago who went to Arizona after being passed over for Pittsburgh's job.

Whisenhunt and his top assistant, Russ Grimm, left after the Steelers unexpectedly hired Tomlin, who has done something even Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher couldn't do by taking Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl in his second season.

The Steelers harassed Joe Flacco all game long as he tried to become the first rookie quarterback to take a team to the Super Bowl. Normally unflappable, he looked lost at times and finished 13-for-30 for 141 yards and three costly interceptions.

Instead, Pittsburgh ended its home-field jinx in AFC Championship Games.

"It's always that way," said Roethlisberger, who took a vicious shot to his shoulder in the first half. "This is always a 12-round slugfest. We always go at it. It's always violent from start to finish. I was ready when I took a knee at the end, you never know when somebody is going to fire off the ball."

Roethlisberger, picked off four times by New England in his rookie-year AFC title game, was a workmanlike 16-of-33 for 255 yards and, most importantly, no interceptions. If nothing else, it showed how much experience mattered in a game so important.

Pittsburgh Steelers Baltimore Ravens

NFL.com Video

Watch highlights from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 23-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

"Here's my advice to the Arizona Cardinals: Don't rush Ben Roethlisberger," the Ravens' Trevor Pryce said. "After that, he's a playground football player. That's what he is, and he's a damn good one."

Roethlisberger would laugh at that analogy -- he said the Steelers' big play of the game, a 65-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes that made it 13-0, was an improvised play "just like on the playground."

After Polamalu's twisting, turning run sealed it with 4:39 to play, the game was held up when Willis McGahee, who scored both Baltimore touchdowns, was carted off the field following a frightening hit to the helmet by Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark.

The Ravens said he had "significant neck pain," but movement in his arms and legs.

Only the Steelers, 49ers and Cowboys have won five Super Bowls, and Pittsburgh can be the first to win six. If the Steelers beat Arizona, the 36-year-old Tomlin would be the youngest coach to win an NFL championship.

"They did it tonight the way we've done it all year," Tomlin said. "We've got a very humble group, a very selfless group."

AFC Championship: McGahee injury

NFL.com Video

Ravens RB Willis McGahee takes a scary hit from Ryan Clark in the AFC Championship Game.

Earlier in the day, before Whisenhunt knew the outcome of the Steelers-Ravens game, he said he wanted to match up against Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.

"I mean, I'm glad we're playing in it, but the reason I'm here is because of my time with Pittsburgh," Whisenhunt said, "and I am very grateful for that."

The Steelers proved it is possible to beat a good team three times in a season, and will now face a team they share a history with. They were merged as Card-Pitt during World War II in 1944 when the Cardinals were in Chicago and went 0-10, the only winless team in Steelers history.

Steelers owner Dan Rooney recalls them being nicknamed the Car-Pitts "because everybody walked all over us."

Nobody walks over these Steelers, a hard-hitting, tough-guy team with the NFL's best defense, at least statistically, in nearly 20 years. The unit is a worthy descendant of the Steel Curtain teams of the 1970s that virtually defined the way defense is supposed to be played.

Curtain Call

The Steelers defense has been a nightmare for Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense all season. In three contests between the AFC North foes this season, Flacco has seen his passer rating nosedive, ending with an 18.2 performance in Sunday's AFC Championship Game. Here's the look:

Baltimore Ravens vs.
Steelers This Season
Week 4 Week 15 Sunday
Points 20 9 14
1st Downs 16 12 13
Yards 243 202 198
Flacco rating 81.7 22.2 18.2

They spent the game pressuring Flacco, who was outplayed as badly as Roethlisberger was by the Patriots' Tom Brady in his first AFC title game four years ago, and the mismatch at QB may have made the difference.

Down 16-14, Flacco tried to rally the Ravens in the closing minutes. That's when Polamalu stepped in.

"I think Troy was probably just able to read my eyes," Flacco said. "I think he was just able to jump over there, read a little bit and he made a nice play."

Said Roethlisberger: "He went against the No. 1 defense in the world."

Ravens teammate Terrell Suggs said, "I don't think he struggled. They just made plays. When you got a defense that can make plays like that, I don't think he was placing the ball where he wanted to but this was just their night."

Still, Roethlisberger cautioned, "You can't make mistakes and win a big game."

Maybe it helped that the two athletes largely responsible for Pittsburgh's last two major sports championships -- former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis and Penguins co-owner and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux -- were among the record crowd of 65,350 in Heinz Field.

The franchise, for all of the success it has enjoyed while playing in a record-tying 14 AFC title games, had lost an unprecedented four of its five most recent conference championship games in Pittsburgh. The run of losses almost made the Steelers glad to go on the road for the entire Super Bowl run-up to their last title.

The Ravens and Steelers own the NFL's nastiest ongoing rivalry. This game was expected to be low-scoring, physical and tense and it was, especially after Baltimore came back from an early 13-0 deficit to get to within 16-14 on McGahee's second short touchdown run of the game, a 1-yarder with 9:32 remaining.

"We were up 13-0 and then we're up 13-7 then we're up 13-whatever, it was like, 'Man, this game is going slow,'" the Steelers' Deshea Townsend said. "But then Troy steps up and makes a huge play and kind of seals the game for us."

Another such play -- Roethlisberger's 45-yard completion to Hines Ward on third-and-12 play -- led to the first of Jeff Reed's field goals, a 34-yarder, in the first quarter.

On the Ravens' second possession, Flacco made the kind of mistake he didn't make in playoff wins over the Dolphins and top-seeded Titans, throwing the ball into the hands of nickel back Townsend for the rookie's first interception in 98 passes. Ward kept the ensuing Steelers drive going with an 11-yard catch on third-and-10, leading to Reed's 42-yard field goal, but hurt his knee while landing.

Now, the Steelers can't wait to see some old friends.

"We got our old coaches. We all won a Super Bowl here with the Steelers together," linebacker James Farrior said. "I'm sure they're going to be coming after us to get this one."

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
BAL
PIT
1st Downs1311
Passing 1st downs
69
Rushing 1st downs
51
1st downs from penalties
21
3rd down efficiency
3-137-18
4th down efficiency
0-10-0
Total Plays5865
Total Yards198275
Yards per play3.44.2
Total Drives1414
Passing125223
Comp-Att
13-3016-33
Yards per pass
3.86.0
Interceptions thrown
30
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-164-32
Rushing7352
Rushing Attempts
2528
Yards per rush
2.91.9
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-20-1
Penalties6-536-67
Turnovers41
Fumbles lost
11
Interceptions thrown
30
Defensive / Special Teams TDs01
Possession26:5133:09

Passing Leaders

BALC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Flacco13/301414.7033-16
PITC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Roethlisberger16/332557.7104-32

Rushing Leaders

BALCARYDSAVGTDLG
McGahee20603.0214
Clayton11616.0016
PITCARYDSAVGTDLG
Parker24472.007
Moore166.006

Receiving Leaders

BALRECYDSAVGTDLG
Rice34314.3022
Mason34113.7016
PITRECYDSAVGTDLG
Holmes27035.0165
Miller36220.7030

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERBALPIT
pitFG11:22Jeff Reed 34 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 7 plays, 55 yds, 3:32
03
pitFG6:11Jeff Reed 42 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 7 plays, 11 yds, 1:11
06
SECOND QUARTERBALPIT
pitTD13:58Santonio Holmes 65 Yard Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Jeff Reed Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 66 yds, 1:02
013
balTD2:40Willis McGahee 3 Yard Run (Matt Stover Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 4 yds, 0:57
713
THIRD QUARTERBALPIT
pitFG3:38Jeff Reed 46 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 11 plays, 46 yds, 5:29
716
FOURTH QUARTERBALPIT
balTD9:29Willis McGahee 1 Yard Run (Matt Stover Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 48 yds, 3:09
1416
pit4:24
Drive info: 4 plays, 25 yds, 2:26
1423