Let me open about the AFC Championship game by saying that I do hope Willis McGahee is ok, my prayers go out to him and his family.Â That was a tough hit, but not unexpected in a game between the Ravens and Steelers.
So, how do you win BIG games?Â Ten yards at a time.Â You grind it out, first down after first down.
I’ll say this now, though the only person I said it out loud to BEFORE the game was my brother, I really did think the Steelers would beat the Ravens yesterdayhandily and without controversy .Â I did not think it would be close as it wasduring the regular season, primarily because the Steelers are healthy and had really looked good post-season.
So, what pushed the Steelers over the top yesterday?Â Big plays when big plays were needed.
You can always count on the Steelers to rally together when they need to, that’s for sure.Â Like I always say, there are no divas on this team, it’s all about winning, whether it’s pretty or not is irrelevant, it’s the W next to your team’s name.Â Steelers are all grit and no glitz.
Coach Tomlin said it best, ” We have a special group in there; guys that play for each other and don’t want to let one another down.”
That’s why there are other NFL teams with great talent (ahem, Dallas) that don’t make it to the Super Bowl.Â It’s teamwork that gets you to win big games, not divas.
Santonio sums it up like this, “We’re a team. There’s no offense, there’s no defense, there’s no special teams. We’re one. We’ve been saying for a couple of weeks now that we’re a band of brothers. We want to fight for each other. We let nothing come between us. No adversity, nothing.”
The Road to XLIII
When you hear about great NFL QB’s it’s always Tom Brady and the Manning brothers, yet Ben played his third AFC Championship in 5 years yesterday and he’s already got a Super Bowl ring, on the way to the second.Â Maybe Steelers games aren’t pretty, but his arm gets us where we need to go when we need to get there.Â Or better yet, he doesn’t lose games for us when the defense is winning them for us.Â This season, how many times have we come from behind and won in the last few minutes of the game all based on Ben’s hurry up offense?
In the post-game press conference, Coach Tomlin said “Ben is a special guy; he is at his best in the midst of the most difficult adversity; in other years and in this year. Such was the case today. He recognized the magnitude of the game, and he did what his team needed him to do. He was very efficient and made great decisions. He was a special guy for us.”
I just think he’s underrated, like the whole team is at times.Â Ben threw yesterday 16 of 33 for 255 yards and 1 TD, not outstanding, but respectable.Â Most of the game he was without playmaker Hines Ward (please Hines, hope your knee is better for the Super Bowl!!).Â Desite only playing the first quarter, Hines had 3 catches for 55 yards and that last play where he was tackled by Frank Walker was a big first down that set up a field goal.
And you have to admit that Big Ben scramble to Santonio which resulted in a 65 yard TD pass wasn’t pretty but it sure worked.Â It showed how Ben can extend the play and how athletic Santonio is.
Ben said, “I don’t even remember what play was called. I remember scrambling left and looking back to see if anyone was coming and no one was. I stepped up and was really getting ready to throw it away. I knew Santonio was over there, I was going to throw it over his head and at the last minute the guy’s back was turned and I just threw it where he could make a play. When you get him the ball, he’ll do the rest.”
Now, the Steelers definitely need to get Limas Sweed up to speed, really, no more dropped TD catches Limas!!!Â Especially if Hines’ injury is more serious than it looks and he won’t be able to play in the Super Bowl (cross your fingers that isn’t the case!)
But being a team player, here’s what Ben said, “Limas (Sweed) obviously is going to talk about the drop. I told him, just trust yourself. Know you’re going to make the play next time. I’m going to come right back to you if I have to. So I think he got his confidence back, but we’ll keep working.”
The defense again really stepped up in this game.Â Big plays by Deshea Townsend and Troy Polamalu really sealed the win for the Steelers.
So in summary, it really is possible to beat a team three times in a season if you are the better team.Â There were no controversial plays at the last minute.Â The Steelers won this game.Â Was it an inexperienced QB?Â Maybe, or maybe it was just the better team won.Â Can’t it really just be that simple?
There are a lot of moving parts in a football game, I don’t think a win or loss is due to any one person.Â The Steelers did give up a lot of field position on bad punts and penalties.Â Quite frankly, the score should have been a little higher for the Steelers if you take out the penalites and plays that were called back.
This rivalry isn’t going anywhere, the Ravens will be a team we have to contend with for a long time and as always, you will get a hard-hitting, nasty physical game.Â If you love defense, like I do, you will not be disappointed.
I’m looking forward to Super Bowl XLIII and hopefully what will be Mike Tomlin’s first Super Bowl win (and youngest coach to do so) as well as the Steelers #6 Super Bowl win, the first in the NFL to make that mark.