Tag:AFC Champions
Posted on: January 20, 2009 5:25 am

Waiting to Exhale

Can I breath yet?  It seems like all season I’ve been holding my breath, waiting for the shoe to drop.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew the Steelers would be to this point, going to the Superbowl, I even blogged my homer picks prior to the season starting calling for a Steelers/Cowboys Superbowl.  Okay, so I was half right.  I also predicted the Cardinals to make it to the playoffs, just never saw them getting this far, but I’m not surprised. 

But yes, despite my beliefs, I held my breath and would do nothing to upset the balance.  I stuck to my rituals, as if somehow changing them would jinx the Steelers.  Do I have that much impact on the Steelers, not really, but it should be noted on the day of the big loss to the Titans, I had done none of my rituals, and come game time, wasn’t even wearing the jersey. 

So going into this past Sunday, for the AFC Championship at Heinz Field, a place where the Steelers, as favorites, had lost twice before, there was nothing I was going to do to even tempt the fates.  That morning I donned my AFC North Division Champions t-shirt, something I had picked up on my last trip to the ‘Burgh, and went about my normal routine.  I stayed away from the smack talk on the boards, well, almost.  I did predict that Jim Harbaugh would enjoy coaching the AFC in the Pro-Bowl.  Come game time, I donned my #7 Roethlisberger jersey (which my husband bought for me after #36 retired) and parked my carcass in front of the tv, clutching my Terrible Towel.  Only leaving the couch come commercial breaks, not wanting to miss a thing.

Not that my rituals would have changed the outcome of the game, however, it seemed fitting for this season to stick to rituals, since, well, we’ve seen the Steelers overcome jinxes, curses and shaken monkeys for most of the season to get to that point on Sunday.  Now they were playing at home, to get to the big game and the hope of the third time being a charm.  Of course, the Ravens went into Pittsburgh hoping that their third time would be a charm also. 

By now, we know the outcome of the game.  The charm was for the Steelers.  The Ravens magical season came to an end, basically in the same fashion that another rookie quarterbacks first magical season ended, to a veteran quarterback and a defense that took advantage of mistakes and miscues.  Not that Joe Flacco made a lot of mistakes, two interceptions were good reads by Steelers defenders.  But the reality was that Flacco’s inexperience and the inability to move the ball down the field against the Steelers defense didn’t exactly help keep an already battered and bruised Ravens defense off the field.

Some will point to a personal foul in the fourth quarter during a return as the changing point for Baltimore, at least taking away the Ravens momentum, perhaps, but if that’s the case, there were more mental errors done by the Steelers that day.  The only scores from the Ravens were due to two pass interference calls that put the ball close to the goal for two rushing touchdowns. 

Mental errors, we’ve seen a lot of that this season.  I’ve lost count of how many big plays and touchdowns were called back due to penalties this season.  Teams make them.  Steelers were no different.  Of course, there were missed opportunities also, dropped passes by veteran receivers, not to mention one big one from a rookie.  But rookies make mistakes (hopefully Limas Sweed is a quick learner).  No doubt, this game wasn’t different.  The Steelers just overcame them, the Ravens, weren’t able to. 

As like any game between the Ravens and the Steelers, there would be bodies taken off the battlefield.  One wouldn’t expect anything different in this game.  In the first matchup, the first kickoff of the game, Steelers linebacker and special teams player, Andre Frazier would be carted off the field.  Steelers rookie running back, Rashard Mendenhall would suffer a broken shoulder incurred with his collision with a mac truck known as Ray Lewis, Steelers running back Carey Davis and Ravens running back Willis McGahee would also leave the game.  So there was no surprise that we’d see hard hits in this game.  Steelers would lose their star receiver Hines Ward to a knee injury and the stadium held it’s breath after seeing both Willis McGahee and Ryan Clark laying motionless on the ground after the two trains collided.  Clark is probably no longer seeing the little birdies circling his head and reports out of Pittsburgh and Baltimore expect McGahee to make a full recovery. 

The Steelers accomplished two of their three goals that night when they hoisted up the Lamar Hunt Trophy for the AFC Championship.  Despite the win, hopefully the Steelers aren’t breathing easy yet, their most difficult challenge is yet to come. 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com