Monday, January 19th, 2009, 5:24 pm
The game was over and I sat on the couch sipping a celebratory beer. I never drink during big games–perhaps the most unfortunate of my superstitions. The Steelers had just beaten the hated Ravens to secure a spot in the Super Bowl. The goddam SUPER BOWL. Was I happy? Eh, kinda. I sure was happy when Polamalu picked off Flacco and took it to the house. I was jumping up and down and screaming so loud I felt faint for a sec. Gotta remember to breathe.
I actually didn’t do much breathing during the game, to be honest. I’m usually a severely paranoid pessimist during Steeler playoff games and yesterday was no exception. First there was Holmes’ catch to the goal-line that was reversed–if taking two full steps, diving to the line, and then losing the ball when you hit the ground is an incompletion, then that rule needs to be changed. What a joke. Actually, the officiating as a whole was a joke. In addition to that play there was the usual hugging and mugging of James Harrison that wasn’t called, the late-hit on Roethlisberger that wasn’t called, and then Bryant McFadden’s ludicrous interference call. In the second half it was the Ravens who got shafted–the roughing the punter flag was about as bad a call I’ve seen all year. First of all, the Raven guy didn’t even hit Berger. Second of all, even if he had it probably should’ve been a five-yard penalty. It actually should’ve been an unsportsmanlike on Berger for his dive, but they never call that. The refs also rarely call pass-interference on the offense, and Limas Sweed sure as heck interfered with Frank Walker on that ill-advised pass Roethlisberger threw in the end zone. But they didn’t call it and Jeff Reed booted the FG.
Limas Sweed. That guy should be thankful he didn’t get shanked in the showers after the game. First, he drops a touchdown pass that would’ve really put the Ravens in a hole. That’s the second week in a row he’s dropped a perfectly-thrown pass when he was wide-open. Now, that was bad enough, but he decided to compound his mistake by lying on the field and pretending he was hurt, in an pathetic attempt to get some sympathy from the crowd who was booing him. That cost the Steelers their last time out, and cost us a chip-shot field goal when Moore got tackled at the ten after some really horrible clock-management by the Steelers.
After Baltimore scored it just felt like the last couple of big games the Steelers have lost, where they made stupid mistakes, blew chances for big plays, and lost a game they should’ve won. But this time the Ravens made some horrible mistakes of their own–the special teams personal foul that backed them up to the 15-yard line, and then of course Polamalu’s TD pick.
The play that sealed the game also contributed to the rather somber post-game mood. This was a viciously physical game (I think Peter King of SI said it was the most violent game he’d ever seen) and then at the end Ryan Clark put a hit on Willis McGahee that was like something out of a snuff film. A clean hit, went in with his shoulder, but Jesus Christ. We all went “OHHHH!” and no one even seemed to notice or care that the Steelers recovered a fumble that clinched the game and a Super Bowl berth. I thought the hardest hit I’d ever seen was when Anquan Boldin got hit against the Jets. I really thought there was a chance Boldin had been killed instantly. I thought the same thing when McGahee got hit. Violent game.
I feel more a sense of relief than euphoria. Especially when I’d probably be really, really depressed had the Steelers lost. The emotional equasion doesn’t seem quite equal. It’s a strange feeling to wake up and think that, by the end of the day, you’re either going to be incredibly happy or utterly devastated. Not too many events in life that present that kind of emotional Russian roulette. But that’s the lot of the sports fanatic.
Obviously this was a big win for the Steelers but I think it meant a even a little bit more than just a Super Bowl berth. Beating the Ravens is always, always a big deal. And winning a title game at home is huge for the city. We’d lost our last three AFC title games at home. Only won one home playoff game since Heinz Field opened. And then we beat the Chargers and come back and close the deal on our own field. Everyone was feeling a bit jinxed, that what should be a sizeable home-field advantage really wasn’t.
I had to stay up to follow the progress of UB’s Online Championship event, which ran until 5:15am. I, alas, was not awake to see the bitter end. I was running on empty and around 3am I decided to “rest my eyes” a bit, and didn’t wake until after dawn. Can’t imagine how the players feel after, y’know, actually playing the game. When you think about the physical trauma NFL players endure, and how that must affect them the rest of their lives…pay those guys their money. They earn it.
It doesn’t really feel like we’re in the Super Bowl. Heck, I’m having trouble remembering what number game this is (43, right?). I think a lot Steeler fans didn’t think we could get there with this offensive line, with no consistent running game. Now we have to beat the Arizona Cardinals…hard to generate the same kind of mass hatred that comes so easily with the Ravens. I’m glad the Steelers get two weeks to heal and prepare, and I’m glad I get a week where I don’t traumatize my nervous system.
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