The Steelers, then up 13-7, came close to delivering a dagger in the final minute of the first half. Speedy rookie WR Limas Sweed, left, filling in for injured Hines Ward, burned Ravens third-string CB Evan Oglesby on a stop-and-go route deep down the left sideline. QB Ben Roethlisberger delivered a perfect pass to a wide-open Sweed, who was inside the 10. But Sweed dropped the ball then dropped facefirst to the ground in the end zone, apparently hurt. "You make mistakes sometimes. Everybody is human," Sweed said. "I can't name a wide receiver that ever came into this league that never dropped a ball." The Steelers still had a chance to score, but time ran out with them reaching the Ravens 12.
Hines' helping hands
Steelers WR Hines Wardhurt his right knee in the first quarter, but the gritty veteran had already made an impact. Ward had a 45-yard catch on Pittsburgh's opening drive that helped set up a 34-yard field goal. And on the play Ward got hurt, he came up with an 11-yard catch on third and 10 to the Ravens 24, keeping the drive alive for a 42-yard field goal by K Jeff Reed. Ward, who left the game but returned, said he sprained his knee when his foot got stuck in the turf and he twisted it. He said preliminary tests showed no structural damage, but he'll get an MRI to be sure. "I don't plan on missing (the Super Bowl)," he said. "Don't worry about my knee. It'll be fine."
It was bound to happen sometime. Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco hadn't thrown an interception in two playoff games, partly because of some conservative play-calling. But the Ravens surprisingly came out firing Sunday (seven passes in their first nine plays, many from no-huddle), and Flacco was intercepted by CB Deshea Townsend. The interception, Flacco's first in 99 attempts, led to a 42-yard field goal by Jeff Reed. Steelers S Troy Polamalu picked off Flacco late in the fourth quarter, returning it 40 yards for a touchdown. And S Tyrone Carter sealed the victory on another interception with about a minute left. "I think we confused him a little bit today," Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley said. "We didn't allow him to get out of the pocket too much."
By the numbers
18.2 Passer rating for Ravens rookie Joe Flacco, the lowest of his career. He went 13-of-30 for 141 yards and had three interceptions.
3-13 Ravens' success on third down (23 percent)
Ravens Pro Bowl LB Terrell Suggs, suffering from a sprained right shoulder, kept his ironman streak alive (playing in his 101st straight game). Suggs, wearing a harness, appeared a shell of his former self in the first half. But in the second half, he had two sacks, including one to force a punt with the Ravens down 16-14 and seven minutes left. "It feels like s---," Suggs said of his shoulder. "It probably hurts more 'cause we lost. If I was on the stage, it probably wouldn't hurt so much."
Entering the game, much ado had been made regarding two of the best safeties in the NFL - the Ravens' Ed Reed and Steelers' Troy Polamalu, above. On Sunday, it was Polamalu with the bigger day, picking up an interception that essentially sealed a spot in the Super Bowl. With the Ravens down 16-14 late in the fourth quarter and facing third down, Polamalu stepped in front of a pass from Ravens rookie Joe Flacco for a leaping interception. He scampered from the left side to the right sideline and broke free for a 40-yard touchdown. "I always thought Ed Reed was real good with the ball, but Troy's trying to score with it every time," Steelers WR Hines Ward said. "He's a special player."
"They made the plays. The other teams we played wouldn't make those plays." - Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, on Pittsburgh's defense
"We don't get much of the hype. Our defense has been doing it all year. Almost 16 weeks we had done something no team in NFL history had done, by being No. 1 in all three categories." - Steelers CB Deshea Townsend, on the Ravens getting hype on all their turnovers this season
"I don't really think it's hit me yet, but it feels good to go back again. Most people are lucky to go there once, and now, this will be our second time around." - Steelers LB James Harrison, on returning to the Super Bowl (the Steelers won after the 2005 season)
"It's not what I want to do. I want to make plays, but I definitely don't want to hurt anybody. So I'm gonna try to check on him." - Steelers DB Ryan Clark, on his hit that injured Ravens RB Willis McGahee