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NorthCoast
01-19-2009, 08:42 PM
McMANAMON: Polamalu is reason Steelers are going to Super Bowl
By Patrick McManamon
Beacon Journal sports writer

POSTED: 11:20 p.m. EST, Jan 18, 2009

PITTSBURGH: The Pittsburgh Steelers tried to drop their chance at the Super Bowl in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.

They almost did.

But the one guy who didn't drop his opportunity plays defense for the Steelers.

Troy Polamalu intercepted a third-down Joe Flacco pass and returned it 40 yards to give the Steelers the clinching touchdown in a 23-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

And it gave the Steelers a berth in the Super Bowl.

Where, yes, they will play the Arizona Cardinals.

Want to bet against them?

Cleveland fans love to hate Pittsburgh, but the reality is the city down the turnpike has a winning team and a winning coach and a winning culture and winning players who come up with winning plays when it is time to win games.

Polamalu's interception and touchdown will be remembered most of all.

But there were other plays.

One defied all logic and belief. It took place in the first half, when the Ravens went for a first down on fourth-and-1.

Flacco ran a quarterback sneak and was stopped by Polamalu, who timed the snap, dived over two Baltimore linemen and wrestled the Ravens quarterback to the ground.

This was a safety, mind you, who stopped a quarterback sneak.

It would take some research to find the last time this happened.

But that's Polamalu. He roams. He plays hard. He plays clean. He does everything a football player should do. And he does it the right way.

He came up with so many plays for the Steelers' defense, it was hard to keep track.

When Baltimore faked a run to the right and had Flacco run left, Polamalu treated it like a joke. He stopped Flacco for a loss of 8.

Two plays later on third down, he broke up a pass to force a punt.

On Baltimore's next possession, Flacco found Todd Heap for a short completion on third-and-7. If Heap breaks a tackle, he makes the first down.

Polamalu did not let him break the tackle. He stopped Heap cold.

Then came the fourth quarter. Baltimore had just scored to cut a Pittsburgh lead to two. The Ravens had the ball with a chance to drive and pull off an amazing upset.

On third-and-13, Flacco threw toward Derrick Mason, who looked open.

But Polamalu crossed right to left, reached up and snagged the ball.

This was significant in itself.

In the first quarter, Willie Parker had dropped a potential touchdown and Santonio Holmes could not hang onto the ball as he crossed the goal line after catching a pass.

In the second quarter, Limas Sweed dropped a sure touchdown and Holmes could not catch a ball thrown slightly behind him that would have been a big gain.

Polamalu did not drop his chance. He snatched it, then snaked across the field for the 40-yard touchdown that put the Steelers within reach of another Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Polamalu had help, of course.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 255 yards on a day when the Steelers could not run at all. He also came up with several big third-down throws that set up scores.

In the first half, Roethlisberger ran around long enough to find Holmes, who managed to catch that throw and then scamper across the field to the Steelers' first touchdown.

In the second half, Roethlisberger turned a second-and-24 into a first down and 30-yard gain on a pass to Heath Miller. That pass and catch set up a field goal that gave Pittsburgh a 16-7 lead.

On Pittsburgh's first possession, Roethlisberger timed a throw perfectly to Hines Ward, who caught the ball just in front of Ed Reed, spun and gained 45 yards to set up the Steelers' first field goal.

Had his receivers hung onto his throws, the Steelers could have won going away and Roethlisberger would have been the star.

But because they didn't, someone had to pick up the team. Someone had to come through when things got a little nervous for the home crowd.

That someone was Polamalu.

Pittsburgh's last appearance in the Super Bowl was in 2006. At that game, Polamalu was among the most impressive of all the players during the media barrage leading up to the game.

Not for his hair, but for his humility, graciousness and attitude.

People were asking: Can a guy this good be this polite, this nice, this. . .good?

He is.

The guy comes to play on every play, be it a sneak or a third-down pass or a throw to the tight end in the flat or a throw to a receiver down the field.

It's because of him that Tampa will turn black and gold in a couple of weeks, and because of him that the Steelers have yet one more chance to be the NFL's best.

PITTSBURGH: The Pittsburgh Steelers tried to drop their chance at the Super Bowl in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.

They almost did.

But the one guy who didn't drop his opportunity plays defense for the Steelers.

Troy Polamalu intercepted a third-down Joe Flacco pass and returned it 40 yards to give the Steelers the clinching touchdown in a 23-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

And it gave the Steelers a berth in the Super Bowl.

Where, yes, they will play the Arizona Cardinals.

Want to bet against them?

Cleveland fans love to hate Pittsburgh, but the reality is the city down the turnpike has a winning team and a winning coach and a winning culture and winning players who come up with winning plays when it is time to win games.

Polamalu's interception and touchdown will be remembered most of all.

But there were other plays.

One defied all logic and belief. It took place in the first half, when the Ravens went for a first down on fourth-and-1.

Flacco ran a quarterback sneak and was stopped by Polamalu, who timed the snap, dived over two Baltimore linemen and wrestled the Ravens quarterback to the ground.

This was a safety, mind you, who stopped a quarterback sneak.

It would take some research to find the last time this happened.

But that's Polamalu. He roams. He plays hard. He plays clean. He does everything a football player should do. And he does it the right way.

He came up with so many plays for the Steelers' defense, it was hard to keep track.

When Baltimore faked a run to the right and had Flacco run left, Polamalu treated it like a joke. He stopped Flacco for a loss of 8.

Two plays later on third down, he broke up a pass to force a punt.

On Baltimore's next possession, Flacco found Todd Heap for a short completion on third-and-7. If Heap breaks a tackle, he makes the first down.

Polamalu did not let him break the tackle. He stopped Heap cold.

Then came the fourth quarter. Baltimore had just scored to cut a Pittsburgh lead to two. The Ravens had the ball with a chance to drive and pull off an amazing upset.

On third-and-13, Flacco threw toward Derrick Mason, who looked open.

But Polamalu crossed right to left, reached up and snagged the ball.

This was significant in itself.

In the first quarter, Willie Parker had dropped a potential touchdown and Santonio Holmes could not hang onto the ball as he crossed the goal line after catching a pass.

In the second quarter, Limas Sweed dropped a sure touchdown and Holmes could not catch a ball thrown slightly behind him that would have been a big gain.

Polamalu did not drop his chance. He snatched it, then snaked across the field for the 40-yard touchdown that put the Steelers within reach of another Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Polamalu had help, of course.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 255 yards on a day when the Steelers could not run at all. He also came up with several big third-down throws that set up scores.

In the first half, Roethlisberger ran around long enough to find Holmes, who managed to catch that throw and then scamper across the field to the Steelers' first touchdown.

In the second half, Roethlisberger turned a second-and-24 into a first down and 30-yard gain on a pass to Heath Miller. That pass and catch set up a field goal that gave Pittsburgh a 16-7 lead.

On Pittsburgh's first possession, Roethlisberger timed a throw perfectly to Hines Ward, who caught the ball just in front of Ed Reed, spun and gained 45 yards to set up the Steelers' first field goal.

Had his receivers hung onto his throws, the Steelers could have won going away and Roethlisberger would have been the star.

But because they didn't, someone had to pick up the team. Someone had to come through when things got a little nervous for the home crowd.

That someone was Polamalu.

Pittsburgh's last appearance in the Super Bowl was in 2006. At that game, Polamalu was among the most impressive of all the players during the media barrage leading up to the game.

Not for his hair, but for his humility, graciousness and attitude.

People were asking: Can a guy this good be this polite, this nice, this. . .good?

He is.

The guy comes to play on every play, be it a sneak or a third-down pass or a throw to the tight end in the flat or a throw to a receiver down the field.

It's because of him that Tampa will turn black and gold in a couple of weeks, and because of him that the Steelers have yet one more chance to be the NFL's best.

http://www.ohio.com/sports/37805699.html

The more I read McManamon in the local rag the more I think he would be a great beat writer for the Steelers. And I bet he would jump at the chance if he could....
Maybe we can swap Bouchette?