PITTSBURGH PA - JANUARY 23: Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after they stopped the New York Jets on the goal line on the fourth down in the fourth quarter of the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Just the other day on BTSC, Neal Coolong wrote this awesome piece that chronicled the Steelers epic clash with the hated Ravens in the 2008 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field. The most significant moment from that game was Troy Polamalu's 40 yard pick-six that secured a trip to Super Bowl XLIII.
Here's an excerpt from Neal's article:
Yes sir, it truly was a special moment, and something I'll never forget. Only problem is, I didn't actually see the play live. "But why?" you make be asking yourself. After all, I'm one of the biggest Steelers fans there is. I cry when they win, and I cry when they lose.
What could have prevented me from witnessing such a special moment? Was I working? Was I somewhere delivering a baby? Was I defending the Universe from the evil forces of darkness? No on all counts. I was in my apartment all by myself, and my cable was working just fine.
If you must know, the moment was just too big for me, and I wussed out.
Actually, the entire 2008 postseason was too big for me. This whole wussing out thing started a week earlier when the Steelers defeated the Chargers, 35-24, in the Divisional round.
I was actually on my way home from work at the beginning of that game, and I didn't want to put my car radio on as I was driving because I wanted to avoid any potential sudden jerks of my wheel. The playoffs are intense, and you can't be distracted while traveling at a high speed on I-79.
Anyway, just as I pulled into my parking spot in front of my apartment building, my girlfriend at the time texted this: "It's 7-0, honey." I said, "7-0, who?" She replied, "San Diego."
For whatever reason, this spooked me. The Chargers had given the Steelers all they could handle in their regular season matchup earlier in the year, and even though San Diego was 8-8, they came into the postseason on a pretty impressive winning-streak and had just knocked off the Colts in the Wild Card round a week earlier.
Instead of the Steelers taking care of business early, they were behind by a touchdown before I could even make it into my apartment.
In order to not drag this portion of the story out too much, I'll just say that I missed every significant moment of the first half. Instead of watching it like a real man, I turned my television off and paced back and forth in my apartment, only checking in to get updates from the CBS crew every 10 minutes or so.
I did watch the second half, mainly because I had a bowling match, and I had no choice--every television set at the alley was obviously tuned into the game.
Fortunately, the Steelers pulled away in the last two quarters, and it wasn't too nerve-wracking for me.
I hadn't planned on using the same wussy tactics for the Baltimore game, but like any other game plan, I knew I could always go back to that "defense" if I really had to.
Thankfully, the first half of the AFC Championship match-up pretty much went Pittsburgh's way as they controlled most of the action. Unfortunately, thanks in part to the bs ruling on a Santonio Holmes "drop" in the first quarter and the infamous drop for reals by a wide-open Limas Sweed near the end of the first half, the Steelers were only ahead, 13-7, at the break.
This scared the living daylights out of me. The thought of Ray Lewis and Co. parading around Heinz Field with the Lamar Hunt trophy was just too much for me to stomach. The Ravens had the Steelers right where they wanted them. They had taken Pittsburgh's biggest body blows, and they were still in the game.
This is when I chickened out and decided to employ the wussy strategy from the first half of the San Diego game a week earlier.
I checked in for updates periodically in the second half, like near the end of the third quarter when I learned that the Steelers were now up, 16-7, thanks to a 46 yard Jeff Reed field goal. This made me feel a bit better. I mean, let's face it, the Ravens have never been known for their explosive offense, and they certainly weren't in 2008 with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco at the helm.
Forget Troy's heroics, I didn't even see any of the significant moments of the second half that led up to it. I didn't know that a shanked punt by Mitch Berger and a pass interference call on Ike Taylor had set up a short Willis McGahee touchdown run that brought the Ravens within two-points with 9:29 to go. Instead, I was in the dark in my little Crafton apartment, just hoping for the best. I even managed to take a shower during this time. Why? Beats me (someone should have).
When I turned the television on with 6:50 left to go and saw that the score was now 16-14, and that the Ravens were set to begin a drive that could lead them straight to the gates of Super Bowl XLIII, my heart sank.
This was Ravens football. You just couldn't put them away. It didn't matter how ugly things got or how bad they played early on, they just had a way of hanging around and pulling out games late. As Lewis shouted right as this drive was about to begin: "Joe Flacco is going to become a star today. Why? Because the defense stood up!"
This is when I really went into panic mode. Had you seen me at that point, you would have had me committed.
I continued to pace back and forth in my darkened Crafton apartment. Every single part of my body was shaking and twitching. I was sweating. I was damn-near crying. I just knew that Joe Flacco was going to lead the Ravens to an AFC-clinching field goal in the final seconds. This was going to be my biggest nightmare since the 1994 AFC Championship game.
After about five minutes of this pathetic behavior, I was just about to rush over and turn my television back on when I heard shouts of joy coming from other dwellings of my apartment building. This had to be a good thing.
I turned on my television just in time to see Heinz Field rocking like it never had before.
Troy had done it! He had just created one of the most lasting memories in Steelers history.
Neal Coolong saw it live in a bar in Minnesota, and he and other transplant Steelers fans celebrated as if they were right there at Heinz Field. As for me? I was literally 10 minutes away from Heinz Field, all alone in my apartment, and I missed it because I had my head buried in the sand, just hoping that everything would turn out OK.
Since that night, I've watched the Youtube highlights of Troy's awesome play thousands of times. But there is nothing like seeing a play like that live.....unless you're a wuss.
And I call myself a Steelers fan.