PITTSBURGH PA - Troy Polamalu has won three AFC Championship games with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but none bigger than the one in 2009, when he returned a Joe Flacco interception 29 yards for the game-clinching touchdown. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
If someone approached you in a bar and said, "give me your 10 best Steelers highlights of all time," you'd probably sit for a second in thought, order another beer and list off a few dozen qualifiers.
Then you'd spend half the night debating which one was the best.
Items making a great highlight include magnitude of the moment, skill of the player, elegance on the field and historical worthiness.
For me, the best Steelers highlight to encapsulate all of those things was SS Troy Polamalu's interception of Ravens QB Joe Flacco in the 2008 AFC Championship game, and subsequent touchdown return, sealing the trip to Super Bowl XLIII.
Rarely do we see such a great play made in such a huge moment by such an incredible player. And I don't think I've ever gone as crazy as I did when it happened.
Baltimore had the ball at their 29-yard line, down 16-14, with 4:42 remaining in the game. Steelers OLB LaMarr Woodley had just picked up his second sack of the game, forcing the third-and-long situation.
I can still hear Jim Nantz's voice as if it had just happened.
"Third and thirteen...gotta make it to the 42 for a first....PICKED off POLAMALU...Polamalu going right! The field is open! Aaron Smith shields FLACCO-POLAMALU TAKES IT HOME! SUPER BOWL FORTY THREE, Pittsburgh might be bound for that thanks to number forty three!"
One great thing about this highlight is how truly team-oriented it was. The Steelers had two down linemen, and at the snap, OLB James Harrison stunted to the offensive left side. He makes contact with LT Jared Gaither (who gave up Woodley's sack the play before), pushing him off-balance to the outside. Harrison comes inside, and is hitting Flacco just as he's throwing.
For as great a play it is by Polamalu, it doesn't happen without Harrison.
After Polamalu's catch, immediately, FS Ryan Clark hustles ahead to block TE Todd Heap. As Polamalu reverses his field back to his right, CB William Gay blocks WR Mark Clayton. Shortly after that, CB Ike Taylor blocks RB Willis McGahee, springing Polamalu down the sideline.
Aaron Smith, hustling the entire way, gets to Flacco, who forced Polamalu to come back inside. Polamalu slipped right off Smith's block, and into the end zone.
Polamalu Interception vs. Flacco and the Ravens 1-18-09 (via 55Porter)
This night was particularly special for me. Probably the best football game I've ever seen. Plus, the NHL All Star game was in Montreal that weekend, so the Los Angeles Kings, who had a game with the Wild scheduled that following Tuesday, made the trip to St. Paul instead of heading back to Los Angeles for the break.
Our Steelers bar, McGoverns, is across the street from XCel Energy Center, and with nothing but time on their hands, they found their way into the Steelers party.
After the win, and for most of the night, we stayed up with the likely 2012 Stanley Cup Champions, drinking, uh, water and Tang, celebrating the win (I don't think Anze Kopitar knew what football was, but he was having fun).
When I think of Steelers memories, I think of that game. When I think of great Steelers highlights, of the myriad amount there are, this one is No. 1 for me. Of course, some will disagree, and while I have my list of honorable mentions, let the community know which ones you feel are the most memorable and why.