Steelers, Cardinals advance to Super Bowl
DAVE GOLDBERG | 1/19/2009, 11:26 a.m.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Arizona and Pittsburgh will play a historic Super Bowl in Tampa in two weeks: a team with a history as bad as any in the NFL against one that will try to win a record sixth title. Pittsburgh opens as a 6 1/2-point favorite. The Steelers topped the Baltimore Ravens 23-14 on Sun. Jan. 18 after the Arizona Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25.
In typical Steel Curtain fashion, the Steelers defense stifled Baltimore and intercepted rookie quarterback Joe Flacco three times in the AFC championship game. Santonio Holmes scored on an electrifying 65-yard catch-and-run in the first half. Hard-hitting safety Troy Polamalu returned an interception 40 yards for a clinching TD with 4:24 remaining for the Steelers. Jeff Reed kicked three field goals.
But the star of the day collectively was the Steelers defense. It held the Ravens to 198 total yards. Pittsburgh harassed Flacco into a 13-for-30 passing day. The Steelers nullified Baltimore's running game, holding the Ravens to just 73 yards rushing on 25 carries.
"We didn't start this journey to get to Tampa," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said afterward. "We have some business to do there."
The matchup is intriguing -- Tomlin vs. the Cardinals' Ken Whisenhunt, the offensive coordinator when the Steelers won the Super Bowl three seasons ago. He went to Arizona only after being passed over for Pittsburgh's job. After winning the NFC West with a record of 9-7, the Cards have advanced to the NFL championship game.
After trailing at the half 24-6, the Eagles made a game of it by scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters. Donovan McNabb led the way with two scoring completions to Brent Celek and a third to DeSean Jackson. That gave Philly a 25-24 lead after their two-point conversion failed.
The Cardinals regained the lead on Kurt Warner's fourth TD pass. He tossed three in the first half to All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The winning pass was caught by Tim Hightower from eight yards out. The Cards went for two and the pass from Warner to Ben Patrick was good, making the final score 32-25.
So the Cardinals, founding members of the NFL but historically among the most dysfunctional franchises in the league, are going to their first Super Bowl. The franchise last won an NFL title in 1947 when the team was known as the Chicago Cardinals.