NFL: McGahee hurt as Steelers reach Super Bowl

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens 23-14 in a bone-jarring AFC Championship game Sunday to set up a Super Bowl XLIII clash against the darkhorse Arizona Cardinals.

The Steelers will be seeking their sixth Super Bowl crown in the NFL title game in Tampa on 1 Febuary, while the Cardinals booked their first trip to the season finale with a 32-25 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles to claim the NFC crown.



In a game of ferocious hitting between the top two defenses in the league, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu stood out.



Polamalu flew around the field making crunching stops, leapt over the line to squelch Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's fourth-and-one sneak and scored the final touchdown with a 40-yard interception return, his dreadlocks whipping the air.



"I was just running for my life," Polamalu told reporters.



A violent hit by safety Ryan Clark on Ravens running back Willis McGahee late in the fourth quarter brought the game to a sombre close.



McGahee, who scored both Baltimore touchdowns on short runs, was flattened by a high-speed, helmet-to-helmet collision that snapped his head back.



As a cart and stretcher were sent to take McGahee off the field, players from both teams bowed their heads praying he was all right. Officials said McGahee had significant neck pain but was able to move his limbs.



"It's always the same against them," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "This is a 12-round slugfest. It's violent from start to finish. That's the nature of this rivalry."





Pittsburgh went against pre-game expectations by relying on the passing of Roethlisberger rather than try to move the ball on the ground against the rugged Ravens.



They surged to a 13-0 lead during the first half on field goals of 34 and 42 yards from Jeff Reed followed by a 65-yard catch-and-run by Santonio Holmes.



The Ravens fightback was sparked by a stunning 45-yard punt return by Jim Leonhard that set them up at the Pittsburgh 17 yard line. Three plays later McGahee burst three yards for a touchdown that closed the gap to 13-7 at halftime.



Reed gave the Steelers some cushion at 16-7 with a 46-yard field goal with 3:38 left in the third quarter after an 11-play drive that covered 51 yards.



The Ravens, who had lost by three points in overtime and by four points in two regular season jousts with Pittsburgh, clawed back again, taking advantage of a weak punt by Mitch Berger that gave them the ball at the 37.



A double-reverse run by Mark Clayton and two completions to Derrick Mason put Baltimore in striking range.



A pass interference call in the end zone against Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor put the ball on the one yard line and McGahee ran it in to make it 16-14 with 9:29 left before Polamalu put a finishing touch to the Steelers win.



"We congratulate them and I also want to say how proud I am of our football team," Ravens rookie coach John Harbaugh said.



"I thought our guys throughout the course of the season and throughout the course of this game demonstrated who they are as men, what they're all about."



Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back