This one didn't disappoint

We expected a hard-hitting affair in the AFC Championship between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens and we weren't disappointed.

If Ryan Clark's brutal hit on Willis McGahee late in the fourth quarter was the exclamation point on the Steelers' 23-14 victory, then Carey Davis' decleater on Daren Stone on the opening kickoff was a great opening statement.

With all apologies to the teams in the NFC East and North, the Steelers and Ravens may now be the biggest rivalry in the NFL.

Sunday's victory that ended Baltimore's season with a thud will only intensify that.

© Dick LeBeau called a great game, coming out and playing a lot of cover-2 against the Ravens, who expected the Steelers to load up to stop the run.

The Steelers seemed to be one step ahead of the Ravens' offense all the way. If not for two pass interference penalties – and the one on Bryant McFadden was questionable – there's no way the Ravens were getting into the end zone.

I felt going into this game that Joe Flacco's inexperience would be the difference and it was.

We see a trend here now because we've now seen two rookie quarterbacks play at Heinz Field in conference championship games, throwing a combined six interceptions.

Flacco is going to be a player the Steelers are going to have to deal with for a long time, he just wasn't ready for this stage.

© Of course the problem for the Ravens is that now that they finally may have found themselves a franchise-type quarterback, their vaunted defense is aging quickly.

They still have a daunting front-seven and Haloti Ngata is a force. But for Ray Lewis, Trevor Pryce and some others, this may have been their last hurrah.

© Did Ed Reed play?

The fact that we didn't see much of Reed shows you just how far Ben Roethlisberger has come as a game manager.

He stayed away from Reed while also moving the ball efficiently without Hines Ward for much of the game.

Roethlisberger's final numbers weren't great. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes. But he made some plays when he needed to.

© A Super Bowl between the Cardinals and Steelers will be filled with many sub-plots, the biggest of which is how well Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt still knows this Pittsburgh offensive unit.

Whisenhunt already showed in these playoffs that he could outsmart his predecessor as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator, Mike Mularkey, beating that Falcons soundly.

Now, Whisenhunt and Mike Tomlin, who were both primary candidates to replace Bill Cowher as the Steelers head coach, get to square off once again on the game's biggest stage.

© You'd better believe the Steelers will spend this week coming up with a game plan to stop Larry Fitzgerald. The only problem is that by the time the Super Bowl is played, Anquan Boldin should be healthy too.

Boldin is the closest thing to a young Hines Ward as there is in the game.

© Limas Sweed, you've got to catch that deep pass.

You're a wide receiver. You're paid to A. Get open. B. Catch the ball.

It's encouraging that he seems to be getting the first part of the equation down, but it doesn't do any good if he can't accomplish the second.

© That's six career sacks in three career playoff games for LaMarr Woodley. That's stepping up on the big stage.

© As Troy Polamalu got into the end zone late in this game after his interception, you couldn't help but start looking for penalty flags.

It's just a habit when Polamalu scores.


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