The Ravens did all the trash talking, while Pittsburgh rolled to a 27-10 win to reach the AFC title game.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
PITTSBURGH -- The Baltimore Ravens talked the talk, but the Pittsburgh Steelers walked the walk. So it will be the Steelers playing for a berth in Super Bowl XXXVI.
"All we heard all week was how good Baltimore's defense was," said Steelers strong safety Lee Flowers, moments after Pittsburgh dominated the defending Super Bowl champions 27-10 Sunday at Heinz Field.
"This game was played on the field, not in the papers. Don't talk to us no more."
The trash talk in the week leading up to the game was matched only by the dominance of the Steelers' defense, which limited Baltimore to just 150 total yards and only one significant scoring drive.
"To me it was personal," said Steelers defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen. "They take jabs at guys on our team; sometimes we respond, but they can talk all they want. They've [still] got to come and play on Sunday."
Asked if he thought the Steelers sent a message to their AFC Central rivals, von Oelhoffen replied, "Are there any more questions as to who the number one defense in the NFL is?"
Grbac throttled: There shouldn't be. The Ravens managed only 22 rushing yards and quarterback Elvis Grbac had a miserable afternoon, completing 18 of 37 passes for 153 yards. He was intercepted three times, including on the third play of the game. It set up the Steelers' first score, a 21-yard field goal by Kris Brown.
"It set the tone," said Flowers. "That's a bad way to start the game.
"In our minds we knew we could beat this team," continued Flowers. "This is a team that we dominated two times [in the regular season]. This time of year you expect to dominate them again."
It seemed like the Steelers knew what was coming.
"When I got out there I could see the total field," said rookie linebacker Kendrell Bell. "I knew what they were in when they got in it before they snapped the ball. I felt very comfortable."
Key interception: Grbac's most deflating pick came in the second quarter, with the Ravens already facing a 10-0 deficit.
Baltimore had taken possession at the Steelers' 7 two plays earlier following an interception by Chris McAlister.
But on third down and goal from the 11, Grbac threw too far in front of Shannon Sharpe, who ran a crossing pattern just inside the end zone. Brent Alexander intercepted for the Steelers.
"We have been having trouble with that little dig route all year long," said Alexander. "I was away from the play, but I went through the reads and squeezed down a little tighter than usual and read the quarterback. He never looked back my way; he never even saw me there."
Grbac said the shift in momentum was measurable then.
"To come away with no points, that was devastating," he said. "We were still in the ballgame ... I wish I could have had that one back."
Offense steady: The Pittsburgh offense, meanwhile, was steady and efficient, if not spectacular. The Steelers gained 297 total yards and held possession for 40 minutes, 45 seconds. They scored points on four of their first six possessions and missed a field goal on another.
After Brown's first field goal, with just over nine minutes remaining in the first quarter, Pittsburgh forced a punt and drove 51 yards on seven plays for an Amos Zereoue touchdown run, his first of two on the day, from 1 yard.
Zereoue's second touchdown run, with 5:43 remaining in the first half, made it 17-0, then a 46-yard field goal by Brown with 3:46 to go in the half gave the Steelers a 20-0 lead.
The Ravens scored on Matt Stover's 26-yard field goal just before halftime and Jermaine Lewis' 88-yard punt return midway through the third quarter.
"A week removed from being good enough and all of a sudden not ... we clearly didn't play well enough today," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "A lot of things didn't happen today, some of our doing, and a lot of their doing."