‘The Only Time I Feared For My Life’: Bill Hillgrove Recalls Troy Polamalu’s INT Against Ravens In AFC Title Game

When big moments occur and you’re able to be there in person, whether they’re big life moments or moments in sporting events, you tend to remember even the smallest details.

For Bill Hillgrove, the longtime voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers who announced his retirement Thursday morning ending a 30-year run, one of the best moments of his career — which was filled with many of them — came during the 2008 AFC Championship Game at then-Heinz Field against the hated Baltimore Ravens.

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On Jan. 19, 2009, future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu made an iconic interception of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, returning it for a 40-yard touchdown to punch the Steelers’ ticket to the Super Bowl.

Hillgrove, in the booth that day announcing the game for the Steelers Radio Network, remembers everything from the moment. Including a seemingly near-death experience after the interception.

Appearing on the 102.5 WDVE Morning Show Thursday to discuss his retirement, Hillgrove recalled the indelible moment and what stood out to him.

“That’s the only time I felt the press box shake, and the only time I feared for my life,” Hillgrove said with a laugh, recalling the great moment in Steelers’ history, according to audio via 102.5 WDVE. “I mean, you could feel the whole stadium shaking. And that was certainly one of the greatest plays in Steelers history from one of the greatest players in Steelers history.”

With four and a half minutes remaining in the game and the Steelers holding a 16-14 lead with a berth in Super Bowl XLIII on the line, Polamalu came up clutch.

The all-time great safety stepped in front of the throw from Flacco intended for wide receiver Derrick Mason and then weaved his way through the Ravens’ offense, skipping into the end zone to help send the Steelers to the Super Bowl.

From high atop his perch in the radio booth, Hillgrove recalled the stadium shaking after Polamalu’s interception and subsequent return. Heinz Field was known to get quite loud during that era, but for the longtime Steelers broadcaster to only recall the home stadium shaking the way it did in that moment is special.

Bill Hillgrove has seen with his own eyes some of the greatest moments in Steelers’ history. To have that moment stick out to him for the stadium shaking is a point of view only Hillgrove can have.

Heck of a career for Hillgrove and heck of a moment for the Steelers. We’ll always have that call from Hillgrove, too.

“The game clock is at 4:43 and winding. Flacco in the gun. He looks, he waits. He throws the pass. And it’s intercepted! Troy Polamalu! He’s at the 40, 35, 30 blockers in front! At the 25, he’s running right! Right at the 15, he turns in, goes for the goal line, and he’s in for the Pittsburgh Steelers touchdown! Troy Polamalu!”

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