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Pittsburgh's Going to the Super Bowl!

True bliss. And an early birthday present (my 40th coming up next weekend).

Early lines have the Steelers favored by 3.5-4 points, which seems overly optimistic to me. I haven't seen the Seahawks much this year (the only time I remember seeing them is when they lost to the Redskins early on), but they sure looked tough yesterday. The Steelers need to come up with some way to run the ball (Willie Parker hasn't done much against good defenses this year, including the playoffs) and have to come up with a scheme to control Shaun Alexander. It strikes me that one edge for the Steelers may be their ability to blitz, which could offset some of the strength of that Seahawks offensive line. The real problem in thinking about the game is that the general softness of the NFC this year, and the particular softness of the NFC West leaves me simply uncertain about how good Seattle is. But they looked pretty darned impressive yesterday. Neither team looks particularly turnover-prone, so it should be a good, tough game.

DNL (mail):
They'll lose. The Chunky Soup Curse demands it!
1.23.2006 8:44am
Senor Chumbawumba (mail):
AND this is 12 hours late. But seriously, good luck to the Steelers. I think the Seahawks are going to be a formidable opponent. Defense v. Defense should make it a fun game.
1.23.2006 8:52am
Wikstrom (mail):
....football, politics, legal-practice —- it all kind of blends together as competitive sport &entertainment for big stakes...?
1.23.2006 9:19am
Steve P. (mail):
The NFC has been somewhat weak for the last few years, it seems. You're absolutely right -- Fast Willie was a beast in the early season, against mediocre defenses, but his quick-jink style tends to yield no yardage against a strong defense. It was nice to see Ben throw a lot, and connect almost every time.

Jake Plummer was surprisingly agile, though. At least five times he should have been sacked, but managed to worm his way out. Didn't save the team, but it kept the Broncos in it longer than they should have.

My birthday was two days ago... so it was an amazing birthday present for me as well. But really, the best part is that the Bus gets to go to a Superbowl (and presumably punch out a short-yardage TD in Detroit). It's pretty much guaranteed he'll retire this year, after a hall of fame career.
1.23.2006 12:23pm
Sisyphus:
There are a surprising number of people underestimating the Seahawks just because they are an NFC West team. But this is a team with the most sacks in the NFL, a defense that is good at creating turnovers, one of the top offensive lines, an MVP running back who lead the league in rushing yards and touchdowns, and a moderately good QB with moderately good receivers. The Steelers do have a somewhat better secondary, in my opinion, so they may have the defensive edge. And a comparison of the QBs and recieving corps would be about equal. But I don't see how the differences in the running game are going to work out for Pittsburgh - Alexander's running game is like death from a thousand cuts, as he slowly runs up 100+ yards in most games. Pittsburgh had trouble most of the postseason getting their running game in gear. Seattle is the best in the league at applying pressure to QBs, so I think the difficulties Pittsburgh has in their running game will ultimately be the difference-maker.
1.23.2006 12:42pm
KMAJ (mail):
We can't invoke stare decisis, as no 6th seed has ever made it to the Super Bowl. You have to remember, Seattle built its stats playing in the weaker NFC and especially weak NFC West (6 games) with St. Louis, Arizona and San Francisco. None of whom had an offensive line or defense comparable to the Steelers. Seattle only faced one 3/4 defense all year, Dallas, and barely won the game with two late scores, in one of their worst offensive performances of the year. Denver had the #2 rushing offense (Atlanta was #1) and was held to 90 yards. Seattle was # 3, if the Steelers neutralize Alexander, the pressure will get to Hasselback and the game could be a blow out. Look for the Steelers to pass against the Seahawks 25th ranked pass defense to soften them up for the run.

You also have to consider the Steelers are not really a typical 6th seeded team, two of their five losses came without Roethlisberger (Jacksonville (6 pt overtime loss due to a fumble by Maddox) and Baltimore (3 pt loss) and one wase his first game back from surgery (Indianapolis). At worst, they would be 13-3 in the regular season and played a much tougher schedule that included New England, San Diego, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Cincinnnati (twice), Baltimore (twice), Chicago and Minnesota. Seattle, lost to Jacksonville, beat Indianapolis without Manning and their other starters playing, barely beat Tennessee, and stomped Houston (most teams stomped them) in their AFC encounters. What playoff teams did they play other than Jacksonville and Indianapolis ? In the regular season, they lost to Washington in OT, edged the Giants, and they had no injuries to speak of.

Pittsburgh should win, but anything can happen in one game.
1.23.2006 3:06pm
Steve P. (mail):
KMAJ makes a really good point about strength of schedule. There's no doubt that the Seahawks are good, but if Pittsburgh keeps blitzing, they can unnerve Hasselbeck the way they did for Manning and Plummer (kudos to Kitna for stepping up and playing pro ball when Palmer was injured). The Colts had a great offensive line, and Porter sacked Manning twice in a row. I doubt the Seahawks will be able to stand up against that.

With all of that said, the way the Seahawks can win is by starting with the momentum. Be the first one on the board, and practice short dump passes that circumvent the blitz. Use Jerramy Stevens a lot, take advantage of that height. Hope that Roethlisberger reverts to last year's performance during the playoffs, keep the pressure up so he'll throw an interception.

Maybe I'm underestimating the Seahawks. I really hope not.
1.23.2006 5:20pm
Jeff_M (mail):
Re: The Steelers running game with Fast Willie Parker and The Bus. They haven't had a lot of success in the post-season running the ball because the teams they played against primarily came out defending the run, and that's why the Steelers came out slinging the football with so much success early in the games. It was great offensive gameplaning. In the regular season, when Indy blew them out, they had the corners playing a lot of run defense and blitz, and it worked (Ben wasn't real mobile first game back, as KMAJ notes). That's why the Steelers came out gunning it. If the Seahawks play a more balanced defense, and they will have to after seeing what the passing game did to Denver &Indy, there will be more running success. A back like Willie Parker isn't going to get you a couple or 4 every time he touches the ball (that would be the Bus's style), but he has a good average because he'll break one every game and when he gets into the secondary, look out. Should be a fun game for Steelers fans, but Steve's right, anything can happen in the NFL. That's why it's so interesting.
1.23.2006 7:38pm