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-Super Bowl XL: Steelers vs. Seahawks
By Chris Pokorny, PFCritics Writer
February 4, 2006
It's finally here. The best in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers, will collide with the best in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks. Both teams have been so dominating in the playoffs that it's almost too tough to predict who will come out victorious. The Steelers have pretty much rolled over the Bengals, Colts, and Broncos while the Seahawks have done the same over the Redskins and the Panthers. Jerome Bettis will be coming home to Detroit in what could be the final game of his career. When you wake up Sunday, all you'll be able to think about it football. All of the hype, the anticipation, and the action will definitely live up to its expectations.

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Super Bowl XL
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, February 5th, 2006
Kickoff: 6:30pm EST on ABC
Super Bowl XL - Team Stats
Pittsburgh Steelers - #5 vs. #1 - Seattle Seahawks
- Overall Record: 11-5
Road Record: 6-2
Offense:
15th overall
(5th rush, 24th pass)
Defense:
4th overall
(3rd rush, 16th pass)
- Overall Record: 13-3
Home Record: 8-0
Offense:
5th overall
(2nd rush, 18th pass)
Defense:
15th overall
(2nd rush, 29th pass)
Positional Comparisons
Quarterback vs. Quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger: It's been a wild season for the young Roethlisberger, including a dramatic turnaround when everyone thought the Steelers would only be first-round exit at best. Heading into the season, a lot of people, including myself, predicted that Big Ben would suffer a sophomore slump. If you take out his injury earlier in the year, the season was anything but a slump. Despite not having a 15-1 record, Roethlisberger is leaps and bounds better than he was last year. It has really showed in the playoffs, and it's pretty simple how you can tell: He beat the 1st, 3rd, and 2nd seeds in that respective order on the road. As good as the Steelers defense has been, if someone like Tommy Maddox was leading the Steelers, they probably would have been first-round exits. Matt Hasselbeck: The Seahawks have always been considered an underrated team in the eyes of many, but not mine. The past few years, I knew that Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander had the potential to take over a game, but unfortunately Hasselbeck always had to watch his receivers drop seven passes per game. Seattle started the season average at best, and then went on a surge. Hasselbeck was a major part of that, simply because you can't point out a game that Seattle even came close to losing solely due to him. In the playoffs, he showed a lot of poise after the league's MVP left the game in the first quarter. In the NFC Championship, he absolutely cruised by one of the best defenses in the league. After two straight seasons with crushing playoff losses, Hasselbeck is more determined than ever to win it all.
Running Backs vs. Running Backs
Jerome Bettis: If there are fans that are "non-biased" towards either team, Bettis gives the Steelers a huge advantage purely based on the fact that he is "coming home." The crowd will erupt when Bettis scores his first touchdown, assuming he gets in.

Willie Parker:
So many people are focused on Bettis, but you can't forget about the energetic Parker. Although Parker has speed, he only "really" effective against defenses that are average at best. However, the power that the offensive line has allows for Parker to get what he needs to get whenever the Steelers want to run the clock down.
Shaun Alexander: Alexander was not the MVP of the league just because he was able to pile on touchdowns, even when a game was out of reach. Alexander has run hard for the Seahawks for several years now, it's just now that some people are actually seeing it. He has an outstanding offensive line in front of him, including Chad Hutchinson and Walter Jones. When it comes down to a 3rd-and-1 situation, Alexander is automatic when he gets the ball.

Maurice Morris: Morris is an ok compliment to Alexander, but he likely will not be a factor assuming Alexander stays healthy. Holmgren will give Alexander as many touches as he can.
Receivers vs. Receivers
Hines Ward: It is rare that Ward is ever off of his game. There were times during the season that Ward only saw one or two catches per game, but Pittsburgh knows who to go to in clutch situations.

Cedrick Wilson:
Wilson has been a nice compliment to Ward and Randle El and often makes the "big" play.

Antwaan Randle El:
If the Steelers have a trick in their playbook, chances are that it'll involve Randle El.

Heath Miller:
The addition of a tight end to the Steelers offense has really helped out Roethisberger. When Miller gets his chances, he comes through.
Darrell Jackson: Jackson never really was one of the guys that dropped passes, and has come through with a very productive postseason after missing several games during the season.

Bobby Engram:
Engram's playing time has gone down somewhat since Jackson returned, but he led the Seahawks in receiving during the regular season.

Joe Jurevicius:
He is the man that Hasselbeck looks for near the end zone rather than a yards-after-catch person, aka a possession receiver.

Jerramy Stevens:
Not too many people may knew of Stevens before his "trash" talk, but he is an underrated tight end.
Defense vs. Defense
Defense: There were times during the season when the Steelers defense didn't have it together, but that certainly is not the case at the moment. The "blitzburgh" defense implemented by Dick LeBeau has worked to perfection in stopping the Bengals offense (even though they lost Palmer), Peyton Manning and the Colts, and Jake Plummer and the Broncos. They forced all of those great teams to be off balanced and make mistakes. I know the Steelers have a lot of playmakers, but Troy Polamula is the one that always comes to mind. He is all over the field and it seems like anytime there is a turnover, either him or Joey Porter are involved. Defense: There's no doubting that the Seahawks defense has been outstanding in their two playoff victories, but they weren't facing the best offenses like the Steelers did. The Redskins were coming off a performance that was awful, and the Panthers knew that their only "true" weapon was Steve Smith. You can't solely focus on the postseason though, because this defense has handled themselves fine throughout the entire season, led by linebacker Lofa Tatupu. The Seahawks do a solid job at defending both the run and the pass and are usually on their game as soon as the whistle blows.
Special Teams vs. Special Teams
Antwaan Randle El: This is an area that the Seahawks will have to look out for. Steve Smith scored on them last week, and Randle El has had several great returns this year.

Jeff Reed:
It's not like you can predict how Reed can handle the Super Bowl pressure, but he hasn't had any issues of "choking" during his career.
Josh Brown: Similar to Reed, it's not like Brown has Super Bowl experience. Earlier this year he did fail to come through against the Washington Redskins, but he has been fine throughout the postseason.
Final Analysis
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Roethlisberger has been the leader of the Steelers throughout the postseason. When you look back at all of the big plays that he has come up with so far, you could definitely say that Pittsburgh would not have made it this far without him. Some people are calling it "destiny" that the Steelers have made it this far, particularly related to Jerome Bettis. Before the season started, Bettis considered retirement but decided to come back based on one condition: he wanted a Super Bowl.

Now of course, every single player envisions that same goal, but at Bettis' age, he wouldn't have continued if he truly felt the Steelers had no shot at making it. Zoom forward to the postseason, when Bettis was about to seal the deal for the Steelers and suddenly fumbled and watched Nick Harper take the ball down the sideline. Who saved him? Roethlisberger. A few weeks later, and Bettis is heading to his hometown of Detroit, where he will surely have a "home-field advantage."

The Steelers aren't a one-dimensional football team. If you've watched the Steelers in the playoffs so far, it doesn't take a genius to know which gameplan has been successful: pass the first half, run the second half. Despite the fact that teams may know the Steelers will do this, the threat of the other dimension is always there. If the Seahawks expect pass too much, the Steelers can hand off to the speedy Parker for a gain of ten. If they bunch up the line too much, Roethlisberger can shed a blitzer and throw it to someone deep.

The Steelers defense simply makes plays. Although they do have the blitzburgh style back, it's not the only thing they do. They adjust accordingly. Against the Colts, they came with everybody any time he snapped the ball. With the Broncos, they did not blitz nearly as often and were able to make Plummer look like he had returned back to his roots.
Hasselbeck has withstood so much heartbreak on the field the past two years. It wasn't just due to the fact that the team played bad in general, but the fact that he had the ball in his hand as the game was coming to a close. He knew he could win it. So what happened? Let's take you back.

1. Two years ago vs. Green Bay
The game went on to overtime and the Seahawks won the toss. Over the entire stadium at Green Bay, he exclaimed "We want the ball and we're going to score!" A few minutes later, a score happened indeed. Unfortunately, Hasselbeck threw it right into the hands of Al Harris for a touchdown going the other way.

2. Last year vs. St. Louis Rams
The Seahawks were already 0-2 during the season against St. Louis, and the game was about to end with Seattle down by a touchdown. Hasselbeck was a few yards away from the end zone on 4th down and took the snap. He looked like he was about to panic, then maybe run it himself, and then underhanded it to an open Bobby Engram in the end zone. Engram dropped it; game over.

What's changed this year? Some may say that it's the focus that Mike Holmgren is able to have on communicating with Hasselbeck now that he truly is a "coach" only. However, he has one heck of a supporting cast. Shaun Alexander is an MVP because of pure talent, the offensive line, and the threat of his QB.

It's tough to say whether or not Seattle's defense will be able to stop Pittsburgh, because no one has been able to do it lately. If the Steelers get down near the goal line, they will definitely bring Bettis into the game. If the Seahawks are able to stop him from getting into the end zone, it will pump that defense up like you wouldn't believe.
Super Bowl XL Prediction
Winner - Seattle Seahawks
I can see it already: most of the Steelers fans that read this will now believe I don't know what the heck I'm talking about, and most of Seahawks fans will agree with my pick. I'd like to make this clear though: I'm not a "homer" for the Steelers, and I'm not a "homer" for the Seahawks. On the same note, this is not a decisive decision either. In my opinion, anyone that stakes a lot of money towards this game is taking a big risk, because both teams have been so dominant in the playoffs that you don't know what to expect. The Steelers owned the AFC teams in three road trips, while the Seahawks owned the NFC in two home games. The Steelers will have a lot of support from Jerome Bettis fans, but the Seahawks will not feel as if they are a road team either. Bettis will get his glory during the game and it will be close throughout, but Shaun Alexander will punch it in with five seconds left to break the tie.
Final Score:
Seattle Seahawks 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 17.
Game MVP: Shaun Alexander - 2 rushing touchdowns, 125 yards rushing.

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