Tunch Ilkin describes his expectations for the Tribune-Review. It makes a world of sense to me. He's a fellow homer, but he's been as right as they come down the stretch.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
I expect no surprises from the Steeler offense: they will take what the Seahawks offer and score early. So far in the playoffs, the opponent has played like they were intimidated by the Steeler running game and underwhelmed by the passing game. The thinking appeared to be that the Steelers were one-dimensional, and if they could stop the run, Ben would force some throws - he has been playing more like a gunslinger - and turn the ball over.
It won't matter much what Seattle does. They won't come out with a run defense on every down, but it won't matter. The Steelers should be too much for them either way. Unless the wideouts drop an unusual number of passes, I see the Steelers getting an early lead and going into the half with the score 10-3 or 13-7 or 14-7.
If the Steelers can extend the lead to double digits, they will switch gears and go into pound, maybe punt, and always-bleed-the-clock mode. In other words, a Steeler victory tomorrow will look a lot like every other Steeler victory. Don't be surprised if the Seahawks drive the ball on the Steeler defense, especially if the secondary reverts to mid-season form and drops the easy INTs. Yardage is one thing, points are another. In fact, if the Steelers have a good lead, I am fine with seeing long, time-consuming drives, especially if they result only in three points for the blue team.
Shaun Alexander carried my FFL team to a championship this year, so I know what he's been all about. He has benefitted from the soft schedule, and the Seahawks have overindulged his taste for being a one-man offense. This kind of superstar-driven attack can be thwarted. A top-quality defense can take away the top threat of a top-quality offense. The Steeler defense is especially well prepared to contain Alexander. Once this happens, the Seahawks will be forced to throw the ball. And they could be effective; who knows; I don't; the Patriots, for example, were always able to throw the ball by spreading it around against the Steelers' defense. The wideouts would be better prepared to take over the game, however, if they had any experience doing so in the regular season. Seattle's offense has a chance, but it's not a good one.
The zebras will not flag much of anything in the game. This can only help Pittsburgh, since they've been -- I don't know, perhaps it is the style of play -- more hurt by big penalties recently. The officials never get much into meddling in the Super Bowl. It is a good time for illegal moves; the more aggressive team at the start will have an edge for it. I don't expect we'll see much in the way of questionable pass interference or holding calls. If we do, we know that someone has bought a little fixin'.
They lose if they do not score on their long drives -- Steeler football makes short games, games in which both sides do not get the ball all that often. They have to get points when they've had the ball for half a quarter. The Steelers also lose by letting the Seahawks jump out to an early lead. Well, they don't lose necessarily, but that's the last thing you want to see as a Steelers fan. The Steelers are not built for comebacks. They want to knock the Seahawk to the ground ten minutes into the game, and then get Casey Hampton to sit on him the rest of the way.
Also keep an eye on the special teams play. When they have been vulnerable the last few years, the special teams have given up big return yardage and turned over the momentum late in close games. I'll have my eye on the likes of Sean Morey. Special teams better bring an A game tomorrow.
My final score prediction: Steelers 27, Seahawks 17. What's yours?
Friday, February 03, 2006
Fun story in the Seattle Times about a Steeler fan who wore Seattle colors around town this week.
Is it me or has the Post-Gazette gotten a lot more bloggy on us? Lots of silliness that too many papers regard as "beneath" their "dignity." Good for them I say.
Cowher's win-one-for-Columbus speechifying reminds me of that other coach. I've long been boggled at the low opinion the self-styled sports punditry seem to have of Cowher. If the Steelers win Sunday, however, my guess is Cowher will finally cross into a New World. After winning a "big game," perhaps more attention will go where it ought to go. A .629 winning percentage over 13 seasons is, um, above average I think. Imagine if one manager were to guide a baseball team to thirteen straight years of .629 ball. That would be thirteen years averaging 102 wins per season.
I know, I know, there's no parity in football. So we're comparing apples and oranges. Still, despite whatever spittle and flat-earth nonsense comes pouring from his mouth, he's been remarkably good at winning.
Here's hoping that Coach Columbus can guide this ship to that earthly paradise . . .
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Does any team in pro sports have better team songs? We have a Steelers song for fans of every genre.
If you've been living under a rock, and just crawled out, don't miss "Puhlahmahlu," the Mr. Devious take on the Sesame Street classic.
Great report here by Stephen Nover for Covers.com.
Some have a clear perception the Steelers will be loose having experienced big games before, while the Seahawks could come out tight. They feel the Seahawks are vulnerable, stepping up in class having not faced a major challenge away from home.
The Seahawks have yet to beat a team with a winning record as the visitors. Seattle also has lost and failed to cover six of its past seven following a bye week.
The Steelers, on the other hand, are the best road team in the NFL having won 16 of their last 18 away games. They won nine road games this season, the first in history to accomplish the feat.
Pittsburgh ranked No. 3 in rush defense. Their physical 3-4 defense can cause problems for Shaun Alexander, who has rushed for more than 45 yards just once in four playoff games. Seattle led the NFL in scoring, averaging 28.3 points a game.
However, Seattle detractors can point out those statistics were padded by the Seahawks playing six games against weak division foes San Francisco, St. Louis and Arizona. The Seahawks averaged 34 points against those teams.
For sure I like the Steelers this Sunday, but there's no such thing as a lock in football. Seattle has probably at least a one-in-three chance of stealing the win here. Nover again:
Recently The Gold Sheet newsletter ranked the Giants-Ravens game in 2000 as the worst of the 39 Super Bowls.
Could this season’s Seahawks-Steelers matchup turn out just as bad?
Betting patterns indicate it’s possible. All the money came on the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV and the bettors were right. The Ravens dominated the Giants 34-7, in what was a very boring non-contest.
Once again, as Nover reports, all the money appears to be on Pittsburgh.
I love a good rout. The more the Steelers score and the less the Seahawks score, the more I enjoy the game. No doubt about it. I watch too many football games to think a 24-21 game is a "better" game than one in which the Steelers win 41-0.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
So I've been blissfully mellow the last ten days or so, and I've been seeing all kinds of Steeler football in my sleep. For some reason they keep playing Denver again in my dreams. One night, they beat Denver and then they had to play Denver again. The game ended and the zebras started waving their arms and saying, OK, do-over, do it again, OK, that game didn't count.
I've seen some real highlights, too. One I can't forget went like this. Jerome Bettis takes the ball at the Steelers 20 and runs outside. Implausible, I know. But it gets better. He turns up field near the sideline and the ball pops out. It shoots maybe twenty yards down the field.
Sean Morey, running the other way for some reason, catches the ball on a wrong-way sprint toward Bettis. He sticks the ball out like a quarterback. Bettis takes the hand off from Morey, sheds and steamrolls tacklers, and rumbles the rest of the 80 yards for the touchdown.
I woke up before I could see if Bettis made it to the oxygen tank, or if they had to bring the oxygen to Bettis.
I can still see it. Sean Morey?
I don't know what it means--nothing, I guess--but I'll take it as a positive sign. Sean Morey must be destined for some kind of greatness this Sunday.
From the Media Day blitz today:
In music news, Stevie Wonder will perform before the game, Aretha Franklin will sing the national anthem (along with Aaron Neville, Dr. John, and a 150-member choir), and at halftime we'll see the Rolling Stones. I'd much rather see Stevie and Aretha at halftime and the Stones do the anthem.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Dan Wetzel reports for Yahoo! Sports that 98.9% of the good citizens of the Motor City will be rooting for the Steelers.
All hail that! More than anything this week, as we bask in the waiting for the big game, I want the win not for myself (so big of me) but for all the new Steeler fans who have never experienced a Super Bowl victory.
And welcome all new people on the bandwagon. Good seats are always available. Bring friends--the more the merrier.