Friday, February 03, 2006

Valentine’s Super Bowl XL Preview
By Ben Valentine

It’s that time of year again. The time when people gather round the old tele with nachos, beer, and assorted other condiments to watch and grade...

Loads and loads of commercials.

Of course for the actual sports fans out there, Super Bowl Sunday does feature a football game. This year’s match up isn’t the trendiest or sexiest one that could have happened. But you know what? I figure it’s going to be a damn good one anyway.

It’s certainly fair to say these are probably the two best teams in their respective conferences. While based of the regular season one could argue the Colts were better, considering the Steelers went into the RCA Dome and dominated them, I can’t. The Seahawks meanwhile, blitzkreiged through the NFC like it was the Western European countryside circa 1940. Not pretty if you’re a Redskins or Panthers fan. However, if you’re a blogmaster from Seattle, this is the equivalent of heaven on earth. And he didn’t even have to kill Ray Rhodes to get there!

So who’s going to win the big game? I’ve got my opinion. If you’d like to read it, continue on with the: Super Sunday’s Seahawks/Steelers Showdown Preview.
Sorry, I failed at trying to get every word in the title to start with “S”.

Steelers Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
The Hawks defense has been solid all year, but I question its competition. They haven’t faced a balanced offense since the Giants at home back in Week 12 and that Giants’ O-line was a mess on the road. The Panthers lacked a consistent run game and the Skins were unbalanced due to the ineffectiveness of an injured Clinton Portis. The Steelers present a formidable challenge; while their run game is overrated in my opinion, it does enough to provide balance to the offense. The real key to stopping Pittsburgh is getting to Ben Roethlisberger, who, if you haven’t heard, had his coming out party in Denver. Unless of course, you were like me, and said he was Steelers’ catalyst after seeing what he did to the Colts in the first half of the divisional game. I don’t believe the Seahawks pass rush can generate enough pressure to force Roethlisberger into many mistakes. The problem for Seattle is that Pittsburgh is very adept at picking up the blitz, something that hurt Denver and will probably burn a Hawks team that is reliant on their linebacker play more than their front four to make a difference. Now the Hawks have better corners than the Broncos, but if they can’t generate pressure on Big Ben, then he’ll still be able to beat that secondary. Look for the Steelers run game to contribute in small doses; Willie Parker will probably break off at least one run of twenty or more yards. But for the Steelers to win, look no further than the QB. If he doesn’t at least get 250 yards passing and a couple of TDs, the Hawks will be your World Champions. I think he’ll get it.

Advantage: Steelers Offense

Seahawks Offense vs. Steelers Defense
In a recent conversation with Zach, I called the Seahawks offense “the best I’ve seen in the last ten years.” This wasn’t just idle praise to make my friend feel better. I meant it. Take a look at those eleven and try finding a weakness. Matt Hasselbeck is a top ten QB in this league. In fact you might be able to argue top five. Shaun Alexander is unquestionably a top three back, and might be the best outside of Ladanian Tomlinson. Mack Strong is a solid blocking fullback. Darrell Jackson is one of the most underrated wide outs in the league. Look at the numbers. Over the last three years, he’s in the class of Holt, Owens and Chad Johnson. Bobby Engram is a good second receiver and Jeremy Stevens has finally emerged as a weapon at the tight end spot. But of course I’m still overlooking the Hawks' best weapon, which is no longer a secret, the offensive line. Led by Walter Jones and Steve Huchinson on the left side, they are the best unit in football, making Alexander and Hasselbeck’s lives much easier. Athletic and able to get up the field, they will provide the fast Steelers 3-4 with all they can handle. That being said, if there is a defense that could give the Seahawks’ vaunted line problems, it’s the Steelers. The Steelers are blitz happy, as most 3-4 teams are. They have the speed and the talent on defense to cause problems; you just never know where those fourth and fifth rushers are coming from. Could be the LB, could be the corner, could be Troy Polamalu and those locks of doom. Expect them to pressure Hasselbeck some, especially when they blitz hard on passing plays where Alexander, who isn’t a great pass blocker, is in. Still, you don’t get my praise of being the best offense in the last ten years for nothing. Expect the Hawks to put up some points in this one.

Advantage: Seahawks Offense

Special Teams:
Both teams are solid in the kicking game; Josh Brown and Jeff Reed are solid inside of forty with the leg to kick beyond. The Steelers boast the explosive Antwaan Randle El, who does have two return TDs to his credit. He’s not nearly the weapon people make him out to be, but games like this can be turned by the big play. Desmond Howard anyone?

Advantage: Steelers

Last week I said coaching was in many ways overrated; it’s the players that win the championships. I’m not changing that mantra any. What is interesting in this one is that while I feel Mike Holmgren is the better coach, slightly, the key to the game will probably be what adjustments Hawks’ nominal defensive coordinator John Marshall makes to get pressure on Roethlisberger. If Ray Rhodes were in the booth, I’d say they were doomed. But he’s not, which means the Hawks have a chance. Of course, it still comes down to the talent on the field.

Advantage: Seahawks

Shootout. That’s what I’m guessing here. The Seahawks defense isn’t talented enough to generate pressure on Roethlisberger to stop him consistently. Thus the Steelers will score. On the other hand, the Seahawks offense is simply too good to keep out of the endzone. High scores, lots of yards and offense. That should make for a great game. But when push comes to shove, I’m taking Pittsburgh. I have more faith in their defense than I do Seattle’s.

Final Score: Steelers 38, Seahawks 35

And as a final note; I managed to get through an entire preview without mentioning that gas guzzler the Steelers for some reason are still employing in their backfield. And while Steelers fans might like to hear his name, it had better be strictly in a remembrance sense on Sunday. If he has an impact on the game, don’t expect it to be all that positive. (And no I don’t count one yard TD runs as a huge impact. There are a lot of unemployed CFL players who could do that)


Blogger Todd said...

Did you know he was from Detroit? Seriously, did you? Wow. Truly amazing stuff right there.

6:19 PM  

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