I know the Vegas oddsmakers have the Steelers as 4.5 point favorites. I just think a lot of Steelers fans are going to lose a lot of money.
Here it is, my pre-game analysis.
I don't think anyone doubts that the Seahawks have the best offense in the game. The doubts come because most think the Steelers defense is better than the Seahawks offense. There are essentially four reasons why I think the Seattle offense can beat the Pittsburgh defense.
1. The Offensive Line
Seattle has the best line in the NFL. Pro-Bowl offensive lineman comprise the entire left side of the line and, we learned recently, also center Robbie Tobeck. Right guard Chris Gray and tackle Sean Locklear are not far behind them either. This is an offensive line that with Mack Strong will be manhandling the Pittsburgh front seven by the end of the game. The Steelers may stop Shaun Alexander a couple of times in the 1st and 2nd quarters, but after that they will dominate. That same line will provide Matt Hasselbeck with more protection than the Broncos gave Jake Plummer or the Dolts gave Peyton Manning. And, unlike the morons calling plays for those teams, Seattle wont give up on the run.
2. Matt Hasselbeck
He was the best QB in the NFL in the month of December and during the playoffs has had QB ratings well over 100. At one point against the Panthers he was 8 for 8. The best part of Hasselbeck has been his decision making. When WRs were covered down field he either threw the ball away or rushed for the necessary first down yardage. Pundits have been crowing about Big Ben for the last two weeks. Hasselbeck will show that he is the best QB in the Superbowl and among the best in the league.
3. Seattle WRs (including Jerramy Stevens)
Idiot Porter may profess to not know Jerramy Stevens, but he should. In the last 6 games Stevens has scored 4 TDs and is Seattle's #2 receiver in the playoffs. At 6'7", with incredible athleticism, he provides a sure-handed target for Hasselbeck. Porter and Polamalu haven't had to deal with a TE like him. If, as many predict, Pittsburgh has 8 or 9 men in the box, watch for Stevens to make them pay. Or Darrell Jackson, Joe Jurivicious, Bobby Engram, Seneca Wallace, DJ Hackett and Ryan Hannam. There may not be a Chad Johnson or Randy Moss in the bunch (mostly because D-Jack isn't that flamboyant) but they are all smart, catch everything, and run-block well.
4. Shaun Alexander
Edgerrin James isn't as good. Denver's musical RBs aren't as good. LT might be better, but then again, San Diego didn't even make the playoffs. MVP All-Star Shaun Alexander is set to have a big game. He avoids the big hit which means he rarely gets beat up and worn down by the end of the game. In fact, he seems to get stronger as the game goes on--as does his offensive line. He is also great in short yardage, third down situations. At one point he was 15 for 15 in 3rd and 1 situations. The only way to stop him may be to do as Washington did and hope some freak hit gives him a concussion. Pittsburgh's 3-4 and their vaunted zone-blitz are good against the West Coast Offense. The only problem is, Mike Holmgren's offense is far more balanced than say a Philadelphia offense that throws the ball 60% of the time. Replacing a 325 lb. defensive tackle with a 250 lb. linebacker just makes it all that easier for Seattle's offensive line to push them around. That is the critique of the 3-4, it can be susceptible to the run.
Of course everyone loves the Steeler defense, after all, they are from Pittsburgh, toughest city that side of 8 Mile. It's easy to equate Seattle with Microsoft with dorks with wimpy and somehow conclude that Seattle's defense is vanilla. Tell that to Carolina. Or maybe Pennsylvania residents would prefer to recall the Monday Night game vs. Philadelphia. Remember how your Eagles were embarrassed on national TV? In case you forgot, the Super Bowl will be Part II of Seattle's domination of the state of Pennsylvania. The Seahawks finished with one of the top run defenses. Their pass defense didn't fare as well but this was more a result of injury and the resultant musical cornerbacks rather than ability. As with the offense, here are four reasons I think the Seattle defense can stop the Pittsburgh offense.
1. Defensive Line
Grant Wistrom, Rocky Bernard, Marcus Tubbs, Bryce Fisher--these guys are good. Rocky Bernard sacked Delhomme 2 (I say 3) times. He had 10.5 total sacks during the year and should be going to the Pro-Bowl. Seattle led the NFL with 50 sacks--that's one more than Miami and three more than Blitzburgh. Why isn't anyone asking how Pittsburgh is going to protect Big Ben?
2. Lofa Tatupu
I've been singing his praises the entire season. He should have been the Defensive Rookie of the Year. At least he got some vindication by being named as Brian Urlacher's replacement in the Pro-Bowl. All he does is make play after play after play. The key to Pittsburgh's rush offense is not Detroit's erstwhile resident now returned home--Jerome "the short bus" Bettis. The key is Willie Parker. They love to run the toss with Willie Parker, but it's not going to work against Seattle. The main reason is Lofa Tatupu. Watch him blow it up the first time they run it and you'll know what I'm talking about.
3. Marcus Trufant & Andre Dyson
You know how good Trufant is or at least you should. What's overlooked is the talent of Andre Dyson. One publication I read this week called him the most underrated cover corner in the NFC. This is due, in part, to the fact that he missed several games because of injury. Hines Ward is good, and I love him for winning our Fantasy Football League Championship, but these guys can stop him--and Randle El.
4. Michael Boulware
Polamalu gets all the press (yes he's good, but also crazy. What is it about Pittsburgh defenders and mental instability?) but watch and see who makes more big plays. It just might be Seattle safety Michael Boulware. Last year as a rookie he made three game saving interceptions in the closing seconds of games. This year he has only gotten better. He intercepted Delhomme once (who didn't?) in the Conference Championship and I'm betting will do the same in the Superbowl.
The Steelers are good. I respect the team and especially the coach. Rothlisberger has been great in the playoffs. But remember, he is only in his second year. Does anyone really think that the Broncos defense really showed up in the AFC Championship? The Seattle defense will not be so uninspired.
Don't be surprised if Seattle goes up 14 points in the first quarter forcing the Steelers to throw the ball. The Seahawks will get to the QB and Big Ben will fade under the pressure and throw interceptions. Just like Jake Delhomme.
After writing this, I've almost talked myself into picking the Seahawks by more than 10 points.
Perhaps the biggest reason Seattle will win the Superbowl? Mike Holmgren. He has been to four and been on the winning side of three. Remind me, how many Superbowls has Coach Cowher won? Holmgren is the best play callers in the league and among the best overall coaches. His team and especially his offense will be prepared for anything and everything. For those of you who like good people to win the game, Mike Holmgren is one. He is a great family man who loves his wife and daughters and cares about his players. For Christmas he sent his wife on a humanitarian trip to Africa. I'm sure Mike would be there with her right now, if he weren't coaching the Seahawks in the Superbowl.