Super Bowl Preview
We haven’t seen the Steelers in a Super Bowl in a while (10 years). And we’ve never seen the Seahawks in the big game. Both teams have two weeks to prepare for relatively easy wins in the championship games. This game is at a neutral indoor site (Detroit), but is there anything that stands out as far as how these teams fared on the road this season? The Steelers are playing their best football at the right time of the year, going 7-0 SU, 6-1 ATS in the last 7 games. Most impressively, they were the No. 6 seed in the AFC and had wins against the Bengals, Colts and Broncos – all on the road! That makes Pittsburgh 8-2 SU/ATS on the road this season! Seattle is just 5-3 SU, 4-4 ATS on the road, though they averaged an impressive 27 ppg on the road. Advantage for the Steelers.
Philosophically, both teams are similar. Coaches Bill Cowher and Mike Holmgren are veteran coaches who have led their teams to Super Bowls before. Holmgren makes his third trip, winning once and losing once with the Packers. Both coaches have built their teams on a ball control philosophy and balanced offenses. Every team has a strong running back and a strong offensive line game.
It was interesting that in recent weeks both teams did not play conservatively, which has been their reputation. Pittsburgh came out throwing the ball often against the Colts and Broncos, and threw several trick plays at the Bengals. In the past, Cowher has been more inclined to run the ball, the critics say too much, but that hasn’t been the case in these playoffs. Don’t be surprised if both teams come out throwing the ball and mixing up the plays. The difference this season for Pittsburgh is probably that Cowher has a talented young quarterback who is an excellent decision maker. Cowher is clearly confident in letting Big Ben Roethlisberger shoot the ball. That wasn’t the case over the past ten years when he was stuck with below-average quarterbacks like Bubby Brister and Kordell Stewart.
Think back to last year’s Super Bowl when two excellent QBs squared off in Donovan McNabb and Tom Brady. Brady was quiet throughout the game because he was playing his third Super Bowl in four years. McNabb, on the other hand, was erratic, especially early on, bringing down several receivers and throwing too many passes, one of which was intercepted by Rodney Harrison in the end zone in the first quarter. QBs can get nervous playing in their first Super Bowl with the whole world watching!
The fact that the game is indoors is probably a wash, not favoring either team. Experience is another factor to consider. Although neither team has any Super Bowl experience of late, it would give the Steelers an edge. Pittsburgh went 16-2 last season and hosted the AFC Championship Game, losing to the Patriots. That experience factor has helped this postseason, especially since they played three road games in hostile environments in Cincinnati, Indy and Denver. And they played intelligent football without mistakes. Seattle made the playoffs last season, but fell apart in the first round against the Rams. Then this year, they had home-field advantage, but played two playoff games against teams with various flaws in Washington (little offense) and Carolina (too many injuries, even their third line). Also, Seattle doesn’t have a lot of experience playing big games on the road.
Looking back on this season, Seattle barely won on the road in St. Louis and Tennessee. And the Seahawks lost 23-17 at Green Bay (their last game on the road), 20-17 at Washington and 26-14 at Jacksonville to open the season. Also note that Seattle’s defense allowed 21 ppg on the road where they are 7-1 ‘Over’ overall. Pittsburgh has opened up the offense more in the second half of the season and is riding a 5-2-1 ‘over’ streak in the Super Bowl. The Steelers also have more experience playing indoors: Since Thanksgiving, they have played three games indoors, one in Minnesota and two in Indianapolis, going 2-1 SU/ATS.
Finally, games are often won and lost through turnovers and in the trenches. I can’t predict turnover, but I can point out that in the trenches, both teams excelled at stopping the streak this season, each ranking in the NFL Top 5. On paper, it’s a wash in the trenches, possibly meaning turnovers will be “the difference,” as the French say. Super Bowl 40 should be fun to analyze for the next two weeks and watch. Good luck as always… To McMordie.