Silver Chips Online

Super Bowl XL

Showdown in Motown

By Pratik Bhandari, Page Editor, Abe Schwadron, Online Managing Editor and Josh Zipin, Online Managing Sports Editor
February 3, 2006

Super Bowl XL is finally here. After a long season full of turmoil and controversy, it's down to Seattle vs. Pittsburgh for all the marbles. Silver Chips Online breaks down the big game...

Super Bowl XL: Seattle vs. Pittsburgh
Steelers 28 Seahawks 24Seahawks 28 Steelers 27Steelers 21 Seahawks 13Steelers 31 Seahawks 17Steelers 24 Seahawks 21

Seattle Seahawks vs Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, 6:00 p.m. - ABC

Key Points: For the Seahawks to win...
  1. Surprise, surprise...
    The Seahawks must use their balanced attack to the full extent, making sure that the Steelers defense is on its heels most of the time. Mike Holmgren, who has regained his aptitude for playcalling after a down year, will go up against Bill Cowher and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. But ultimately, it will be up to Matt Hasselbeck, more than Shaun Alexander to determine whether or not the Seahawks actually win the big one.
  2. Topple Big Ben
    Big Ben, like all good quarterbacks, will be able to pick the Seahawks apart if they let him stand in the pocket and deliver the football, but like all quarterbacks, he is also susceptible to pressure. This is perfect for the Seahawks who led the league in sacks during the regular season.
  3. 1st seed underdogs?
    The Seahawks are in a unique position of being the first seed in the NFC, with the second best overall record in the NFL, yet somehow, they are viewed as the inferior team. If there's any better motivator than disrespect in pro sports, I don't know about it. The word gets bandied about all the time, but the Seahawks can make a legitimate case for disrespect after the media has all but annointed the Steelers the Super Bowl champions.
  1. Pressure Big Ben
    For Seattle to slow down the Steelers' potent offense, they will have to pressure quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and not allow the Steelers' O-line to give Big Ben the time to survey the field that he has had in the last two weeks. In each of the Steelers' three playoff games, Big Ben has come out throwing, catching the opposition in a run defense. The Seahawks need to send LB Lofa Tatupu and extra blitzers at Roethlisberger early and rely on their secondary to play stiff one-on-one coverage.
  2. Alexander, Alexander, Alexander...
    Shaun, that is. The NFL's MVP needs to get at least 25 carries in this game, and Alexander should be given the chance to establish himself early. Despite gaining just 141 rush yards over the Seahawks' two playoff games, Alexander "the Great" has the ability to bust out for 120 yards against Pittsburgh, even against their stout D. But the key is that Seattle cannot abandon the run, even if they find themselves down early in the game. Alexander needs the rock, and the Seahawks need him to run with it.
  3. Pick up the blitz
    The Seahawks have yet to face a defense like the Steelers in the playoffs, and it will be critical for Seattle to react quickly and execute their offense efficiently in the face of a blinding defensive attack. Steelers linebackers Joey Porter and James Farrior each have at least 2.5 sacks in the postseason, and with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck not known for his mobility, Seattle must be weary of blitzes and give him time to scan the field for open receivers. The man to look out for is blitz-happy strong safety Troy Polamalu, who put the pressure on AFC quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Jake Plummer in Pittburgh's previous games.
  1. Establish the run
    Straight up, Shaun Alexander is Seattle's best player and if he doesn't get his touches Seattle will not have a chance in this game. Yes, Matt Hasselbeck has grown a lot in these playoffs, but without a solid contribution from the league's MVP, he will have trouble finding open receivers. Alexander showed no ill effects from the concussion he suffered at the hands of Lavar Arrington and rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh surrendered 5.7 yards per rush to the Broncos in the AFC championship game, and if the Seahawks stick with the run, even if they fall behind, their offense will flow a lot better. Hasselbeck finds his receivers best out of play action and if the Seahawks stick with the run, their passing game will take care of itself.
  2. Step up on third down
    On both sides of the ball, if Seattle can win the third down battle, they'll have a much better chance of winning. The Steelers do well in third and short situations with The Bus, but if Seattle can limit these opportunities and come up with some big stops, they'll dominate the time of possession, which is something that Pittsburgh likes to do. If Seattle wins the battle of the clock, they will get Pittsburgh out of their normal rhythm. On offense, of course converting on third down is a key to the Seahawks' success, especially for a team that has had a 46.9 percent conversion rate during the playoffs. Keeping the Steelers' offense off the field should get the Seattle offense in a groove - a dominating groove.
  3. Get to Big Ben
    Taking down the catalyst of the Steelers offense should be one of the top priorities for the Seahawks defense. If they can bottle up Big Ben, the quarterback who has thrown seven touchdown passes to one interception and amassed a 124.8 quarterback rating, the Seahawks should effectively shut down the Steelers' engine.
  1. Run, run, run
    After breaking the touchdown record in the regular season, Alexander has been cold during the playoffs. Actually, he's been out cold. In their first game he took a hit from Lavar Arrington that knocked him out of the game and he hasn't run the same since. If he can get back in mid season form then he will make the difference in this game, but he will have to get at least 25 carries. The Seahawks' best chance rides on his shoulders, and we'll see whether or not he can bear the load.
  2. Take over the trenches
    This is a germane factor in most games, but is especially significant this Sunday. With Walter Jones, widely regarded as the best offensive tackle in the business anchoring the line, the first second after the snap will be the most important. If the Steelers can get under the offensive line the game is already over. The 3-4 of Pittsburgh is just too quick when the line gives way. But if Seattle can take that first second and give Alexander a free yard on each snap, this one could get interesting.
  3. Prevent the big play
    The Seahawks have one glaring hole on defense that has yet to be exploited in the playoffs. Safeties Marquand Manuel and Michael Boulware jump routes and are extremely susceptible to pump fakes. If they do that on the Sunday they will be in trouble. Those infamous trick plays of the Steelers will torch them for easy touchdowns. They need to be ready any time Antwaan Randle El touches the ball.
Key Points: For the Steelers to win...
  1. Who let the dogs out?
    Blitz, blitz, blitz then blitz some more should be the gameplan for Dick LeBeau. Hasselbeck has established himself as an elite quarterback and the Steelers' defensive game plan works best when the quarterback is flustered and unable to spot the gaps in the coverage areas in the zone blitz.
  2. Get vertical
    The Seahawks secondary is shaky, at best, and the weakness just screams to be exploited by Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El. Big Ben may not have elite level arm strength, but he certainly has enough to make the Seahawks pay. The Steelers are obviously going to run the ball, but it would be very surprising if Bill Cowher doesn't try a couple of deep balls and trick plays early to get a quick score.
  3. Turn defense into offense
    The Steelers chances of winning will be greatly improved if they can generate turnovers and set up a short field for their offense. They can try and pick off Matt Hasselbeck, but he's been close to perfect this postseason. Rather, the Steelers should key in on Shaun Alexander and make him cough it up.
  1. Come out firing
    Traditionally a run-it-up-the-gut style team, the Steelers have switched up their offensive style in the playoffs, opening games with play-action and moving down the field with the pass. QB Ben Roethlisberger has thrown seven touchdown passes in the 2006 playoffs, completing at least 14 passes in each of the Steelers' three games and racking up 680 yards passing. The key for the Steelers' offense is not to abandon the run, but to ensure that Big Ben and talented receivers Hines Ward, Cedric Wilson and Antwaan Randle El get enough touches in the ballgame to make big plays. Pittsburgh needs to take the game by storm and come out of the gates scoring.
  2. Let Polamalu roam free on D
    The Steelers' defense is predicated on flummoxing the offense by blitzing, faking blitzes and causing general confusion to opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines. Their strategy will be no different this Sunday, when the Steelers will try to bamboozle the Seahawks by sending Polamalu to the line of scrimmage. Polamalu often will walk to the line, run back ten yeards, and then blitz. And when Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander breaks through the Steelers' front seven, Polamalu will be there to wrap him up in the secondary.
  3. Tricky, tricky use the whole playbook
    Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt claims to go into every game with at least three or four trick plays up his sleeve ready to be put into action. Against the Colts, the Steelers executed a trick play involving a "give-and-go" lateral from Big Ben and Randle El that went for a touchdown. The Steelers can confuse the Seahawks with flea-flickers, laterals, halfback passes and more, and with their talent on the offensive side of the ball, can effectively use trick plays to stun the 'Hawks.
  1. Dominate the line of scrimmage
    The Steelers are a run-first, rugged team. If Alan Faneca and Co. can dominate the Seahawks front seven then they should have success in this game. Ben Roethlisberger has carried the offensive load for the Steelers during the playoffs, amassing over 600 yards passing in three games. If the Steelers can balance Roethlisberger's capabilities with a solid rushing attack, the Seahawks will struggle. Lofa Tatupu has been a playmaker all year for the Seahawks, but he is a rookie and he did suffer a mild concussion two weeks ago against the Panthers. Rookies historically have not made big contributions in the Super Bowl. If the Steelers can push the line of scrimmage and limit the space for Tatupu, they will win the battle against the Seattle "D". The Steelers will have success if they pound the ball between the tackles.
  2. Make the Seahawks one-dimensional
    The Seahawks like to utilize their MVP so they can get their passing attack going. If Pittsburgh can make the game predictable and force Seattle into a passing game, they should dominate with their defense. That said, shutting down Shaun Alexander is about as easy getting rid of Bill Cowher's scowl. The best way to negate Shaun Alexander is to make the Seahawks play catchup. If Pittsburgh can jump out to an early lead, Seattle will use their best offensive weapon less and less.
  3. Ride the Bus
    Riding the Bus doesn't just refer to getting Bettis his carries by the goal line, which he will definitely get. Jerome Bettis has been the motivation for the entire Steelers team throughout the playoffs. As the emotional leader of an emotional team, and as the face of the franchise for 13 seasons, the Steelers will want him to go out on top (if he chooses to retire). Riding the Bus means playing with the passion of a man who has embodied the ideal NFL citizen and Pittsburgh Steeler for the past 13 years. Ben Roethlisberger promised he would get Jerome Bettis to the Super Bowl after his poor performance in the AFC Championship game last year, and now it's time for the entire Steeler team to play for Jerome "The Bus" Bettis.
  1. Run, run, run
    The Steelers have the better running back duo despite playing against the MVP. Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis combined for 269 yards so far during the playoffs. They help dominate the time of possession, something they haven't lost since October. If they control the game early and get a lead, the running game will seal the deal.
  2. Contain Shaun Alexander
    The MVP is not a 100 percent despite what everyone says. After getting a concussion against the Redskins in the second round, he hasn't been the same. Joey Porter needs to lead the Steelers front seven and push Alexander back before it's too late.
  3. Pressure Hasselbeck
    The Steelers best aspect is the continuity and blitzing packages of their front seven. To beat the Seahawks they will need to rely on these talents and send six or seven guys each time. By pressuring Matt Hasselbeck they will throw off the timing of the offense and force a lot of errant throws. Enter Troy Polamalu. Keeping Hasselbeck on his heels won't just force interceptions, it will completely stall the offense and leave the Seahawks sitting ducks.
Key Matchups
  1. QB Matt Hasselbeck vs. SS Troy Polamalu
  2. RB Willie Parker and RB Jerome Bettis vs. LB Lofa Tatupu