Sat, Feb 04, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Steelers have history, but Seahawks have experience

AP , DETROIT, MICHIGAN

Pittsburgh Steelers fans attend a pep rally in downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday. The Steelers are playing the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl in Detroit, Michigan, on Sunday. Oddsmakers favor the Steelers by 3 points for the game in Detroit, Michigan.

PHOTO: AP

The tradition-rich Pittsburgh Steelers face the upstart Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

It should be one of the better ones.

History is on Pittsburgh's side: The Steelers have four titles, all won during the six seasons from 1974-1979 behind Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mean Joe Greene and a bunch of other NFL Hall of Famers.

Seattle, on the other hand, hadn't won a playoff game in 21 years until this season and is in the Super Bowl for the first time in its 30-year history.

Everything the Seahawks have going for them -- and it's a lot -- happened this season: Seattle entered the playoffs as the NFC's top-seeded team, scored more points than any other team in the regular season, and did it with running back Shaun Alexander, who won the league MVP honors.

The Steelers, meanwhile, were the last seed in the AFC, the first sixth-seed to make it to the big game and only the second team ever to get there by winning three games on the road.

And despite all of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl experience as a franchise, only one Steeler has been there -- little-used cornerback Willie Williams, a starter on the 1996 team which lost to the Dallas Cowboys. Seattle has five who have been there with other teams: Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius; center Robbie Tobeck; defensive end Grant Wistrom; defensive tackle Chuck Darby; and punter Tom Rouen.

Even so, the oddsmakers favor the Steelers by 3 points for the game at Ford Field. Those odds seem to be more incentive for the Seahawks, who think of themselves as underappreciated.

"Frankly, we get sick of hearing it," All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson says when told a top-seeded team is an underdog to a sixth seed. "You'd think we'd earned respect. All we can do is keep winning."

Seattle's 34-14 victory over Carolina in the NFC title game two weeks ago was part of a 14-game run in which the only loss was the regular-season finale, when the Seahawks rested their starters for most of the game in Green Bay.

Pittsburgh's 34-17 win in Denver for the AFC championship was its seventh victory in a row -- the Steelers consider every one of them a playoff game after a 7-5 start because they needed every one of their six straight wins to end the regular season just to make it into the playoffs.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had five interceptions in two playoff games as a rookie last season, has only one in three postseason games this year.

"It has been like night and day," says Roethlisberger, who will be the second-youngest quarterback at 23 to start a Super Bowl after Dan Marino in 1985.

His play against Seattle's defense looks like the key matchup. He's found five different players in the end zone in the postseason, and completed 68 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns. Expect the Steelers to continue to throw the ball to set up what is one of the purest rushing attacks in the NFL.

Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, who in his first playoff game two years ago in Green Bay threw an interception that was returned for a game-winning touchdown in overtime, also has blossomed. He's completed 67 percent of his throws with three touchdowns and no interceptions in two playoff wins. He almost single-handedly took over the win over Washington after Alexander left with a concussion.

The running back matchup features Pittsburgh speedster Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis, the power back, against Alexander, who has shown no lingering ill effects from the concussion. The league MVP is a potential free agent after the Super Bowl, and could command a signing bonus of US$20 million.

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