Two years ago, the Steelers and Seahawks played in one of the more dreadful Super Bowls in recent memory.
The final score wasn't so much a proclamation of an NFL champion as it was a condemnation of not having the Patriots or Colts participate.
Seattle did everything in its power to lose the game, and succeeded at losing better than Pittsburgh failed at winning. The Pittsburgh offense was discombobulated to the point that the best Steeler pass of the day was thrown by a wide receiver.
And on Sunday, we get to relive the glory all over again.
Seattle and Pittsburgh haven't come as far as one might think since that fateful February day. Ben Roethlisberger is still overrated, the Seahawks still can’t catch a break, and both teams are hovering near the top of their conferences—close enough to see the promised land, but flawed enough to never make it there.
Still, their matchup will make for good TV. Both teams are 3-1, but they've taken very different routes to get there.
Seattle’s road has been difficult, with wins over Cincinnati, San Francisco, and the surprising Buccaneers. Pittsburgh waltzed over Cleveland and Buffalo and beat up on a previously undefeated San Fran. Both teams lost to the Cardinals, which defies all logic.
Their media personas are vastly different, too.
The Steelers are media darlings, which is unsurprising given that there's an ex-Steeler on every network pregame show (Cowher, Bettis, and Bradshaw). The print media is also in love—the object of their affection is the man sandwich of Roethlisberger and new coach Mike Tomlin.
Roethlisberger gets attention for anything good these days. He's a prototypical passer in a prototypical football town. His early success has many misguided admirers picturing him as the next great NFL quarterback.
Tomlin has earned his love the hard way—and has been under great scrutiny since replacing Cowher and becoming only the third coach in the Steelers' last 30 years. Critics and fans are warming to Tomlin's strict style, though, and to his credit he has shown the ability to get his team ready to play week-in and week-out.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, are largely forgotten. They've avoided the "undefeated" hype thanks to a single miscue against Arizona. At 3-1, they're at least as good as Green Bay, and would certainly give the Cowboys a run for their money.
Still, very few observers mention the 'Hawks as a good team.
Playing in the Pacific Northwest has something to do with it, and the sustained good-bordering-on-great success they've enjoyed over the past few years has taken some of the excitement away. In a conference of has-beens and have-nots, it's easy to lump the Seahawks in with every other underqualified contender.
Sunday’s game will hopefully set everyone straight.
First of all, Roethlisberger isn't the second coming of Dan Marino. The end zone interception he threw against the Cardinals was typical Big Ben—a poor decision that cost his team...but got written off by the media as a product of his deep desire to win.
Seriously, has anyone ever seen Roethlisberger take over a game in a good way? If the Seahawks are able to bring the same kind of pressure they brought against the Niners, Roethlisberger will look a lot less like a golden child and a lot more like someone who has the word “burger” in his last name.
Tomlin is a good coach, but he has yet to be challenged in a big game. Beating the teams you're supposed to beat is a sign of solid coaching, but outsmarting a crafty head man with a good team is something else entirely.
The Seahawks, for their part, should get much more respect after Sunday’s game. Playing an opponent as renowned as the Steelers can only help Seattle's national credibility.
And assuming they play to their potential, the 'Hawks will have every chance to win.
The game should be very interesting to watch. No records are at stake, so Shaun Alexander will have little motivation to run hard. The Steelers defense will be tested for the first time this year. Willie Parker will need to bounce back from a poor outing against Arizona, and Julian Peterson will look to reach new heights of self-promotion should he sack Big Ben.
As long as it isn't a repeat of Super Bowl XL, everyone will go home happy.
Seahawks 27, Steelers 20
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