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NFL Super Bowl 2011: Bracketology 101, Pittsburgh vs. Chicago Pick Still Alive

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NFL Super Bowl 2011: Bracketology 101, Pittsburgh vs. Chicago Pick Still Alive
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January 15, 2011: Coach Mike Tomlin celebrates his team's win in Pittsburgh. He'll host Rex Ryan in the AFC Championship Game.

Are your Super Bowl picks still alive? Probably not. Over the weekend, mine made it to the NFL final four. I’m not bragging—just extrapolating the facts. 

On Saturday evening, the Steelers' come-from-behind win kept one of my Super Bowl picks alive. The world-famous black, gold and white uniforms with the classic blue and red diamond on their helmets are back.

The Steelers sport the No. 1 defense against the run in the NFL, and defense wins Super Bowls. Pittsburgh's won an NFL-leading six.

They kept my bracket alive with stellar offense. Quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger bailed me and the Steelers out by leading a barrage of touchdown drives—bringing my bracket back to life.

Life in Americana today on Monday, January 17 will be about barbecues, schools and banks closed and government employees hosting parties. From the mountains to the prairies white with snow, there will be parades, marches, ceremonies and parties marking the day.

Americana on this day honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. How sweet it must be for the two African-American coaches left in the playoffs. Dr. King's dream is alive in the realm of sports in terms of bringing players, coaches, people and fans peacefully together. Passionate speakers across the country will be brimming like the barbecue's burning fire.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
January 16, 2011: Coach Lovie Smith drives his team through the snow in Chicago. The Bears host the NFC Championship Game.

The Steelers offense was on fire and speaking with championship statements in the second half against Baltimore. They barbecued the birds (Ravens), but they also get the bonehead play of the weekend award. The game started out 7-0 Steelers. Before I could finish a conversation with a friend, it was 14-7 Ravens.

After the ball got knocked loose from Roethlisberger on a sack by linebacker Terrell Suggs, the Steelers became spectators. Defensive lineman Cory Redding and the Baltimore Ravens were busy scooping the ball up and cruising with a caravan into the end zone for the tiebreaker. I can’t blame the Steelers offense because it happened before I had time to blink.

The official running on the left side of the field signaling touchdown was the only member of the crew paying attention. The one closest to the play was as unaware as the Steelers. Look at the film and you will see for yourselves.

The No. 2 seed in the AFC—Pittsburgh—should have learned its lesson from the Auburn-Oregon game film. The Roethlisberger fumble and Ravens touchdown play was similar to a game-deciding development in the NCAA BCS National Championship Game on January 10, 2011.

Auburn's running back Michael Dyer kept going with the ball while Oregon's defense relaxed—assuming the officials had blown the play dead. The play led to the championship-clinching touchdown for Auburn.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
January 24, 2010: Deuce McCallister holds the George Halas Trophy in New Orleans. A new team will hold it this year in Chicago.

Feeling assured the Seahawks defense would roll over and play dead, I was relaxing on Sunday. Chicago—my other pick—had a 21-0 lead at halftime, and it was time to start jotting down some thoughts on my bracket.

On Saturday night in the deafening Georgia Dome, the Green Bay Packers had knocked off the No. 1 seed in the NFC—the Atlanta Falcons. The Bears (No. 2) were now the highest seed left.

Eric Weems set an NFL playoff record with the 102-yard return for a touchdown to tie the game. After scoring the first touchdown of the game, it was something for Atlanta to hang its hat on—for a while. 

Quarterback Matt Ryan, however, started his teammates' heads to hanging by throwing the pick six to Tramon Williams—unleashing the upset. The Packers, meanwhile, were putting their hard hats on. Hard-nosed quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ confidence travels, and he put on a clinic in the Dome. He is trying to become another Packers legend.

The Chicago Bears know it. They had the luxury of watching him and their potential opponents slug it out. They took notes while watching the Packers-Falcons Saturday night fight matchup and knew they could host the NFC Championship Game. Just win baby.

By now I was hoping the Jets would win an upset in the friendly with the Patriots in the late game on Sunday—the NFL Divisional Playoffs round finale. The Steelers would then host the AFC Championship Game instead of the No. 1 seed—New England.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
January 24, 2010: Peyton Manning holds the Lamar Hunt trophy in Indianapolis. There will be a new AFC champion this year.

The Bears-Seahawks game ran late, but I switched the channel and the Jets game hadn't started. I'd set it to record, but live rumbling reduces a writer's research time. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn't do his research—Rex Ryan would say—in throwing the early first quarter interception. It was on after that, and the Jets blasted the Patriots out of the playoffs.

That means my Super Bowl picks—Pittsburgh and the Bears—are hosting conference championship games. The battle-tested and playoff-friendly Steelers watched their opponents beat each other up on Sunday and will have a week to prepare for the Jets.

New York will appear in Pittsburgh to play for the Lamar Hunt Trophy in the AFC Championship Game and their right to go to the big ball—the Super Bowl.

Intriguing matchups on the gridiron and between the hash marks are ahead for Americans and international fans. NFL intrigue is alive and kicking, especially in NFC circles and circumstances.

The Packers will take a trip to Chicago and try to hoist the George Halas Trophy at Soldier Field. It’ll be the tiebreaker between the two franchises and the first time they’ve played in the playoffs since 1941.

The Bears will try to beat Green Bay for the right to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy that goes to the winner of the big dance.

Lombardi coached the Packers during the 1960s when they won five NFL championships. Halas is known as the “Father of the National Football League.” He has several nicknames, including “Papa Bear,” and coached the Bears from 1920-1967. 

1967—six and seven. The Steelers have won six Super Bowls and are going for No. 7 in 2011. I'm neither a horoscope nor game of chance guy, but I like my bracket.

Tell me how you like yours.

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