Ten Reasons Why The Pittsburgh Steelers Bring Home The Lombardi Trophy Again
Here we go again.
With two games remaining to decide who will vie for the Lombardi trophy in Super Bowl XLV, much is being said about how Mark Sanchez and the Jets seem to be playing at a very high level, having knocked off Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks in the playoffs.
Quite a bit of discussion is taking place concerning the Packers-Bears match up, the number of Hall of Fame players that these two teams have between them, and both Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler's inspired postseason play.
As is par for the course, it seems that very little is being said about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their chances of bringing home the trophy for a third time in six years.
Well, fear not, fans; this egregious omission of the Pittsburgh Steelers—the six-time World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the been-in-the-postseason-25-times-since-the-merger Pittsburgh Steelers, the bust-you-in-the-mouth-for-the-fun-of-it Pittsburgh Steelers—is about to be rectified.
Following are the top ten reasons that Pittsburgh will take home trophy No. 7, and why anyone betting against them is delusional.
10. Statistically Speaking...
Let's be real, folks. Since the AFL and NFL combined in 1970, no one can match the Steelers for Super Bowl hardware. Not the Jets, not the Bears, not the Packers...NO ONE. Since the leagues combined, Pittsburgh has does one thing very well: they have won championships.
Since the merger, Pittsburgh has made the post season 25 times. In those 25 appearances, they have made it to the Super Bowl seven times, winning six.
The Jets have made 12 post season appearances since the merger, have only been to the championship 4 times, and have yet to make it out of the championship round.
The Bears have done only slightly better, making it to the post season 14 times, although they have made two Super Bowl appearances with a 1-1 record.
The Packers have made 15 trips to the post season, with five championship appearances. Of those five, they have so far won two, with a Super Bowl record to match the Bears of 1-1.
Statistically speaking, the Steelers are a much better post season team than any of the other three teams still playing.
9. Size Matters
While none of the four quarterbacks remaining in the post season can truly be called small, Ben Roethlisberger is the biggest of the bunch; at 6' 5" and 241 pounds, he is an extremely strong, hard-to-tackle quarterback.
Couple his size with his ability to extend a play by scrambling until his receivers get open, and what you have is a very big problem if you are an opposing defense.
8. Toughness Is Key
Notice the nose in the above picture.
The week prior, Big Ben suffered a broken nose, courtesy of the very large hand of Haloti Ngata coming through his face mask—which, inexplicably, wasn't called on the field as a penalty for hitting the quarterback in the head, but that is a whole other discussion—smashing his nose sideways and quite probably causing the eyes of thousands of fan to water at the sight.
He came off the field, got his nose packed, and went back out the very next series.
And won the game.
The following week he had reconstructive surgery, came back to practice, and played that next weekend.
And won again.
Total snaps missed? Zero.
The defense, so to speak, rests.
7. The James Gang
Call it the Harrison Rule: if you plan on knocking a player out while making a tackle, make sure you have enough money in the bank to cover the very large check you are going to be writing on Tuesday.
Not that it has slowed him down much; his 10.5 sacks, seven passes defended, two interceptions and six forced fumbles ranks him at or near the top of the class whenever linebackers are talked about.
The NFL even realized that he was being overly penalized for playing football, reducing his unprecedented $75,000 fine for the sleep-inducing hit he delivered to Cleveland's Mohamed Massaquoi by $25,000 upon appeal.
He's not only fast, but strong; highlights of the Steelers-Ravens game will show him literally shoving Michael Oher backwards time and time again as he sacked Joe Flacco three times.
And lest you think that all Harrison is good for is tackling and the occasional interception, I feel compelled to remind you of his 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLII.
But Harrison is only the leader of the star-studded Steelers linebacker corps; Lamarr Woodley, his counterpart on the other side, has 10 sacks of his own, with three forced fumbles, seven passes defended, and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Between the quarterback tackling tandem of Harrison and Woodley reside the likes of James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons, both of whom more than contribute to the Steelers' vaunted defense.
In his 14th season, Farrior seemingly hasn't lost a step; his six sacks and one forced fumble combine nicely with Timmons' three sacks and two interceptions, making it extremely dangerous for teams to run or throw against the middle of the Steelers defense.
All together, Pittsburgh's linebacker corps has accounted for of 29.5 of the team's 48 sacks, and six of their 21 interceptions.
Oh, did I mention that their 48 sacks led the league in the regular season? Or that their five sacks/game average leads the league in the post season?
6. Give Him a Wide Berth...
Or he might take you out of the game.
Call him what you want: sneaky, dirty, scrappy, or cheap. But one thing you must call him is a champion, and he plays with the heart of one.
There is not a player in the game that seems to have as much genuine fun every time he straps on his pads and hits the field. Knock him down, he will pop back up with a smile on his face, ready to go another round with you.
Take your eyes off of him, and he is just as likely to make a game-changing reception as he is to make a career-changing block.
He is arguably the most complete all-around receiver playing the game today.
He's not flashy. He won't take the top off of the defense and beat you deep in a foot race.
He will, however, go over the middle all day long, and catch more passes than he misses.
Give him a chance to beat you in the red zone, and he will.
He knows where the seams are in a defense, and he will exploit them even when you know it is coming.
Lose track of him when he doesn't have the ball, you may find yourself looking up at him.
In short, Hines Ward is a dangerous receiver, and not just because he can catch the ball.
5. Safety in Numbers
In this case, the number is 43.
As in No. 43.
The first thing you notice about Troy Polamalu is the hair. The next thing you notice is that when he is on the field, there seems to be about five of him out there.
His official position is strong safety, but that is just a roster designation. If he decides that he wants to be a run stopper, he trots up between linebackers Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior and stops the run.
If he decides to be a defensive back, he dissects the offense, puts himself in position, and intercepts the pass - which he did seven times this season.
If he decides he is going to score, he will score.
If he decides to sack the quarterback, he lines up next to Harrison or Woodley, outraces them to the quarterback, and sacks him.
And might cause a game-changing fumble to boot.
Or if he wants to put on an extra special show, he pretends his hair is a cape and does his best superman impression, leaps the offensive line in a single bound, and sacks the quarterback before he knows what hit him.
Without him the Steelers defense is above average. With him, they are a force of nature.
4. As The Ball Turns...
Anyone can tell you that controlling turnovers is key to winning games. During the regular season the Steelers did just that, with a +17 T/O ratio.
The only team better was the New England Patriots at +28, but they are no longer a consideration.
Of the four quarterbacks, none threw fewer interceptions than Roethlisberger, who was only picked five times all season. Cutler was the worst of the bunch with 16 picks, followed by Sanchez with 13 and Rodgers with 11.
Throw one too many picks in the championship game - and one might be too many—and your vacation starts the next day.
Should I also mention that Roethlisberger has completed 186 consecutive passes without an interception?
That's almost Brady-esque...
The smallest one in the group is 6' 5" tall and weighs 285 pounds, which just means that he is big and fast.
The man in the middle is only 6' 1" tall, but he tips the scale at a mind-boggling 325 pounds, which means you are not going to go through him.
The other little fella is 6' 3" tall and comes in at a neat 300 pounds; he's young, but he plays like a seasoned pro.
I'm talking about Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton and Ziggy Hood, the front three of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the base of the 3-4 defense that has been giving opposing offenses fits for years.
They may not get a lot of glory, with the three starters combining for only 73 total tackles and 7 sacks—of course, Brett Keisel did have a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown, but even a broken clock is right twice a day—but their job isn't really to tackle.
Their job is to occupy the offensive line so that their teammates can tackle. And it is a job they do exceedingly well.
I refer you back to the Steelers' league-leading 48 sacks in the regular season as evidence that they are performing as required.
2. Caution: Genius at Work
14 years as a player, 37 years as a coach. All told, Dick Lebeau has been walking the NFL sidelines for 51 years, longer than anyone in the game right now.
As a player, he put up hall of fame numbers, with 62 career interceptions and a still-standing 171-game streak as a cornerback. He was rewarded in 2010 with a bust in Canton, a ceremony attended by the entire Steelers' roster.
As a coach, he is widely considered to be one of, if not the, greatest defensive minds in the game, and is heralded as the father of the zone blitz defense that the Steelers run to near perfection week in and week out.
None of the remaining teams has faced a defense like the Steelers when it is firing on all cylinders.
No, not even the Jets. When they beat Pittsburgh late in the season, they did so without Polamalu in the lineup.
Troy is back, Coach D's defense is firing, and no one has anything for them.
1. Coaching The Way to The Top
Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith, Rex Ryan, and Mike McCarthy. Four good coaches, leading four good teams. How do you determine which one has what it takes to lead his team to the prize?
The only way to determine these odds, it seems, is by looking at who has been there before.
Lovie Smith has been to the Super Bowl twice, but only once as a head coach, a game which his Bears lost to the Indianapolis Colts.
In only his second year as a head coach, Rex Ryan is the least experienced of the group. Considering that, he hasn't done too poorly, taking the Jets to their second consecutive championship game. However, Rex has yet to break beyond that level, and therefore does not yet have a Super Bowl resume.
Mike McCarthy is making his fifth appearance in the post season as a head coach, but his record thus far leaves a bit to be desired. Overall he is 3-2, losing the 2007 NFC Championship game to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.
Mike Tomlin, the youngest of the bunch, has amassed the best record. He is currently 4-1 in the post season, and most importantly, he is the only coach in the group with a Super Bowl victory.
Experience counts for a lot in this league, and Tomlin has not only experienced coaching in the Super Bowl, he is the only one to experience winning it.
All That Being Said...
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know...any given Sunday, right? Past performance is no guarantee of future failure of success. Pittsburgh stinks...etc, etc, etc...
Well, I've given you my two cents worth. Now let me have yours. You think you have a solid reason why they DON'T make it to the Super Bowl and win it?
Then by all means, let me have it...