There Isn’t Any Decaf in These Steelers


Before considering the potential ramifications of a Seattle-Pittsburgh Super Bowl -- coffee versus ketchup, microbrews versus many brews, Starbucks versus the Star Bus -- let us consider where some key Super Bowl XL participants were a decade ago.

Seahawks: For a few minutes in 1995, this team was bound for Anaheim, with then-owner Ken Behring swooping in to capitalize on a city suffering from Ram withdrawal and hoping to leverage a new Seattle stadium out of the flirtation. The Seahawks actually set up temporary offices in Anaheim before the NFL blocked the move, saving pro football in Seattle as we know it.

Buck up, Anaheim. Today you can claim partial ownership of this trip to the Super Bowl. Go you Seattle Seahawks of Anaheim!


Steelers: Ten years ago this month, the Steelers reached their first Super Bowl since the glory days of the Steel Curtain, the baton being belatedly passed from Terry Bradshaw to Neil O’Donnell ... and there went Pittsburgh’s 4-0 Super Bowl streak.

In the 1996 Super Bowl, O’Donnell hooked up twice with Larry Brown -- note: Larry Brown then played cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys -- and the Steelers lost, 27-17. The franchise spiraled down into such a funk that the Steelers went 0-3 in AFC championship games -- all at home -- before Sunday’s 34-17 road reversal in Denver.

Mike Holmgren: Coming off a 38-27 NFC championship game loss to Dallas, Holmgren’s Green Bay Packers were about to launch their two-year reunion with the Super Bowl, a brief but ballyhooed era that christened Holmgren a football genius who could do no wrong. That quickly changed when Holmgren jumped in 1999 to Seattle, where he failed to win a playoff game until this month’s sweep of Washington and Carolina.

Jerome Bettis: The Bus made the trek to St. Louis, participating in the Rams’ first season there before Rich Brooks decided Bettis was done and traded him to Pittsburgh, where a good career would be upgraded to Hall of Fame status.

A Seattle-Pittsburgh Super Bowl was not a matchup anyone considered before the first football was kicked in September, but is it all that surprising?

In Seattle, Holmgren was facing a win-or-else ultimatum and, fortunately, found his team situated in a pathetic NFC West division that prompted the question: How can you lose? So, by beating up on Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco, and winning a few more against Houston, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Tennessee, the Seahawks were practically handed NFC home-field advantage through the playoffs.


Once there, the Seahawks drew the conference’s two lowest-seeded playoff teams, No. 6 Washington followed by No. 5 Carolina, and drowned them both in Qwest Field’s notorious wall of sound.

Sunday, Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith kept yelling, “I’m open! I’m open!” but Jake Delhomme couldn’t hear him. Result: Delhomme had nearly as many interceptions (three) as Smith receptions (five) and Carolina lost by 20 points, 34-14.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers were the last team to officially qualify for the AFC playoffs and today much is being made about Pittsburgh becoming the first No. 6-seeded team to reach the Super Bowl, which sounds impressive but misses the point.

These Steelers are, in fact, the most deceptive No. 6-seeded team in Super Bowl history. If these Steelers were at full strength throughout the 2005 regular season, does anyone believe they would have crawled into the playoffs at No. 6? The only thing separating Pittsburgh from the AFC’s No. 2 seeded team was Tommy Maddox.

We saw it coming as Ben Roethlisberger began to shake off his various injuries to close the regular season with consecutive victories over Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland and Detroit. The first-round victory over Cincinnati was predictable, as was Sunday’s triumph over Denver. Pittsburgh had the better team in both games.

The divisional-round victory over Indianapolis was surprising mainly by how the Steelers dominated the Colts for three quarters. A horrible officiating decision to negate Troy Polamalu’s obvious interception kept the Colts in it, before football justice was served via Mike Vanderjagt’s game-ending shank.


In truth, no team has been more deserving of the Super Bowl than these Steelers. To reach this one, Pittsburgh defeated the third-, first- and second-seeded teams in the AFC -- every victory coming on the road.

To drive home the point, Pittsburgh, seeded sixth in the AFC, is already favored to defeat Seattle, seeded first in the NFC. Again, not surprising. Five of the six AFC playoff entrants -- every team except Jacksonville -- would have been favored over the NFC champion.

How dominant is the AFC in today’s NFL? Three of this season’s final four -- Pittsburgh, Denver, Seattle -- competed in the AFC as late as 2001.

Realignment is nothing new to the Seahawks. They began life in the NFC in 1976, then moved to the AFC in 1977, then moved back to the NFC before the 2002 season. All that moving around, and yet it took them 30 years to land in a Super Bowl.

Finally, they are there. No wonder Qwest Field is so loud. Lots of pent-up frustration to be vented after 30 years.

Give Seattle its moment in the sun. Let the Seahawks and their fans milk these next two weeks.


Because on Feb. 5, they will be 15-3 for the season and underdogs in their first Super Bowl. Then they will line up against the Steelers. And then it will be time to wake up and smell the coffee.



Super visits


*--* No Team W-L 8 Dallas Cowboys 5-3 6 Denver Broncos 2-4 Pittsburgh Steelers* 4-1 5 San Francisco 49ers 5-0 Oakland Raiders** 3-2 Washington Redskins 3-2 5 New England Patriots 3-2 5 Miami Dolphins 2-3 4 Green Bay Packers 3-1 Buffalo Bills 0-4 4 Minnesota Vikings 0-4 3 New York Giants 2-1 St. Louis Rams*** 1-2 2 Kansas City Chiefs 1-1 Baltimore Colts**** 1-1 Cincinnati Bengals 0-2 Philadelphia Eagles 0-2 1 Baltimore Ravens***** 1-0 Chicago Bears 1-0 New York Jets 1-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-0 Atlanta Falcons 0-1 Carolina Panthers 0-1 San Diego Chargers 0-1 Tennessee Titans 0-1 Seattle Seahawks *0-0


* Record pending 2006 Super Bowl; ** one win as Los Angeles Raiders; ***one loss as Los Angeles Rams; ****franchise now Indianapolis Colts; *****Formerly Cleveland Browns, became a new franchise in 1996.



Arizona Cardinals*...1920

Detroit Lions...1930

New Orleans Saints...1967

Jacksonville Jaguars...1995

Cleveland Browns*+...1999

Houston Texans...2002

* The Cardinals, Browns, and Lions have previously won NFL league championships prior to Super Bowl I. The Cardinals were named NFL champions in 1925 and 1947. The Browns won the NFL championship in 1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964. And the Lions won the NFL championship in 1935, 1952, 1953 and 1957.

+ This refers to the Cleveland Browns team that the league officially views as one continuous franchise that began in 1946, suspended operations from 1996-1998 and then resumed play in 1999.