In the first tens days of pre-Super Bowl hype I've noticed that a central theme seems to be a perceived lack of respect for the Seattle Seahawks. I do not much disagree however I think that little has been made of the Steelers march to to the AFC title. Lets remember that the Steelers were the sixth and final seed in the tougher of the NFL's two conferences. Pittsburg then went on the road and beat Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Denver, the top three seeds in the AFC. Taking into account some horrific officiating, they did so in dominating fashion! Only one other six seed has ever advanced to the Super Bowl and that was the 1985 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
Like this year's Steelers, the '85 Pats finished their season at 11-5, good enough for third in the AFC East. The Pats then went to the Meadowlands and beat the Jets 26-14 in the Wildcard and then on to the LA Coliseum where they lowered the Las Angeles Raiders 27-20 in their Divisional game. New England then went to Miami as overwhelming underdogs and dispatched the Dolphins 31-14 to punch their ticket to New Orleans and a date with the Bears in Super Bowl XX
That '85 Pat team started with veteran Steve Grogan at the controls but he went down with a severe injury in Game Seven and was replaced by Tony Eason. The Pats finished 21st in passing, 4th in rushing, 10th in points, and 9th in total offense. Eason's abysmal 11/17 TD / INT ratio made the run all the more improbable.
Craig James had his best year as a pro rushing for 1225 yard at 4.7 yard per carry with Tony Collins 657 yards at 4.0 ypc as the changeup. Irving Fryar and Stanley Morgan both had 39 catches for 695 yard and 760 yards respectively. Tony Franklin connected on 24 of 30 FG attempts for 80% and 112 total points. HOFer John Hannah was the anchor of a pretty good offensive line.
No doubt that Roethlisberger stirs the drink in Pittsburg. Two of the five Steeler losses can be summed up in two words – Tommy Maddux. In the others, one could argue that Big Ben eas less than 100%. Roethlisberger's 2385 yards, 17/9 ratio and 98.0 QB rating put him third in the NFL among starters trailing only Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer.
Wicked fast and shifty Willie Parker burst on the scene with 1202 yards at 4.7 ypc. The Bus, Jerome Bettis got the tough inside yard and nine touchdowns. Vernon Hayes and Deuce Staley would both start on other teams. Heinz Ward had a so / so year in catches and yardage but did get his 11 scores. Every Steeler wideout blocks and Heath Miller has it all over '85 Pat TE Lin Dawson. The Steelers finished 3rd in rushing, 4th in passing, and 3rd overall.
Edge: '05 Pittsburg
The '85 Pat defense was a wrecking crew that always seemed to come up big in it's biggest games. DL Julius Adams and LB triplets Andre Tippett, Steve Nelson, and Johnny Rembert anchored the # 4 defense against the rush and all went to the Pro Bowl. Fred Marion and Ray Clayborn played corner and center field on the 6th rated pass defense. The Patriot defense was ranked the overall # 4 stop unit in the NFL in 1985.
The Steeler defense in a group effort where everyone is good but nobody is arguably outstanding. Joey Porter (10.5) and Cliff Haggans (9.0) own half the Steelers sacks and Chris Hope leads the secondary with three picks, only Porter and Troy Polamalu even have two. The Steelers were # 2 against the rush, # 10 against the pass and # 8 overall.
Edge: '85 New England
In 1985 the New England Patriots marched through the AFC playoffs as the 6th seed to eventually be mauled by the Chicago Bears 46-10 as 10 1/2 point underdogs. In 2005 the Pittsburgh Steelers marched through the AFC playoffs as the 6th seed and are favored in their matchup with Seattle by four points. Win or lose, the 2005 Seattle Seahawks will never be mentioned in the same breath as that great Chicago Bear team. On Sunday we'll see if they've even given their proper respect.