View Full Version : History on Steelers' side going to Atlanta

10-22-2006, 07:38 AM
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers play today in Atlanta or, as it should be known to them, their land of milk and honey. They have played the Falcons 13 times and lost to them once, way back in 1970 when Terry Bradshaw was a rookie.

Over the ensuing years, the teams have played 10 times, and the Falcons have managed a tie to go with nine losses.

Only two NFL teams have gone longer without a victory against an opponent: the St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals have not beaten the Denver Broncos, and the New York Jetshave not beaten the Philadelphia Eagles.

Their dominance over Atlanta is one thing, but the Steelers are on a pretty good run against the entire National Football Conference. They have won nine games in a row against NFC teams, including their Super Bowl victory against Seattle.

That's not so unusual, either. The entire AFC has not lost the annual interconference series since the NFC owned a 33-27 edge in 1995. The AFC has won the past four Super Bowls and seven of the past nine. The Steelers, for their part, are 81-52-1 against NFC teams since the 1970 NFL merger.

So, what does it all mean?

"I don't know," said Hines Ward. "I have no idea, to be honest with you."

Back when the old NFL and younger AFL merged in 1970, the upstart league brought a more wide-open game into the mix. The AFL threw the ball more often, threw it deeper and was more open to different styles of play than what was then the stodgy NFL. The NFL played a more powerful, traditional game.

"It was different at the time of the merger," said Ernie Accorsi, the New York Giants general manager. "I remember we played the Raiders in the preseason when I was at Baltimore. They used the bump and run; we didn't do that. The corners came up in the receiver's face; there was very little of that in the NFL. There were different styles. They threw the ball deep more than we did."

Time, coaching changes, interconference play and free agency changed all that to where the NFL has become one big melting pot.

"Too many people have crossed over," Accorsi said. "I just don't see a delineation in philosophy between conferences. I don't care where Bill Belichick would have been, he would have won. Same with Bill Parcells."

Linebacker Chad Brown began with the Steelers in the AFC and moved into the same conference with Seattle. But then the NFL realigned, and Seattle was switched to the NFC. Now Brown's back in the AFC.

"I don't think it's a conference thing," Brown said. "With teams and coaches, you have a goal when you're designing your team -- how to win your division. So the dominant team in that division shapes that division and how players are drafted and how teams are built."

A good example occurred in the AFC North. Good receiving tight ends such as Todd Heap, Kellen Winslow and Heath Miller were drafted into the division, and teams countered by going after strong safeties to cover them.

Brown also noted that when the St. Louis Rams were known as the Greatest Show on Turf, defenses in their division had to counter that. Same with the Steelers' ground game.

"The goal is to beat the dominant team in that division," Brown said. "And that's how they build their team. So, perhaps conferences can be swayed one way or another. When the Rams were a dominant team, there was a premium on using six defensive backs against them. When the Steelers are a great running team, there's a premium on run-stoppers."

Teams in the AFC also were quicker to switch to the 3-4 defense after they saw first-hand the success the Steelers had with it.

It should be more difficult when an AFC team plays an NFC team it hasn't seen in awhile. Since they are not familiar, they either must spend more time watching them on tape or remain unfamiliar.

"Scheme-wise, you'll get some things different when you play teams you don't play every year," said Steelers coach Bill Cowher. "I think it's more getting acclimated to the personnel. Teams that you play against every year, you get a feel for the matchups."

Put Cowher down as believing there's little difference between the conferences, either in style of play or talent.

"I think there's been so much transition with coaches from one conference to another that I really don't look at it as a style of play in the NFC as compared to the AFC. Things are so cyclical, even the quality of play goes year to year and, honestly, month to month."

Indeed, in the early going of this season, the NFC may break a 10-year trend. It owns 13-8 lead in interconference games.

"There's so much parity throughout the league and there's been so much movement throughout the league," Cowher said, "I think it's hard to really qualify an AFC style vs. an NFC style."

10-22-2006, 07:48 AM
So, what does it all mean?

"I don't know," said Hines Ward. "I have no idea, to be honest with you."

ROTFLMAO!!!!!! I bet these guys get so sick of stupid questions from sports writers.......