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T Bradshaw
07-26-2009, 06:33 AM
Pittsburgh Steelers strong bet to repeat in AFC

By: Chance Harper - 06/25/2009
Is a Pittsburgh, Arizona rematch in the Cards for the next NFL Championship? The road to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami is closer than you think, and futures couldn't be softer.
NFL Europe is gone. The CFL, such as it is these days, doesn’t start until July. The NFL Combine and the NFL Draft are in the rear-view mirror. This must be the perfect time for handicappers to get their football fix.

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I’ve said it before, it’s like buying winter clothes on sale in the summertime. The Super Bowl futures market is at its softest in the offseason, especially in that pocket of time between the end of the NBA playoffs and the start of NFL training camps in late July. The betting odds will only get tighter after camps open and we gradually get a better idea what these teams are truly made of.

The defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers opened at 7-1 to win Super Bowl XLIV at Dolphin Stadium and have since moved to 15-2, losing steam to the very public New England Patriots at 4-1. The difference between these two teams is fairly small, at least in terms of the over/under for regular season wins, with New England at 11.5 and Pittsburgh at 11. Both teams are expected to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Pats are 1-7 favorites to take the AFC East, while the Steelers are 5-7 faves in the AFC North.

Pittsburgh definitely represents the more stable of the top two Super Bowl picks. The Patriots are bringing Tom Brady back into the fold after missing nearly all of 2008 with a serious knee injury. The Steelers will have pretty much everyone of concern back for another run at the title, although that also means there are still weaknesses to be addressed at tailback and wide receiver. Pittsburgh’s offense was ranked No. 15 in the league in running efficiency last year and No. 20 in passing.

The Steelers defense created the conditions for winning by holding opponents to a league-low 13.9 points and 237.2 yards per game. They scored three touchdowns in the regular season and another at the Super Bowl when LB James Harrison huffed and puffed 100 yards to paydirt. Pittsburgh’s defensive line will be stronger with first-round pick Evander Hood from Missouri, and CB Keiwan Ratliff was signed from the Indianapolis Colts to replace Bryant McFadden.

Given this considerable advantage in field position, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (17 TD passes, 15 interceptions) kept the chains moving and played inspired football when it mattered most, all the way up to his epic title-winning pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds remaining. This is a two-time Super Bowl champion in the prime of his career at age 27. Can Brady compete with this in his age 32 season after a serious injury?

Better yet, compare the Steelers’ quiet offseason to that of their Super Bowl adversaries, the Arizona Cardinals. They’re not getting a lot of support on the market, falling from 15-1 at the open to 20-1 as contract talks with WR Anquan Boldin bog down. They’re even money to win the NFC West, which could yet again be the difference between making and missing the postseason. The good news for supporters is their total of 9.5 victories, suitably higher than the 7.0 posted for the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

The Cardinals might not look like a beacon of consistency, not with QB Kurt Warner at the controls while Matt Leinart holds a clipboard for another year – or at least until Warner gets injured, which was thankfully not an issue in an MVP-quality campaign at the tender age of 37. Arizona protected Warner in 2008 with major improvements on the offensive line under the watchful eye of assistant Russ Grimm. The Cards allowed 28 sacks last year; Pittsburgh coughed up 50. An upright quarterback is a consistent quarterback.

The Cardinals have a solid core of talent led by a top young coach in Ken Whisenhunt who cut his teeth alongside Grimm in the Steelers organization. They filled their needs at the draft, starting with former Ohio State tailback Chris “Beanie” Wells in the first round. And unlike the Steelers, they have the weaker NFC to navigate on the way back to the Super Bowl. True, history hasn’t been kind to Super Bowl losers – last year’s Patriots being the most recent hard-luck example. But value bettors might be more inclined to take their title chances with Arizona at nearly three times the payout.

WWP
07-26-2009, 10:49 PM
I love it...New England can get all the love they want from the media. Yeah Brady is back, whatever. Keep us under the radar where we like to be. If the Steelers can win another championship this year, we will start hearing talk of who is really the team of this decade. And we can start talking dynasty again.

Think about it. The only team to win 7 super bowls...and the only team to have TWO dynasties.

GridironWarrior
07-26-2009, 11:54 PM
The media seems to forget how weak NE D is. It's so frustrating and annoying to see almost everyone picking them to make the Super Bowl and win.

JackHammer
07-27-2009, 01:20 AM
The media seems to forget how weak NE D is. It's so frustrating and annoying to see almost everyone picking them to make the Super Bowl and win.

I think people just like to believe that Brady and Co are gonna put up 37 points per game like they did in 07, in which case weak defense won't have much of an impact on the outcome of games. I'm not convinced though. Eventually they're gonna have to call on their defense to help win a playoff game and I don't think theirs will be good enough to hold up.

steelreserve
07-27-2009, 03:31 AM
I love it...New England can get all the love they want from the media. Yeah Brady is back, whatever. Keep us under the radar where we like to be. If the Steelers can win another championship this year, we will start hearing talk of who is really the team of this decade. And we can start talking dynasty again.

Think about it. The only team to win 7 super bowls...and the only team to have TWO dynasties.

I think the 49ers actually had two dynasties; just no one realized it because they were right in a row with no gap. Think about it: two Hall of Fame QBs on the roster at the same time, two Hall of Fame coaches on the staff at the same time. There were 20 straight years where if they weren't in the Super Bowl picture, it took a damn good effort to knock them out. Jerry Rice made it look like a single experience by being around for most of it, but he played for 21 seasons. But other than that, the players on the roster when they won their last Super Bowl were all completely different from the ones on the roster when they won their first two, down to the last man. They regenerated a new dynasty on the fly, and I don't think any team in the history of the modern game can claim anything close to that.

Sorry, but even though the '70s Steelers were probably a more dominant team in their time, they were only that way as long as that same group of players were together. That was one dynasty with a definite beginning an a definite end. I really hope we've got a new one in the making here, and we really ought to win one more, that's for sure.

But anyway, I don't really care about the "number of dynasties" a hell of a lot. I think if we win another, we'll have tied the 49ers with two. But so what? The important part is that we'd be by far the best franchise of all-time. You cannot argue with seven trophies.