heres a pretty good view of the underdog role by Bob Smizik for the Black & Gold Insider..
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
By Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
DETROIT -- As the Steelers traveled their improbable route to the Super Bowl, winning consecutive playoff games on the road against the three top-seeded teams in the AFC, after each victory someone on the team was bound to proclaim: "We shocked the world."
Those words might have sounded pretty sweet after victories against Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver, but the Steelers don't want to be repeating them.
There's only one way they can shock the world in the Super Bowl, and that's by losing to the Seattle Seahawks.
The team that rallied around its role as the underdog, the team that thrived on an us-against-the-world mentality is no more.
The Steelers are not just a four-point favorite against the Seahawks; they're America's team. Much of the country is rooting for Jerome Bettis to achieve his dream of ending his career in his hometown with a Super Bowl championship. Beyond that, the Steelers have most of the big names, have received more national television exposure and are the team most people are picking to win.
It's the Seahawks who are the underdog, the Seahawks who are getting no respect and the Seahawks who are employing the us-against-the-world mentality. The Seahawks this week sound like the Steelers have for most of January.
Consider this litany of whining just from this week:
"No one wants to give us credit," wide receiver Darrell Jackson said. "I don't really think anyone wants to see us here, maybe because we're not a big metropolitan media [market]; but for us having the second-best record in the NFL and still being labeled the underdog for this game is kind of ridiculous."
Linebacker Lofa Tatupu, sounding like Hines Ward, said, "A lot of people haven't given us a chance."
Defensive end Bryce Fisher said: "The great thing about our team is that we don't care one bit about what the so-called experts have to say. The people on ESPN, NFL Network, the people who get paid to be right, don't have anything invested in our team and our season."
It should. It's similar to a lot of what the Steelers have been saying since they faced the daunting challenge of having to win their final four regular-season games and then playing higher-seeded opponents in three playoff games.
But if the Seahawks believe they can walk in and play the no-respect card against the Steelers, a team that has mastered this particular gambit, they are mistaken. Ward, who championed the team's underdog role -- even when it wasn't the underdog -- used the first media session of the week yesterday to reclaim the low ground.
"We don't feel like we're the favorites. That's the oddsmakers' decision," he said to a media throng that stood five deep around his interview station.
The Steelers are the favorite, whether they want to admit it or not. That's not important. Here's what is important: The Super Bowl will be won not by the team receiving the least respect but by the team that plays the best game on Feb. 5.
It's possible, although not likely, that the Steelers needed the motivation that comes from believing no one thought they had a chance in order to win these seven consecutive games.
Generally speaking, though, such motivational devices go only so far. Teams don't make championship runs based on anything but being championship-caliber. If motivation was all it took, Dr. Phil would be coaching and winning in the NFL.
Sure, the Steelers are on a memorable run. But let's not forget they were an awfully good football team before this seven-game streak. In fact, in the past two seasons, there has been only one three-game span in which they weren't exceptional.
From the start of the 2004 season until they lost to the Baltimore Ravens Nov. 20, the Steelers were 23-4. Two of those losses came to the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. After losing three in a row in late November and early December to the Ravens, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers are 7-0.
In other words, aside from a comparative blip, the Steelers have been superb for two seasons. That's a point many, including this column, overlooked during the losing streak.
More to the point, the Steelers have been a hair short of sensational when a healthy Ben Roethlisberger is playing quarterback. Roethlisberger is healthy and will be starting in the Super Bowl.
Which means the no-respect card is meaningless. It's all about playing football, not talking football. The Steelers got to this point on their ability, and it's that ability that can win them the Super Bowl.
(Post-Gazette sports columnist Bob Smizik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org