Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
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The 4th and final edition (A MUST read for Steelers fans)
My buddy Thomas' final take on this years Steelers playoff run, and he's been 100% right so far.
First, let me state that the Seahawks are a good football team. If the Steelers are not prepared, the Seahawks can easily take it to them. With that said, this is the most relaxed, most focused Steeler group I have ever saw. They understand what needs to be done and I fully expect them to handle the situation. But, here is why I think the Steelers will win.....
Seahawks Offense VS Steelers Defense
Seattle brings the best running game in the NFL into this game. They have a strong passing attack, but, in essence, this is a zone blocking team with a West Coast style of passing, which is very similar in many ways to the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are a left-handed running team. The like to run the stretch and look for cutback lanes and everyone knows this. The Steelers, specifically Joey Porter and Kimo Von Oelhoffen have to hold the line of scrimmage. They do not have to force penetration, but cannot be moved off the ball either. The key is to keep your feet and string the play. The win for us will be Hampton who must continue to blow the center into the backfield, in this case Robbie Tobeck. What this does is removes the cutback option and allows the linebackers and safeties to fill the lanes, stuffing the Seahawks running attack. When the Seahawks start passing, the Steelers need to turn the blitzes loose. The Seahawks lack a true monster at wide receiver. Darrell Jackson is the closest big play guy they have and he has been injured most of the season, but he is not in the same category of Marvin Harrison, Chad Johnson, or even Ashley Lelie when it comes to burning an offense deep. Joe Jurevicius and Jeremy Stevens should be the key to this game for the Seahawks. If they are able to establish some play action and attack in the middle, it is the area they will want to make hay. I do, however, like the matchup of McFadden or Townsend on Jurevicius. While he has size on our corners, I like the matchups because McFadden is athletic enough to stay with Jurevicius and Townsend is a veteran who plays well. Stevens should get matched up with Polamalu and Hope, and while he has been better this year, he is still an inconsistent player.
**** Lebeau will ask Porter and Kimo to hold the line on the left side. Hampton will force the double team in the middle, and the backside pursuit will close the creases. The Seahawks will struggle with the run. They must run left because if they attempt to run right, you are asking your three worst offensive linemen (Tobeck, Gray, and Locklear) to stalemate the Steelers two best defensive linemen (Smith and Hampton). In addition, you have Farrior, Polamalu, and Ike Taylor, three of the better run support players stacked to that side. If the Seahawks want to make hay with the run, it will be left, and you can bet Lebeau is making plans to stop that. In the passing game, the Seahawks struggled to pick up the blitz when they faced Dallas, the only other 3-4 defense they faced all season. Dallas does not possess the type of 3-4 schemes the Steelers do. Shaun Alexander stated in a press interview that the 3-4 changed all the angles for the Seahawks offense and gave them trouble. Expect the Steelers defense to give them way more problems, not only slamming the run but breaking through for clean shots on Hasselbeck. Once this game starts to get ugly, it gets really ugly really fast.
Seattle Defense VS Steelers Offense
Seattle runs a 4-3 defense that is based more on speed and deception than it is on power. It is very similar to what the Colts attempt to do, but I do not feel that the Seahawks have the talent of the Colts at some key positions. They have one 300+ pound defensive linemen in Marcus Tubbs, but injuries have relegated him to a backup role with Rocky Bernard being the starter. Bernard is in the mold of Warren Sapp, but is more like the current version of Sapp than the young version. While he does get penetration, he will face Alan Faneca in the Super Bowl, who is the best left guard in the NFL. That is a huge win for the Steelers. The other tackle is Chartric Darby, an undersized athletic tackle. Darby will have a tough day. He either gets to face Kendall Simmons, who outweighs him by 60 pounds, or gets to spend all afternoon being pushed around by the Steelers Pro Bowl center, Jeff Hartings. Either way, Darby will have his hands full. The Seahawks best end is Grant Winstrom, who bases his game on speed. The Steelers counter with Marvel Smith, who not only has the ability to mash defenders in the run, he has the speed and athletic ability to handle some of the best speed rushers in the NFL, as he showed against Dwight Freeney. The key battle on this line will come at LDE, where the Seahawks have another athletic speedy end in Fisher. Speed rushers have given Steelers right tackle Max Starks some problems, but expect the Steelers to keep Heath Miller there to chip the end, allowing Starks to put his hands on him and eliminate the end. The Steelers line will more than handle the defensive line of the Seahawks. To a man, they are simply better. They will not force double teams, which will allow the Steelers to get Kreider, Miller, and Faneca/Hartings/Simmons onto the second level. The Seahawks have three undersized athletic linebackers, so once the Steelers break the line and can locate and engage on those linebackers, it should be a huge win for the Steelers running attack. Watch for this to keep the safeties in tight. Stopping the run should be the focus for the Seahawks, if they do not, it will be a long day of watching the Steelers march up and down the field.
The problem with them loading up on the run, the Steelers can easily run play action and use Miller down the center of the field. He matches up really well with the linebackers because of his size and should even be considered a win if they cover him with a safety. Both safeties for the Seahawks like to support the run and that is their strength, but they are vunerable to the pass. The Seahawks will also match up Andre Dyson on Hines Ward, which is a win for the Steelers. While Dyson is a solid corner, the Steelers Hines Ward does not get by on athletic ability, he gets by on being a crafty veteran. I expect Ward to keep Dyson on his toes, using bumps and pushoffs to create space. I also feel that Ward being so physical will be a key. Trufant should do a pretty solid job on the Steelers #2 wide receiver, whether it is Wilson or Randle El. The key will be if the Seahawks #3 corner can stay with the Steelers #3 WR. I think that is another win for the Steelers.
I expect the Seahawks to focus on the run early and the Steelers will try to get up on them through the air early. Watch for some type of cover two or cover three zone that give coverage to the middle of the field. I would not be surprised to see a play action pass with a pump fake to the middle, drawing a bite from an outside coverage guy. Look for a deep pass to one of the wide receivers early. Then, the Steelers will return to Miller, riding him early and often. I expect a reverse to Randle El in the first quarter because the Seahawks like to crash down the line. This could be a big play, especially in a 2nd and short situation. I also expect the Steelers to use the run, which will become a staple of this offense, probably early in the 2nd quarter. By the start of the 3rd, the Steelers will bring out Bettis to close this one out. With the Seahawks being an undersized team, I expect Bettis to be a huge player in the 2nd half with the potential for MVP.
As field goal kickers go, inside the 40, it is a toss up. As you stretch out further, the advantage goes to the Steelers, who bring out Reed. Reed is simply more accurate at longer distances, but inside the 40, they are pretty even. The Steelers have an edge in punting. Both are solid punters and won?t make mistakes, but Rouen lacks some of the distance he had in earlier years. On kickoff returns, Scobey is dangerous. While I think Ike Taylor can be dangerous as well, Scobey gives them a decided edge. He can set the Seahawks up in good field position, but our coverage teams have improved over recent years, so I do not think this is an area of panic. In punts, Peter Warrick and Randle El are pretty similar, with both having the ability to burn a team on any kick. The difference, Randle El has actually done it. Overall, I give a slight special teams advantage to the Steelers for being sound in all phases.
I think, in the end, the Seahawks just have not faced a team that is as physical as the Steelers. The schemes the Steelers run confuse them on offense, change their angles, and will force them to adapt. On defense, they are just undersized and it forces them to bring help into the box. The Steelers have exploited this all year. In this game, the power runners of the Steelers should stretch the lead out late.
Final Prediction: Steelers 31-Seahawks 10