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Old 01-31-2006, 06:19 PM   #1
marksashton
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Default Analysis: Do Seattle's strengths outweigh Pittsburgh's?

I have been lurking on this fine forum since the championship game and enjoy it a lot. I have to admit that the typical Steelers fan is much more knowledgeable about football than the typical Seahawks fan. That?s what comes from having a team that traces it roots back to 1933 (then called the Pirates). By comparison, the Seahawks fans are barely out of diapers in football-team years. Seattle is a city of newbies who moved there from other places (like Pittsburgh?) seeking a higher quality of life. Sorry for the smack but...hard to argue with. Among the newbies are people like me who grew up in places with a rich football tradition. I, for example, am from Cleveland. Although once a Browns fan, always a Browns fan, when the evil one Art Modell moved the team to that dump on the Chesapeake I lost some of my passion and adopted the Seahawks as my second home-team.

Which brings me to the topic at hand: I am here to propose that the Seahawks may end up being Pittsburgh?s worst nightmare because their strengths balance out Pittsburgh?s strengths?and in some case trump them. Here?s my argument.

First, the Seattle offense is good. Really good. You can talk all you want about strength of schedule but the bottom line is that Seattle scored the most points in the NFL this year, were #2 in total yards/game and #3 in rushing yards/game. But who cares about the regular season ? things REALLY get tough in the playoffs. Ok, let?s look at the playoffs: guess which team is just ahead of Pittsburgh in yards/game, and just behind them in points/game? Yes, the Seahawks. During the playoffs the Seahawks have played two teams (Carolina and Washington) with top 10 defenses in terms of yards/game allowed and points allowed/game - and won both games. In the Redskins game the Hawks gained 334 yards and scored 10 points. During the regular season, the Redskins allowed an average of just 287 yards/game and 18 points/game. In the Carolina game, the Hawks gained 393 yards and scored 34 points. During the regular season, the panthers allowed just 282 yards/game and 16 points/game. In other words, the Seahawks offense was able to beat up on two of the 10 best defenses in the NFL ? in the playoffs.

How do they do it? And how will the Hawks offense match up against the good Pittsburgh defense? The Seahawks offense is successful because they are balanced between the pass and the run, they have a QB who doesn?t make many mistakes, they have sure-handed receivers with lots of experience, they have the second best rushing team in the NFL with probably the best tailback, and most importantly, they have the best offensive line in the NFL. The Seahawks make it tough for opposing defenses because they run a lot of spread formations which makes it difficult for the defense to key on the running game. If they bring in the safety or LB?s to rush the QB or jam the run, the Hawks usually have 2 wide receivers, a tight end and sometimes a FB ready to catch a pass. If the defense focuses on the pass, our offensive line opens big holes for the running game. Pittsburgh has a good defensive line that, all things being equal, is clearly better than Seattle?s. They know how to rush the passer and break down running schemes. But against the best offensive line in the NFL, I think this strength is more than balanced out. In my mind, the keys for Seattle on offense are to establish at least some kid of running game. If they do that then Pittsburgh is in trouble. If Pittsburgh is able to stuff Alexander then Seattle is in for a long day offensively.

The Hawks QB is peaking at the right time. Hasselbeck was the 4th best QB in the NFL during the regular season in terms of QB rating and TD?s. He was one of the best in terms of interceptions (just 9). Most important, he?s mature. While he doesn?t have a huge amount of playoff experience, he has four games under his belt as a starter. He won two of those. He should have won at least one of the other two but for weak defense and a mistake (GB INT). Make no mistake - Hasselbeck is ready for this game.

One brief aside on Alexander: I have seen a lot of posts regarding his less than stellar performance in playoff games prior to last week. Fair enough. All he can do is point to his most recent game where he gained 132 yards and scored 2 TD?s. I have also seen a lot of comments about how Alexander is stuffed for short gains a lot. Fair enough. But the problem is that he/Holmgren rarely tire of trying and they almost always eventually start wearing down the opposing team. I have seen many games in his career where he?s stopped for gains of 1 or 2 yards several times in the first quarter. But eventually he starts getting 5, 7, 9 yards and often enough he?ll break one for 20+. Beware of complacency on the Pittsburgh defense.

Bottom line on offense: despite Pittsburgh?s superior defense (see below), Seattle?s offensive strengths are perfect to counteract Pittsburgh?s defensive strengths. The Hawks line allows few sacks (5th best in the NFL) and they block well for the running game. Seattle?s passing game is very balanced ? they don?t have any superstars but they have several guys who can make big plays and score. Pittsburgh will not be able to key on one or two receivers. And lastly, the Seahawks running game is well suited to press the Pittsburgh D.

Now, on the defensive side of the ball: Seattle?s defense is very under-rated. While Seattle was 16th in the NFL in passing defense, they were 5th in rushing yards/game and ? most important ? 7th in points allowed/game. Their defensive line and linebackers are a bit undersized but so far they have more than made up for that in speed. They run to the ball and gang tackle. They don?t make many mistakes either. They were penalized less than Pittsburgh?s defense and they rarely allow big plays. While I wouldn?t hesitate to say that Pittsburgh?s defense is probably better, the real question is whether the Hawks defense is up to stopping Pittsburgh?s offense. Pittsburgh?s offense is pretty good. They about average in terms of yards/game gained. They well below average in passing yards gained/game. They?re above average in rushing yards gained/game. To their credit, they?re pretty good in scoring ? 9th in the NFL with 24 ppg. But the bummer for Pittsburgh is that their biggest offensive strength (running game in my opinion) is offset by Seattle?s very good run defense. Educate me here if I?m miss-reading Pittsburgh?s offensive strengths? I also think that your QB ? while clearly a great player destined for great things ? may be due for a bad game. He?s very young. What will happen with his psyche is Pittsburgh is 3 and out for most of the 1st quarter? Will he force a few passes? Will he do something that any 23 year old might?

Bottom line on defense: Pittsburgh has the edge but their defensive strengths are outweighed by Seattle?s superior offense. The key to the game for Seattle will be stopping Pittsburgh?s rushing game as much as possible early in the game. I don?t believe that Cowher will give up on the running game ? not his or the teams style. But if they?re held to short yards early on, they?ll naturally have to try more 3rd and long passes ? something Seattle?s defense feasts on. From the Pittsburgh perspective, they need to get a lot out of Parker. The Bus in the Bus. He?s going to score a TD if they get down within 2-3 yards. But it is Parker that Seattle needs to stop early in the game and, particularly, at 1st and 2nd down. If Pittsburgh doesn?t get him going then they?re in for along day. If Seattle can?t stop him?they?ll have to hope Big Ben makes some mistakes.

Sorry about the book but that?s my 4 cents on the topic.

Good luck to both teams but especially the Hawks.
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Old 01-31-2006, 06:30 PM   #2
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Default Re: Analysis: Do Seattle's strengths outweigh Pittsburgh's?

very insightful analasys. i chuckled at the sure handed wr remark, but the biggest difference between this year and the past 2 let down seasons for the seahawks is their receivers making catches. plenty of the games they lost in the past couldve been won if the receivers made just one more catch, let alone 3. and the steelers can slow down any running offense. 1st, 2nd, 3rd....etc.

if i was holmgren i would be spreading the steelers defense out and attacking with the height of jeruvicious and stephens. im not saying this will work cause polamalu will be looking to hit these 2 hard. and the blitz will be coming, but if it does work i see seattle trying to turn this game into a shootout and really testing if bens past 3 week preformance was a fluke.

it just seems like both teams will be so focussed on shutting down the running game, that actually running the ball may just be an after thought and only be used to grind out the clock if one team gets a sizeable lead.
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Old 01-31-2006, 06:52 PM   #3
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Default Re: Analysis: Do Seattle's strengths outweigh Pittsburgh's?

Quote:
Originally Posted by marksashton
First, the Seattle offense is good. Really good. You can talk all you want about strength of schedule but the bottom line is that Seattle scored the most points in the NFL this year, were #2 in total yards/game and #3 in rushing yards/game. But who cares about the regular season ? things REALLY get tough in the playoffs. Ok, let?s look at the playoffs: guess which team is just ahead of Pittsburgh in yards/game, and just behind them in points/game? Yes, the Seahawks. During the playoffs the Seahawks have played two teams (Carolina and Washington) with top 10 defenses in terms of yards/game allowed and points allowed/game - and won both games. In the Redskins game the Hawks gained 334 yards and scored 10 points. During the regular season, the Redskins allowed an average of just 287 yards/game and 18 points/game. In the Carolina game, the Hawks gained 393 yards and scored 34 points. During the regular season, the panthers allowed just 282 yards/game and 16 points/game. In other words, the Seahawks offense was able to beat up on two of the 10 best defenses in the NFL ? in the playoffs.
You state that regular season numbers are irrelevant, yet you referenced back to it when talking about Carolina's and Washington's defense after Seattle beat them. Strength of schedule is a lot more important than you think, especially if 2/3 of your entire regular season schedule were against .500 and below record teams. You guys played one decent defensive AFC team in the Jaguars, and got it handed to you. But that was the season opener so we'll put that one aside. Your next two games AT HOME were against a mediocre (this season) Atlanta team and a horrible Arizona team. Then you went to Washington to play a decent team with an above average defense and lost. Then the next two games, you blew out two horrible teams (Rams & Cards), and then hosted Dallas (who did decently this season), in which you only managed to score 13 points to win by a field goal. Then off to three more games against horrible teams (Cards, Rams, Niners), and then hosting the NFC East Champs. You guys won that in OT because Feely blew three game winning field goals. The rest of the game was pretty much even. Then the remaining 5 regular season games were a cakewalk. (Indy didn't play their starters, and my Eagles....well don't go there lol).

So out of 17 weeks, you played 4 decent teams, in which your record was 2-2, .500. Now onto the playoffs. You played against a banged up Washington defense, and an offense that struggled to produce just over 100 yards total throughout their playoffs run. Then you dismantled a very one dimensional Carolina offense (aka Steve Smith), and a Julius Pepperless defense. Believe me, the defensive line of Carolina was a HUGE factor in their defensive side of play. Both games AT home.

In conclusion, regardless of Seattle's pretty numbers, you guys have yet to prove to me that you can beat decent teams away from Qwest field. You may or may not prove that this coming Sunday, but it has yet to be done in my eyes.
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Old 01-31-2006, 08:22 PM   #4
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Default Re: Analysis: Do Seattle's strengths outweigh Pittsburgh's?

Quote:
Originally Posted by syde18T
You state that regular season numbers are irrelevant, yet you referenced back to it when talking about Carolina's and Washington's defense after Seattle beat them. Strength of schedule is a lot more important than you think, especially if 2/3 of your entire regular season schedule were against .500 and below record teams. You guys played one decent defensive AFC team in the Jaguars, and got it handed to you. But that was the season opener so we'll put that one aside. Your next two games AT HOME were against a mediocre (this season) Atlanta team and a horrible Arizona team. Then you went to Washington to play a decent team with an above average defense and lost. Then the next two games, you blew out two horrible teams (Rams & Cards), and then hosted Dallas (who did decently this season), in which you only managed to score 13 points to win by a field goal. Then off to three more games against horrible teams (Cards, Rams, Niners), and then hosting the NFC East Champs. You guys won that in OT because Feely blew three game winning field goals. The rest of the game was pretty much even. Then the remaining 5 regular season games were a cakewalk. (Indy didn't play their starters, and my Eagles....well don't go there lol).

So out of 17 weeks, you played 4 decent teams, in which your record was 2-2, .500. Now onto the playoffs. You played against a banged up Washington defense, and an offense that struggled to produce just over 100 yards total throughout their playoffs run. Then you dismantled a very one dimensional Carolina offense (aka Steve Smith), and a Julius Pepperless defense. Believe me, the defensive line of Carolina was a HUGE factor in their defensive side of play. Both games AT home.

In conclusion, regardless of Seattle's pretty numbers, you guys have yet to prove to me that you can beat decent teams away from Qwest field. You may or may not prove that this coming Sunday, but it has yet to be done in my eyes.
Whew!!!!! That was more then a mouthful and definitely right on the money...they will have to show up with their A+ game if they think they have any kind of chance against a very seasoned Steelers team.....
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Old 01-31-2006, 08:57 PM   #5
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Default Re: Analysis: Do Seattle's strengths outweigh Pittsburgh's?

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Whew!!!!! That was more then a mouthful and definitely right on the money...they will have to show up with their A+ game if they think they have any kind of chance against a very seasoned Steelers team.....
Both teams have to show up to win this game.
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Old 01-31-2006, 09:00 PM   #6
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Default Re: Analysis: Do Seattle's strengths outweigh Pittsburgh's?

marksashton, thank you for this lucid, in-depth analysis. It is well written, well thought out, and brings a balanced approach to an often emotional and heated subject.
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Old 01-31-2006, 09:32 PM   #7
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Default Re: Analysis: Do Seattle's strengths outweigh Pittsburgh's?

Quote:
Originally Posted by syde18T
You state that regular season numbers are irrelevant, yet you referenced back to it when talking about Carolina's and Washington's defense after Seattle beat them. Strength of schedule is a lot more important than you think, especially if 2/3 of your entire regular season schedule were against .500 and below record teams. You guys played one decent defensive AFC team in the Jaguars, and got it handed to you. But that was the season opener so we'll put that one aside. Your next two games AT HOME were against a mediocre (this season) Atlanta team and a horrible Arizona team. Then you went to Washington to play a decent team with an above average defense and lost. Then the next two games, you blew out two horrible teams (Rams & Cards), and then hosted Dallas (who did decently this season), in which you only managed to score 13 points to win by a field goal. Then off to three more games against horrible teams (Cards, Rams, Niners), and then hosting the NFC East Champs. You guys won that in OT because Feely blew three game winning field goals. The rest of the game was pretty much even. Then the remaining 5 regular season games were a cakewalk. (Indy didn't play their starters, and my Eagles....well don't go there lol).

So out of 17 weeks, you played 4 decent teams, in which your record was 2-2, .500. Now onto the playoffs. You played against a banged up Washington defense, and an offense that struggled to produce just over 100 yards total throughout their playoffs run. Then you dismantled a very one dimensional Carolina offense (aka Steve Smith), and a Julius Pepperless defense. Believe me, the defensive line of Carolina was a HUGE factor in their defensive side of play. Both games AT home.

In conclusion, regardless of Seattle's pretty numbers, you guys have yet to prove to me that you can beat decent teams away from Qwest field. You may or may not prove that this coming Sunday, but it has yet to be done in my eyes.
Hey, if I were a Pittsburger I would shout out the strength of schedule stuff too. I don't blame you. But I will question how meaningful strength of schedule is as well as some of the points you made above.

First, the Seahawks won 13 games - in other words, they beat the teams they were supposed to beat. One of their three losses came in the last game of the season in Green Bay when they rested most of the team. That was a gimme. The Seahawks would have easily won had they played their starters. The two other losses - against Jacksonville and Washington - were much closer than you suggest ane came during the first four weks of the season, long before Seattle started rolling. Against Jacksonville - in their house - Seattle lead after three quarters. It was only a couple of late mistakes that gave Jacksonville the win. Against Washington, the game was tied at the end of regulation and Seattle lost in overtime. I'll add that Washington got a couple of pretty "fortunate" penalty calls that may have been the difference. Hardly a dominating win by Washington.

After those two losses in the first four weeks, Seattle won 11 in a row.

And while we're talking about strengh of schedule during the regular season, it's probably only fair to mention that Pittsburgh managed just 11 wins which included losses to New England (before they got good again), Jacksonville (who you noted beat Seattle...), Baltimore (not a good team this year except against Pittsburgh a team they almost beat twice this year) and Indy (a team Seattle beat).

But you're right, Seattle has only proven that they were the best team during the regular season and the best team in the AFC. Everything else is speculation. But that's what these forums are all about, right?
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Old 01-31-2006, 09:34 PM   #8
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Default Re: Analysis: Do Seattle's strengths outweigh Pittsburgh's?

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Both teams have to show up to win this game.
Your absolutely right........forget about stats and underdogs and all that.....IMO I believe the Steelers are more then ready for the Seahawks.Mostly because of the road they had to take to get there,thats why I say they are seasoned(I'm not taking anything away from the seahawks,they had to win their playoff games to get there also)but to lose 3 in a row and then have to win the last 4 of the season just to make the playoffs and then beat the #1 -#3 seed all on the road now thats seasoned,battle tested and hardened.Strengths and weaknesses aside both teams will reach deep down inside and find out what they are made of....
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Old 01-31-2006, 09:35 PM   #9
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Default Re: Analysis: Do Seattle's strengths outweigh Pittsburgh's?

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The key to the game for Seattle will be stopping Pittsburgh’s rushing game as much as possible early in the game. I don’t believe that Cowher will give up on the running game – not his or the teams style. But if they’re held to short yards early on, they’ll naturally have to try more 3rd and long passes – something Seattle’s defense feasts on. From the Pittsburgh perspective, they need to get a lot out of Parker. The Bus in the Bus. He’s going to score a TD if they get down within 2-3 yards. But it is Parker that Seattle needs to stop early in the game and, particularly, at 1st and 2nd down. If Pittsburgh doesn’t get him going then they’re in for along day. If Seattle can’t stop him…they’ll have to hope Big Ben makes some mistakes.

Sorry about the book but that’s my 4 cents on the topic.

Good luck to both teams but especially the Hawks.
Your key has been the same key that Cincy, Indy and Denver all thought and Ben ate them alive. If the Seahawks are putting 7 or 8 on the line, the game will be over quickly. I don't think Cowher will go away from what got them there. The Seahawks will pick their poison and the Steelers will make them pay with play action, a reverse, a 12 yard slant, or a 30 yard strike.

I also don't think Hasselback has seen a rush like the Steelers pass rush, nor Alexander a run stopping line like the Steelers D line. I think the first quarter the Seahawks will be in shock, and will make adjustments after that.

I looked at your schedule and found five opponents that may give us a good indication of Alexander and Hasselback's abilities. I picked Jax, Dallas, Wash, NY and GB, and threw out GB for Hasselback, since he didn't play much.

Here's what I found:

Alexander (5 games) 83 yards/game, 3.9 ypc, 3 TD's
Hasselback (4 games) 59% comp, 240 ypg, 6 TD's, 6 INT

Those numbers are good, but two huge things stand out. Only 3 rushing TD's and 1 TD per pick? The stats got padded the rest of the year.

I'm glad I did the research. I'm feeling better and better about this game.
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Old 01-31-2006, 09:41 PM   #10
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Default Re: Analysis: Do Seattle's strengths outweigh Pittsburgh's?

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Your absolutely right........forget about stats and underdogs and all that.....IMO I believe the Steelers are more then ready for the Seahawks.Mostly because of the road they had to take to get there,thats why I say they are seasoned(I'm not taking anything away from the seahawks,they had to win their playoff games to get there also)but to lose 3 in a row and then have to win the last 4 of the season just to make the playoffs and then beat the #1 -#3 seed all on the road now thats seasoned,battle tested and hardened.Strengths and weaknesses aside both teams will reach deep down inside and find out what they are made of....
"Battletested" is a nice thing to lean on. It create team unity and brings the fans together. Others might suggest that Pittsburgh might be a little more worn down after three playof games on the road...
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