Pittsburgh Steelers (14-5) at Seattle Seahawks (15-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 6:00 ET
SURFACE: Field Turf
TV: ABC, Al Michaels, John Madden
SERIES: 15th meeting. Seahawks lead the series, 8-6, and are 4-2 against the
Steelers of coach Bill Cowher. The Steelers' only visit against the Seahawks
away from Pittsburgh came in 1983 when they won in Seattle, 27-21.
2005 RANKINGS: Steelers: offense 16th (5th rush, 24th pass); defense 4th
(3rd rush, 16th pass). Seahawks: offense 2nd (3rd rush, 13th pass); defense
17th (5th rush, 25th pass)
PREDICTION: Steelers 23-20
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Steelers have the ability to move the ball on the
ground or through the air, but the key will be the Seahawks' defensive front
seven. If they can stop the run without the help of a safety, the Seahawks
can leave their safeties back and limit the one-on-one coverage. But if
Pittsburgh can run the ball effectively early, and it has a size advantage,
then QB Ben Roethlisberger could be dangerous off play-action.
Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck's role might be even more critical. Seattle's offense
struggled in its only game against a 3-4 defense this season (Dallas), and
Hasselbeck will be responsible for recognizing where the pressure is going
to come from and setting up the correct protections.
RB Shaun Alexander must be effective on early downs or the Steelers will be able to bring the house and overload the Seahawks' talented offensive line in long passing
FAST FACTS: This will be the Seahawks' first playoff appearance. ... The
Steelers are 4-1 in the championship game. ... DE Aaron Smith, who led the
Steelers with 8.0 sacks in 2004, led them with 22 pressures in 2005, seven
more than No. 2, OLB Jerry Porter. ... Steelers RB Willie Parker had a
3.8-yard average per carry (119 carries) in the first half of games in the
regular season and a 5.4 average (136) in the second half. ... Steelers QB
Ben Roethlisberger has boosted his career NFL postseason passer rating to
100.9 with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in five games. ... The
Seahawks had the league's No. 2 red-zone defense this season.
-- FB Dan Kreider, listed as questionable with a knee injury, should be
OK to play on Sunday and may be upgraded before the week is out.
-- DE Aaron Smith, who led the Steelers with 8.0 sacks in 2004, led them
with 22 pressures in 2005, seven more than No. 2, OLB Jerry Porter.
-- RB Willie Parker had a 3.8-yard average per carry (119 carries) in the
first half of games in the regular season and a 5.4 average (136) in the
-- QB Ben Roethlisberger has boosted his career NFL postseason passer
rating to 100.9 with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in five games.
-- RB Duce Staley likely will not dress Sunday. He has been active for
just five games this season and last played Dec. 4 when he had three carries
for two yards against Cincinnati.
--CB Andre Dyson (quadriceps) returned to practice Thursday. He remained
probable on the injury report.
--WR D.J. Hackett (hamstring) was added to the injury report Thursday
after leaving practice with an injury. The team is listing him as probable.
--WR Peter Warrick will handle punt-return duties again. The team thinks
his knee, which required surgery last year, has recovered to the point that
Warrick can make plays. Warrick entered this season coming off knee surgery.
"Early in the year I don't think he was physically ready to go,"
special-teams coach Bob Casullo said. "Now he is much healthier, he is much,
much, much more in tune to returning the ball for us. So we're happy to have
him back there."
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
His teammates hope that Joey Porter's play, for the second time in the
post-season, can match his big pre-game talk as the Steelers on Sunday will
try to win their first Super Bowl in 26 years.
After Porter's fire was lit by Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens,
Pittsburgh's Pro Bowl linebacker erupted, spewing all the Seahawks in the
"We're going to go out there and play football our style," Porter
promised. "It's going to be very physical. We're going to try to tap out as
many people as we can, put it like that. We're going to try to send as many
people to the sideline as we can."
"That's all you need to know. Every chance we get a chance to tap
somebody out, that's what we're going out there to do."
Said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, "I'm used to Joey doing that stuff.
It is always kind of amusing to me because I like to hear what he has to
say. That is just Joey being Joey. He gets very excited, so he likes to be
out there a little bit."
Porter became upset when he heard that Stevens promised to ruin Jerome Bettis' Detroit homecoming Sunday.
"You don't want to come into the game thinking that you are going to
lose. I can appreciate that," Porter said. "But at some point in time you
are supposed to not say something. I don't think he is worth enough to talk
like that. Personally, I think he is soft."
That is what Porter called the Indianapolis Colts before the Steelers
played them Jan. 15 in an AFC semifinal game. Porter had 1.5 sacks that day
and the Steelers won, 21-18. He was relatively calm before the AFC
Championship Game against the Broncos and again at Tuesday's Super Bowl
media day at Ford Field.
He's quiet no more.
"When you get a chance to take it personal, it gets you a little extra
fired up," said Porter, who has three sacks in three playoff games. "Now I
feel like I have a chance to take it personal and I thrive off that."
Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens refused to add any fuel to the fire,
but Steelers linebacker Joey Porter kept stoking the embers Thursday.
"I'm telling him he's soft now and I'll tell him when I see him," Porter
said. "He knows he's soft. That doesn't bother me. He's a tight end. I've
never, ever, ever been afraid of a tight end."
Stevens toned things down after saying Wednesday that it would be sad
when Steelers running back Jerome Bettis left his hometown without the
"You won't hear Jerramy saying anything more for the rest of the week,"
coach Mike Holmgren said to laughter. "You know what, I suppose going
through Super Bowl week without something like that happening would be
Stevens seemed to take things in stride.
"I think it's part of the deal when you come to the Super Bowl," he said.
"People are looking for stories. All I intended was to answer questions. ...
I don't regret. I spoke the truth."
Porter kept running his mouth.
"I understand everything that I'm saying," Porter said. "I was careful
the first few days, making sure I didn't say anything that would upset
anybody. But when you fire first I'm definitely going to fire back. I'm not
mad at him for his real feelings because it just allowed me to give my real
"If he's going to say how he really feels then I might want to tell you
how I really feel."
Porter called Stevens soft as a blocker.
"Blocking is all heart, just like special-teams play," Porter said. "If
you want to do it, you do it. If you don't want to do it, then you get beat.
And I watched him. He does not want to block.
"He's a liability if they need him to pass block. If they run a play to
my side and use the tight end to block, he's a liability. If they do
anything using him to make a play coming to my side it's not going to work,
I'm telling you that right now. If they leave him in to pass block against
me I'm going to get their quarterback. Those are just the facts."
Stevens refused to address those comments directly.
"From the history of what I know, and I don't know much about Joey, is
that something he likes to do is to look for something to get motivated on,"
Stevens said. "If that's what he's found, then that's what he's found. I'll
be ready to play."
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