Let the hype begin

The next week may be the greatest leading up to a game you'll ever see for a non-Super Bowl matchup.

The next week may be the greatest leading up to a game you'll ever see for a non-Super Bowl matchup.

And let's face it, there's little chance the game itself will disappoint. This is as sure a thing as you'll find in sports. Both defenses are too good for the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Baltimore Ravens Part III to be anything but another tight game.

© OK, enough about next week's game, even though I know that will be the hot topic.

Let's talk about Willie Parker. You know, the guy some people want to get rid of because he's not a "Steelers' kind of running back."

Parker looked like a "Steelers' kind of running back" Sunday when he was running through the Chargers to milk the clock. He looked like the Pro Bowl running back he'd been the previous two seasons.

Parker's healthy now - or at least as healthy as he's been since the beginning of the season. You remember that, right? That was the last time he put together back-to-back 100-yard games.

Will he have that kind of success against Baltimore? No. But nobody does, not even the ultimate "Steelers' kind running back" Jerome Bettis.

Just for the record, a "Steelers' kind of running back" is one who is successful.

© We heard all week long about San Diego punter Mike Scifres and how good he is – and Scifres is good.

But he outkicked the coverage on Santonio Holmes' punt return in the first quarter.

In fact, that was something the Steelers had targeted as something they could take advantage of.

© Bruce Arians' offensive game plan against the Chargers was very good. They came out running against the Chargers and never really stopped, even when San Diego finally started bringing the safety down into the box.

Ben Roethlisberger's throws early in the game were safe, short passes. They wanted to make sure he had his wits about him before they had him start throwing downfield.

You had to like some of the deep shots, as well, even though they didn't connect on any of them.

They had the Chargers guessing all day.

And yes, he even ran out of the I-formation a good deal. I could have done without some of the Carey Davis touches - particularly at the goal line – but if he's on the field, you've got to get him the ball every once in a while to keep the defense honest.

© LaMarr Woodley has four sacks in two career postseason games.

His second sack of on Philip Rivers Sunday left Rivers punch-drunk as he staggered to his feet after Woodley slammed him to the turf.

Rivers then sailed his next two passes high over the heads of his intended receivers and the Chargers were forced to punt from their own 1.

This came after the ill-fated Davis run on fourth-and-goal at the 1 and the Steelers scored after getting the ball back at midfield.

Woodley didn't score the touchdown, but he might as well have.

© Can we get off of Mitch Berger's back now? He had another solid game punting Sunday.

Did he struggle when he had the pulled hamstring? Yes.

But I think a lot of people are confusing Paul Ernster's awful work in his time as Berger's replacement with Berger's efforts.

He's been fine the past few weeks.

© The offensive line has been good the past two games as well, but we all know that could be a mirage.

Baltimore will be a very stiff test next week. I know I said I wasn't going to mention that again, but it is the reality.

It will help that the Steelers are playing at home, but there were enough mistakes - false starts, etc. – to not get too excited about dominating Cleveland and San Diego.

© Eli Manning? Eliminated

Rivers? Eliminated.

Roethlisberger? Still playing and heading to his third conference championship game.

Enough said.

© Maybe a little karma here: The only time a team with fewer than 10 regular season wins went to the Super Bowl since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, it was the 1979 Rams.

You remember them, they lost to the Steelers in the Super Bowl, the last of the Super Bowl wins for the '70s Steelers.

Philadelphia and Arizona both ended the regular season with nine wins.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.

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