Seahawks meet their mirror image in Super Bowl XL
The Seahawks came into the 40th Super Bowl with the league’s top offense and the seventh-rated defense. Their AFC counterpart Pittsburgh Steelers was something of a mirror image. They ranked third in defense and ninth in offense. Much like Seattle, Pittsburgh depended on a punishing running game led by Willie Parker. This was also the last season of The Bus, six-time Pro Bowler Jerome Bettis.
Ben Rothlisberger was in his second season with Pittsburgh and was still much more of a game manager then. He only averaged 22 passing attempts per game that year. Hard to believe this is the same guy who averaged 42 attempts in 2018. Same guy, but it’s now a very different team and a very different league.
The big names for Pittsburgh were on defense. They may not have had a Steel Curtain, but players like linebackers Joey Porter and James Farrior and strong safety Troy Polamalu inspired a lot of fear in offenses throughout their careers. The Steelers weren’t far behind the Seahawks in sacks with 47 of their own. They allowed the second-fewest passing touchdowns at 15, and were best in the league against the run, allowing only 3.4 yards per carry.
It’s an unofficial stat, but I’m pretty sure they led the league in most soiled underpants by opposing ball carriers, too. The Seahawks had a very good defense while the Steelers had a great one. We would see that play out in the title game matchup.
Pittsburgh came into the playoffs riding a four game winning streak to wind up at 11-5. They dominated the Bengals 31-17, then withstood a furious fourth quarter comeback by Peyton Manning and the Colts to win 21-18. In the AFC conference championship the Steelers spanked the Broncos 34-17. In those three playoff games, Rothlisberger threw seven touchdowns and just one interception. Maybe he wasn’t just a game manager after all.
Rothlisberger didn’t fare as well against Seattle. He was held to just 123 yards passing on 9 of 23 attempts, and intercepted him twice. Pittsburgh’s defense showed up too. Hasselbeck threw for over 270 yards and a score, but was sacked three times. They also kept Alexander out of the end zone, despite his 95 yards on the ground. The Seahawks controlled the ball for 33 minutes but were only 5-17 on third downs. Seattle controlled the game with the exception of two big plays. Those two plays cost them the game.