Fri, Jan. 24

Pittsburgh, Seattle defy odds to get to Super Bowl

Sunday the almost impossible was accomplished by the Pittsburgh Steelers as they completed a three-game postseason run with a 34-17 win over the Denver Broncos to become conference champions and advance to the Super Bowl, Feb. 5.

The Steelers became only the second team in history (and the lowest seed in sixth) to win three road games on the way to a conference title and the ultimate contest, Super Bowl XL. The only other team to tackle such a feat was the 1985 Patriots, who defeated the No. 4 Jets, No. 1 Raiders and No. 2 Dolphins to get their conference championship trophy.

The Steelers had to defeat AFC's No. 3 Cincinnati, No.1 Indianapolis and No. 2 seed Denver to have their shot at the Super Bowl championship.

The last time Pittsburgh went to the AFC Championship game was in 2002 when they lost to New England, 24-17, on the way to New England's back-to-back Super Bowl wins. The Steelers, although a powerhouse in the mid to late '70s and 1980 with four Super Bowl victories in six years, was fairly dormant in the playoff arena throughout the '80s. In 1990 - Pittsburgh's most successful season since their 1980 Super Bowl win - ended with a loss against Dallas in Super Bowl 30, 27-17.

No doubt they are looking to start a new era in Pittsburgh football, beginning with this Super Bowl and a win over the Seattle Seahawks. But one of the worst things the Steelers can do now is to underestimate their rival as both teams head to Detroit for a winner-take-all contest.

Seattle has not had the best of luck getting to or in the post season since the beginning of the franchise in 1976. With slow starts and mid-season fizzles, the Seahawks have never come really close to a Super Bowl spot.

In 1984 the Seahawks found themselves in the AFC Championships, but where thwarted by Los Angeles, 30-14. They would return to the post season the very next year, but couldn't make it past the AFC divisional game with a loss against Miami 31-10. It would take the team four years to find themselves in the divisional game to see themselves once again ousted from the playoff bracket, this time by the Cincinnati Bengals, 21-13.

This year has been different, something new and overdue for this football team and its city, as for the first time in almost 30 years, the Seahawks have a chance to be the best football team in the world.

Their road to the greatest football game on earth did not seem to be an impossible road, but more like improbable, seeing their luck in past playoff situations.

Seattle took charge over Washington in the first round of playoffs this year, quickly showing that they are a formidable force and won that game, 20-10. As the Seattle fans held their breath to see if this might be the year they have been waiting for, their team won again, this time - and for the first time in Seattle's history - they won a divisional championship game, 34-14, over the Carolina Panthers.

Now for the unknown: both the Steelers and Seahawks have had their ups and downs this season. The Seahawks lost their first regular season game to Jacksonville, 25-14, in what looked like another stumbling start for Seattle, but that speed bump only slowed the team down for a second as they regrouped and became a powerhouse in the AFC conference.

The Steelers on the other hand came out fighting, winning their first two games, dropping a couple after that and then had a three game slump in the middle of the season which almost took them out of serious playoff contention. With a record of 8-5 going into their last four games of the regular season, every game they played had to be a win if they wanted to see any playoff hopes stay aliveŠwith that constant intensity, Pittsburgh sucked it up and fought hard to get where they are today.

I don't think I would have picked either team to be in the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season and especially not Seattle as I barely remembered that the city of rain had a football franchise. Their performance this season has definitely reminded me not to rule out the underdogs in any sport as they are now favored to win the Super Bowl this season.

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