Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SPORTS: Steelers in AFC Championship

*Posted January 11, 2009*

For the third time in 5 years, your Pittsburgh Steelers are one win away from the Super Bowl. I have to say I am a little bit worried about this one. The 2005 playoff run was something magical, and by the end of the divisional round, we all knew it. The Colts upset was probably the greatest football game I've ever seen, so the Broncos and Seahawks games were no brainers for me. You just knew the Steelers had something special going that season, and if you're like me, you made a couple hundred to sweeten the title even more. But this year is a little different. Instead of being underdogs, the Steelers are home favorites. AFC title games have never gone smoothly in Pittsburgh, and we are going up against a team that scares the hell out of any real fan. The pundits are saying that the pummeling of the Chargers means the Steelers are peaking at the right time, but the Chargers just simply looked terrible. So let's breakdown the magical 05 run and this one.

2005 Coach: Seasoned vet Bill Cowher Power shocked the field with a disciplined defense and a creative offense coached by Ken Whisenhunt. Anyone who watched the Steelers in 05 shouldn't be surprised at Arizona's success now.

2008 Coach: Coaching novice Mike Tomlin calls the game like he's playing Madden. And just like in Madden, fake punts never work and stubborn 4th down calls eventually bite you in the ass. The great thing about Tomlin is that he knows when to throw the challenge flag, but he has to minimize the stupid calls.

2005 Offense: Large Ben Roethlisberger surprised every defense (except Seattle's) with a pass-first offense that wasn't just effective; it was flat out dangerous.

2008 Offense: Fat Ben Roethlisberger has had a shitty year statistically, but given the experience, the ring, and the turnaround against San Diego, he has a chance to prove to the world that he belongs with Peyton and Tom.

2005 Defense: A defense that made the right plays at the right time, whether it was a Joey Porter sack against Peyton Manning on 4th down, or a key 2nd half Larry Foote interception against Jake Plummer.

2008 Defense: Best D in the league speaks for itself. It won't mean much against an offense like Baltimore's that stinks, but if they get the chance against Philly or Arizona, it'll mean a lot.

2005 Matchup: Beating the Bengals and Colts pretty much sealed the deal for the Steelers. The Broncos and Seahawks were pushovers.

2008 Matchup: The opposite of 05. The easy game is out of the way, now they have the hardest game of the year (at least it's at Heinz Field), and the NFC teams are dangerous).

Verdict: Like I said, I'm nervous about this weekend. It'll be interesting to see one thing: Pittsburgh has had the hardest schedule in the NFL in the last 30 years, and they finished 12-4. Does something like that wear you down over time, or does it sharpen your skills every week and make you that much more prepared for the next game? We will see.

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