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Comparing Super Bowl Six Seeds

During the first ten days of hype before the Super Bowl, I noticed that a central theme seemed to be a perceived disrespect for the Seattle Seahawks. I don’t disagree much, but I think little has been made of the Steelers’ march to the AFC title. Recall that the Steelers were the sixth and final seed in the toughest of the two NFL conferences. Pittsburg then hit the road and beat Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver, the AFC’s top three seeds. Given horrible referees, they did it in a dominating fashion! Only one other six-seeded seed has qualified for the Super Bowl and that was the 1985 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX.

Like the Steelers of that year, the 1985 Pats finished their season at 11-5, good enough for third place in the AFC East. The Pats then traveled to the Meadowlands and beat the Jets 26-14 in the Wildcard, then to the LA Coliseum where they beat the Las Angeles Raiders 27-20 in their division game. New England then went to Miami as a crushing underdog and dispatched the Dolphins 31-14 to punch their ticket to New Orleans and a date with the Bears in Super Bowl XX.

This 1985 Pat team started with veteran Steve Grogan in charge, but he was badly injured in game seven and was replaced by Tony Eason. The Pats finished 21st in assists, 4th in running, 10th in points and 9th in total offense. Eason’s abysmal 11/17 TD/INT ratio made the run all the more unlikely.

Craig James had his best year as a pro rushing for 1,225 yards at 4.7 yards per carry with Tony Collins 657 yards at 4.0 ypc as a change. Irving Fryar and Stanley Morgan both had 39 catches for 695 yards and 760 yards respectively. Tony Franklin connected on 24 of FG’s 30 attempts for 80% and 112 points overall. HOFer John Hannah was the anchor of a pretty good offensive line.

No doubt Roethlisberger is stirring the drink in Pittsburgh. Two of Steeler’s five losses can be summed up in two words: Tommy Maddux. In the others, you could say that Big Ben is less than 100%. Roethlisberger’s 2,385 yards, 17/9 ratio and 98.0 QB rating rank him third in the NFL among starters behind Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer.

Wicked fast and sneaky Willie Parker burst onto the scene with 1,202 yards at 4.7 ypc. On the bus, Jerome Bettis got the tough inside yardage and nine touchdowns. Vernon Hayes and Deuce Staley would both start on other teams. Heinz Ward had an average year in catches and yardage, but got his 11 scores. All Steeler and Heath Miller wide blocks have it all over ’85 Pat TE Lin Dawson. The Steelers finished 3rd in rushing, 4th in assists and 3rd overall.

Edge: ’05 Pittsburgh

The 1985 Pat defense was a wrecker team that always seemed to have success in its biggest games. DL Julius Adams and LB hat-tricks Andre Tippett, Steve Nelson and Johnny Rembert anchored the No. 4 defense against the rush and all went to the Pro Bowl. Fred Marion and Ray Clayborn played corner and center field on the 6th pass defense. The Patriot defense was ranked the 4th-highest stopping unit in the NFL in 1985.

The Steeler defense in a group effort where everyone is good but no one is arguably exceptional. Joey Porter (10.5) and Cliff Haggans (9.0) own half of the Steelers sacks and Chris Hope leads the secondary with three picks, only Porter and Troy Polamalu even have two. The Steelers were No. 2 against the run, No. 10 against the pass and No. 8 overall.

Brim: ’85 New England

In 1985, the New England Patriots entered the AFC playoffs as the 6th seed only to be mauled by the Chicago Bears 46-10 as 10 1/2 point underdogs. In 2005, the Pittsburg Steelers entered the AFC playoffs as the 6th seed and were favored in their game against Seattle by four points. Win or lose, the 2005 Seattle Seahawks will never be mentioned in the same breath as that great Chicago Bears team. On Sunday, we will see if they have even been respected.

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