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The final obstacle: Steelers, in a word, are tough
Seattle Times staff reporter
The early line on the Super Bowl is Pittsburgh by 3-½. Even without it, the Seahawks know they are in for a hard-nosed game in Detroit.
When you think Steelers, you think Jerome Bettis. Joey Porter. Hines Ward. Troy Polamalu. And the developing, dependable sophomore quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.
"[Coach] Bill Cowher always has those guys ready to go, each and every year," said Seahawks defensive tackle Rocky Bernard after Seattle's 34-14 NFC Championship Game victory over Carolina. "One thing I've always noticed is they're a tough team. They have a lot of toughness about them."
Indeed, the Steelers are one of the NFL's storied franchises, most renowned for their four Super Bowl championships in the 1970s with the touted "Steel Curtain" defense. They have a healthy 27-18 (.600) record all-time in the playoffs, and the total victories is second only to the 32 by Dallas.
"I think of toughness," echoed Seahawks fullback Mack Strong, regarding Pittsburgh. "The city of Pittsburgh ... steel town, tough town, and it has a reputation for having tough players on their team.
"It's going to be a very tough football game, but I believe in, and have every confidence in, the guys in this room as well."
Offensively, it will be a different kind of test for the Seahawks. They'll face Pittsburgh's 3-4 defensive front, as the Steelers are one of a handful of NFL teams that run it.
"We've just gotta see some more film, man," said receiver Bobby Engram, asked about the difficulties of adjusting to the 3-4.
But he added: "I feel we can match up with anybody. We've got so many weapons, three-receiver sets, two tight-end sets — it's just a tough package to defend, how we run out of it and how we pass out of it.
"You never know who's gonna step up and make plays. It's a different guy every game."
The Steelers love to control the ground and the clock, making it easier on Roethlisberger, although Cowher has been giving Roethlisberger increasing leeway with the offense.
"They're a smash-mouth type of team," said Babineaux, "the type of team that pretty much can beat you up all game. And defensively, we know they're one of the best in the business. It's power-type football."
While Pittsburgh seems annually a team deserving of respect, this will be its first Super Bowl in a decade, the Steelers having lost in 1996 to Dallas. Its four other Super Bowl appearances were during the glory run under coach Chuck Noll, ending with a title in early 1980.
There are few Steelers connections on the Seahawks. Reserve defensive tackle Rodney Bailey was with Pittsburgh from 2001-03 before spending the 2004 season with New England, then signing as a free agent with the Seahawks in 2005.
Engram said he has family in Pittsburgh, but added, "Pittsburgh, Denver, I'm just glad we're there."
As for the underdog role, it's nothing the Seahawks said they're ruffled about.
"I mean, people have been underestimating us all season," Babineaux said. "It's not a matter of what the experts or analysts have to say. We know we still have to go out and play the game."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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