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Five Super Bowl Questions
Put aside Aretha Franklin. Forget about the Rolling Stones. Ignore those soaring ticket prices and corporate clientele. At its core, Sunday's Super Bowl in Detroit is about determining which football team deserves to join 39 predecessors in the history books.
The two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl always include plenty of distractions, and even a game in a cold-weather locale between two teams without a lot of individual star power managed to serve up plenty of silliness. But there are also two pretty good teams in town, and we spent the week in the Motor City serving up guests with plenty to say about the action between the lines.
Check out SportsNation's take on five big questions and what the experts had to say.
Question No. 1: How many rushing yards will Shaun Alexander have? (15,768 votes)
33.2% More than 100
11.3% Fewer than 70
Shaun Alexander: Can I hit the century mark against the Steelers D?
Mark Schlereth: Yes. You may average two yards per carry on the first 15 or 16, but if you continue to attack the edge and get that athletic defense fast flowing, there is going to be a cutback lane that will garner a 50-60 yard TD run. Look for 26 carries, 102 yards.
Bryan (New York): Shaun Alexander had a huge year, racking up 1,880 yards with a record 28 touchdowns on a 5.1 average per carry. However, Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker only ran for a combined 1,570 yards with 13 touchdowns and 4.3 yards per carry. With those stats, who has the edge at the running back position?
Scouts, Inc.'s Gary Horton: I don't look at the stats, I look at the styles of the defenses. I believe this could be a significant Jerome Bettis day. Having watched a lot of film, I'm convinced Bettis can still play at a high level and he still has explosiveness and is tough to bring down. Seattle's perimeter players tackle well, and I'm not sure about Parker, who looks to me to have slowed down in recent weeks. But I see maybe 20 carries for Bettis and the Steelers pounding at the Seattle front. On the other side of the ball, I think Pittsburgh's goal is to be very physical with Alexander early to try to break his spirit. I just don't think he will have an impact game because they are so physical up front and he is not the kind of back who will create plays on his own if the hole isn't there. I might be wrong, but I think one of the big stories of this game could well be that the MVP of the league was a non-factor.
Question No. 2: Which team do you think is tougher? (15,768 votes)
68.6% Pittsburgh Steelers
18.7% They're equally tough
12.7% Seattle Seahawks
Kurt (Portland): Will Seattle lose the (undeserved) "soft" label if they win the big game this Sunday?
Gene Wojciechowski: If they win, 45-42, no. But if they match Pittsburgh's toughness, absolutely. I don't think Seattle is a soft team.
Brian (San Francisco): How about show me your true football knowledge and tell me the specific player matchups that Steelers have that you base your superbowl opinions on?
Skip Bayless: OK, I'll answer one question from somebody who can't write a sentence. Pittsburgh has far superior special teams and kicking game. Pittsburgh's linebackers have an edge over Shaun Alexander because they're so quick and physical and well coached, and he can be easily intimidated if the going gets tough early. If the Seahawks don't get a front-four rush, Trufant and Dyson will get exposed on the corners. And Roethlisberger will be much more comfortable in the Super Bowl spotlight than Hasselbeck.
Question No. 3: Which player will have a better game? (15,768 votes)
69.6% Joey Porter
30.4% Jerramy Stevens
Ryan (Rochester, N.Y.): Do you think that the Stevens-Porter jawing is an attempt to end the lull that has been Super Bowl week?
Scouts, Inc.'s Gary Horton: It probably makes the game, or at least the pregame hype, a little more interesting. People I talk to say Porter is the kind of player who needs to find motivation, and getting into this is an excellent way to get himself ready and angry. Remember, these are not natural rivals and there is not a built-in hatred, so you almost have to manufacture something. I don't think it has anything to do with the outcome. Players just need different things to get them ready. But watch Porter when he comes out onto the field. He will be at the 50-yard line jawing, and if I were Holmgren, I might send the last guy on my bench out there to goad him into a fight. Losing the 53rd guy isn't as bad as losing a starter. But don't look for that to happen.
Pat (Lakebay, Wash.): Would Joey Porter be upset if a person from the media would have made the comment that Stevens made, and if the comment was not made, would Porter not be prepared to play on Sunday?
Gene Wojciechowski: Scarily enough, I sort of understand your question. Porter is the mouth that roared. He lives for this kind of stuff. Look, what did anyone expect Stevens to say: that he thought the Steelers were going to win? I just think it's typical Super Bowl week silliness. It won't mean much on Sunday.
Question No. 4: Which Pittsburgh running back will play a bigger role in the game? (15,768 votes)
62.2% Willie Parker
37.8% Jerome Bettis
Brian (Dover): What do the Steelers have to do to get Willie Parker going? He was pretty much shut down in the last two games. How much of running success is simply imposing the will of the OL?
Eric Allen: The Steelers running game hasn't been its best lately, but when you have a big line against a defense that can get after the QB, you want to run. Jerome Bettis will start, but I expect Parker to get in behind that line and hit the home run. And look for them to maybe work the screen pass early in the game to get him in space where he can make some big plays.
Jeremy (Minnesota): More important on Sunday: Jerome Bettis or Willie Parker?
Mel Kiper: Bettis. He's got to keep this whole energy going. This is the game of his life. To stop him will take a heck of a response from Seattle's defense. He is super motivated. Short-yardage, third down and in goal-line situations, he has been almost unstoppable. He just feeds off the emotion. Think of him and Polamalu! They can lift the spirits of everyone on the team no matter the situation.
Question No. 5: Where will the Steelers have the most success on offense? (15,768 votes)
67.7% Through the air
32.3% On the ground
Bob (Seattle): It seems that everyone seems to be overlooking the Seattle defense. They did a great job during the playoffs. How do you think they will match up against the Steelers offense?
Football Scientist KC Joyner: I think this will be the key point in the game. Seattle's defense has done a very good job this year in taking away a lot of the vertical passing game. Pittsburgh has been leaning on this of late, and Seattle will try to take it away from them. Seattle will try to force Ben Roethlisberger into throwing more short passes and running the ball, forcing him to be patient. If they are successful, Ben will have to do something he's not used to doing, dinking and dunking and managing the game. I'm not saying he can't do it, but I'll bet Seattle tries to make him.
Voice of the Fan: SportsNation's Predictions
The Steelers win 21-13, lower scoring than people think. MVP will go to Willie Parker, with 120 yards and a TD. The key storyline will be Matt Haselbeck's three interceptions.
The Steelers win 24-17. Ben Roethlisberger passes for 228 yards, two TDs, and 0 INTs and is the MVP.
I say Steelers 20, Seahawks 14. The MVP will be Big Ben and the key storyline will be how Seattle could not stop the Pittsburgh blitz and how when pressured, Big Ben made big plays at the right time.
Seahawks win 27-20. Shaun Alexander as MVP. The storyline will be was it ok for Jerramy Stevens to throw the ball at Joey Porter after he caught the winning TD?
Pittsburgh 28, Seattle 23. The MVP will be Ben Roethlisberger, as he engineers a scoring drive late in the game and the defense holds off a late Seattle surge. The key storyline is how much of a non-factor Bettis was at home. Maybe 12 carries for 31 yards and no touchdowns.
Steelers 31, Seahawks 14. The Steelers jumped out to an early 17-0 lead on a Big Ben-to-Ward TD, a 43-yard field goal, and a punt return for a TD by Antwaan Randle El, and then cruised to victory. Pittsburgh racked up six sacks and three turnovers, limiting Shaun Alexander to 16 carries for 35 yards. An all-around dominating performance by the only team to win three straight road playoff games AND win the Super Bowl.
Matt (Washington, D.C.)
Steelers win 27-13. MVP will be Willie Parker. Storyline will be Parker's stat line. I really think that he will be able to bust out for 20 carries and 150-plus yards and a touchdown or two. Caps off a great season for an undrafted kid out of North Carolina.
Hannah (New York)
Seahawks 31, Steelers 10. Matt Hasselbeck will be the MVP. Joey Porter's humble-pie-in-the-face will be the story. Every year there is a Freddie Mitchell type loudmouth on the losing side. Thanks for taking the mystery out of it Joey.
Steelers 31, Seattle 13. MVP will be Antwaan Randle El and the storyline is Randle El catches, throws and returns punt for TD in the Super Bowl and prices himself to a large free-agent contract.
Steelers score on their first three possessions and it looks like a blowout, but Seattle's defense shuts them down the rest of the way. The Seahawks offense is steady, and despite an interception returned for a touchdown, Hasselbeck has a great game. It comes down to the Seahawks final drive, but a tipped pass and an ill-timed penalty cause Seattle to fall short. Steelers win 24-21.
Tom (Parkville, Md.)