The Pulse: Super Bowl XL

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and chatting with experts in The Show. We collect the daily highlights and put them in The Pulse.

Story of the Day: Prohibitive Pittsburgh

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the good people at Texas A&M (unofficial motto: "Avoiding BCS bowls since 1894"), the Pittsburgh Steelers can count SportsNation as their 12th man in Super Bowl XL.

Despite a 13-3 record in the regular season and two relatively easy wins in the postseason, the Seattle Seahawks are the official underdogs in Sunday's big game. But far from thinking the Vegas odds demonstrate disrespect for the NFC's No. 1 seed, SportsNation voters appear to think even that 4.5-point spread doesn't show the Steelers enough respect. With more than 200,000 votes cast, 63 percent of voters pick the Steelers to win

So we know which team SportsNation likes, but what's their reasoning? Check the trenches. Shaun Alexander is the NFL MVP and 70 percent of voters give him the edge over Pittsburgh's tandem of Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker. On top of that, a majority of voters give Seattle's offensive line the edge over their Pittsburgh counterparts.

But despite all that praise, it's Pittsburgh's perceived defensive superiority that seems to be the deciding factor.

The Super Bowl may be decided at the line of scrimmage, but don't count out the quarterbacks. A Pittsburgh win would solidify Ben Roethlisberger's rising star. Not that he needs much help. 59% of voters rate Roethlisberger ahead of Matt Hasselbeck. And when voters were asked which QB they would want on a final drive, 65% said Big Ben.

"To Ben, don't think you performance against Denver last week was that good. Approach this game like all the others, as a worker bee and not a superstar."
Joe Theismann in chat

"Seems to me Ben Roethlisberger is the more naturally talented of the two. He makes some mistakes, but seems to overcome them fairly easily."
Alan Grant in chat

Which team will win Super Bowl XL? (207,924 votes)
40.0% Steelers will win a close game
29.1% Seahawks will win a close game
23.1% Steelers will win easily
7.8% Seahawks will win easily

  • SN Map: Four states are picking the Seahawks

    Which team are you rooting for? (207,924 votes)
    60.3% Pittsburgh Steelers
    39.7% Seattle Seahawks

    Which team's defense is better against the run? (69,402 votes)
    75.8% Pittsburgh Steelers
    24.2% Seattle Seahawks

    Which team's defense is better against the pass? (69,402 votes)
    67.4% Pittsburgh Steelers
    32.6% Seattle Seahawks

    Which team has the edge at running back? (69,402 votes)
    79.4% Seahawks: Shaun Alexander
    20.6% Steelers: Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker

    Which team has the edge on the offensive line? (69,402 votes)
    54.0% Seahawks: Walter Jones, Sean Locklear, Steve Hutchinson, Chris Gray, Robbie Tobeck
    46.0% Steelers: Jeff Hartings, Alan Faneca, Kendall Simmons, Max Starks, Marvel Smith

    Which team has the edge at linebacker? (69,402 votes)
    79.0% Steelers: James Farrior, Larry Foote, Joey Porter, Clark Haggans
    21.0% Seahawks: Lofa Tatupu, LeRoy Hill, D.D. Lewis

  • Super Bowl Polls: Spectacle of SB XL | Position-by-position

    SportsNation's Show: The Running Game
    Quackman (Walla Walla, Wash.): How do you think Sean Alexander will fair against Pittsburgh's shut-down defense?

    Jeremy Green: I expect Shaun will have a good game. I think he will top the 100-yard mark. I expect Seattle to come out and run out of their three-WR packages, which will spread Pittsburgh out and prevent them from getting eight in the box. This could also bring Casey Hampton out of the game if Pittsburgh goes to their "Nickel," and open up more inside run room.

  • Click here for Green's transcript

    Monica (Raleigh, N.C.): I thought Carolina could expose Shaun Alexander as not as good as people say. Can Pittsburgh expose him?

    Alan Grant: There is nothing to be "exposed." Dude is that good. He's strong, is a great cutback runner, and has deceptive speed. I think Pittsburgh can do well against the run, just like they did against Denver. But that doesn't mean Alexander isn't good. Just means that the Steelers had the better plan that day.

  • Click here for Grant's transcript

    James (Lexington Park, Md.): Will Seattle's offensive line be strong enough?

    Rick Spielman: This will be their toughest test this year. Pittsburgh's linebackers are very physical. The left side of the line should do well, but it will be interesting to watch if the right side can hold their own.

  • Click here for Spielman's transcript

    Drew (Pittsburgh): Please put to rest the idea that this Steelers offense is a power running offense! If the Seahawks come out and try to stop the run, you are going to see a replay of the last three weeks!

    Chris Mortensen: I even pointed this out last year -- the Steelers' passing game often established 10-14 point leads that allowed them to settle into the running game. Now, with Big Ben having another year under his belt, the Steelers are capable of winning by air and ground. And the pick-up of tight end Heath Miller really creates problems for opposing defenses.

  • Click here for Mortensen's transcript

    Voice of the Fan

    Scott Norwood and Jackie Smith will tell you the door swings both ways, but the opportunity for everlasting fame is never greater than in the Super Bowl. Check out SportsNation's rankings of the best ever on tbe biggest stage.
    1. Joe Montana
    2. Jerry Rice
    3. Terry Bradshaw
    4. Tom Brady
    5. Emmitt Smith
    6. John Elway
    7. Bart Starr
    8. Lynn Swann
    9. Joe Namath
    10. Phil Simms

  • Click here to rank

    "I'm not saying that he should win, but Adam Vinatieri should be nominated. He won all three of New England's Super Bowls. And not with "gimme" kicks either."
    Tim (Indianapolis) in the Quickie chat.

    Seattle has struggled running the ball vs. the 3-4 this year. Is there any reason to think that league MVP Shaun Alexander can run the ball against the Steelers D when Edgerrin James and Denver's 1-2 punch couldn't run on them?
    Matt (Washington, D.C.)

    Seattle looked good against Carolina, and you know Pittsburgh can't just focus on Alexander because Hasselbeck-to-Jackson is a threat too. I think this will be a good Super Bowl. Neither team has a glaring weakness, and both teams can run and pass well.
    Sham (wbl)

    It's a very compelling Super Bowl, just for on-the-field stuff. The quarterbacks are a toss-up. Seattle has the edge (though slight, in my mind) at running back. Pittsburgh has the edge (though slight) at defense. Two very evenly matched teams. So it comes down to special teams or big defensive plays by Samoans who went to USC.
    Scott (Watertown, Mass.)

    Look at Pittsburgh's linebackers: James Farrior was a Pro Bowl player, Joey Porter has been to the Pro Bowl, and my personal favorite, former Wolverine Larry Foote. Seahawks have potential, Steelers are proven.
    Alan (Racine, Wisc.)

    I love this Super Bowl! When have we had two such evenly-matched teams playing in the big game?
    Tom (Parkville, Md.)

  • Click here for transcript of Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie

    More Super Bowl: Media Overkill

    Aretha Franklin is from there. Charles Lindbergh and Francis Ford Coppola were born there. Even James Frey spent some time near there (or at least he says he did). But for the two-week period preceding Super Bowl XL, Jerome Bettis is the most famous native son or daughter of Detroit.

    To which SportsNation says, who cares?

    With two weeks between the conference title games and the Super Bowl, stories from local heroes to team fender-benders gets covered from every conceivable angle. Super Bowl Media Day is the most extreme example of this fourth-estate gluttony, but just how much does the media onslaught really bother fans?

    More than half of SportsNation voters derive some kind of pleasure from Media Day, and far more will follow what's said in Detroit than what is said in the State of the Union on Tuesday night.

    Jerome Bettis is the feel-good story of the Super Bowl, but is affection getting in the way of analysis? Page 2's David Schoenfield says he's good but not great, and only 26% of voters say he's the best of the four active backs with 10,000 rushing yards. Vote!

    "I think Jerome will eventually be in the Hall of Fame. Of backs of his type, I'd rank him just behind Csonka and Riggins. I don't think he has the speed that Riggins had. I think as a big battering-ram running back, I'd rank him a cut below Earl Campbell, Csonka and Riggins. But he embodies one of the things that makes football so great. He is so unselfish and lets his ego go for the benefit of the team. For that alone, he ranks high on my list of favorite players. He's the ultimate team player."
    Steve Sabol (NFL Films) in chat

    What schedule would you prefer for the Super Bowl? (207,924 votes)
    58.5% One week between conference title games and Super Bowl
    41.5% Two weeks between conference title games and Super Bowl

    What do you think of Super Bowl Media Day? (11,505 votes)
    45.5% Complete waste of time
    40.4% Overdone but interesting
    14.0% Great entertainment!

    Which event will you watch more coverage of on Tuesday? (36,376 votes)
    62.5% Super Bowl Media Day
    37.4% State of the Unions

    How much would you pay for a Super Bowl ticket if your favorite team was in the game? (207,924 votes)
    45.6% Less than $500
    23.6% Less than $1,000
    17.8% Less than $100
    8.7% Whatever it takes
    4.4% Less than $5,000

    Voice of the Fan
    I'm a lifelong Steelers fan, and I'm already sick of the Bettis-goes-home stories.
    DC (Altoona, Pa.)

    I'm sick of every Bettis story. Enough already, please stop! But it's only going to get worse!
    R.Keane (Old Southington, Conn.)

    Bettis returning home is already old, already annoying. It was brought up in the wild-card round.
    Joe (Washington, D.C.)

    I'm already sick of the "East Coast Bias" story. Please, Pittsburgh is legit and no one is disrespecting Seattle. In fact, it is disrespect to Pittsburgh to say that the Steelers being the favorite is disrespect to the Seahawks! Does that make sense?
    Chris (Connecticut)

    The Jerome Bettis story is already old. You know the camera will be on his mom every series too, which is almost as nauseating as when Fox showed Kurt Warner's wife a million times back in his first Super Bowl.
    Jon (Malvern)

    The Jerome Bettis story is getting old. The guy isn't even the premier back on his team anymore. That's like being excited for Freddie Mitchell in the Super Bowl.
    Brendan (Boston)

    The most tiring story is that everyone is tired of all the hype and coverage of the Super Bowl. Yeah, we get it: people are sick of it.
    Christian (High Point, N.C.)

  • Click here for transcript of Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie

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