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First Look: Super Bowl Xl

January 23, 2006|JERRY CROWE AND SAM FARMER

PITTSBURGH (14-5) VS. SEATTLE (15-3)

Feb. 5, 3:15 p.m. PST, Channel 7

Ford Field, Detroit

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VS. COMMON OPPONENTS

* Pittsburgh 4-2; Seattle 3-2.

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NFL RANKS

* Pittsburgh: Defense vs. pass 198.0 (16th); defense vs. run 86.0 (third); total defense 284.0 (fifth); pass offense 182.9 (24th); run offense 138.9 (fifth); total offense 321.8 (tied for 15th).

* Seattle: Defense vs. pass 222.4 (25th); defense vs. run 94.4 (fifth); total defense 316.8 (tied for 16th); pass offense 216.1 (13th); run offense 153.6 (third); total offense 369.7 (second).

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ALL-TIME SERIES

* Last time they met: Seattle defeated Pittsburgh, 23-16, at Seattle in 2003; Seattle leads all-time, 8-6.

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ROAD TO THE SUPER BOWL

* Pittsburgh: The Steelers, who were 7-5 and in danger of falling out of the playoff picture in early December, are the first sixth-seeded team to reach the Super Bowl after winning at Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver in consecutive weeks.

* Seattle: The Seahawks had the NFC's best regular-season record (13-3), leading the league in scoring (28.3 points a game). They defeated Washington, 20-10, in a divisional game before beating Carolina, 34-14, to advance to their first Super Bowl.

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DEFINING MOMENTS

* Pittsburgh: The Steelers faltered in late November and early December, losing three consecutive games. But since quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recovered from thumb and back injuries they've won their last seven games.

* Seattle: Their 42-0 rout of the Eagles on "Monday Night Football" Dec. 5 showed that offensive powerhouse Seahawks had a defense too. They scored twice on interception returns and once on a fumble return. Seattle linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski called it a "coming-out party" for his team as the Seahawks established themselves as the class of the NFC.

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STRENGTHS

* Pittsburgh: Roethlisberger has been brilliant in the playoffs, but the Steelers rely mostly on a punishing ground game and a fast, opportunistic defense.

* Seattle: The Seahawks have the NFL's MVP, running back Shaun Alexander, who scored a league-record 28 touchdowns and led the league with 1,880 rushing yards, the ninth--highest total in NFL history. The Seahawk defense allowed only one 100-yard rusher -- the New York Giants' Tiki Barber -- and that didn't come until Week 12. They led the league with 50 sacks and gave up only five rushing touchdowns, second-fewest in the NFL.

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WEAKNESSES

* Pittsburgh: Strong passing teams gave the Steelers trouble through the first three months of the season, but a strong blitz served them well in a divisional-round playoff victory over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

* Seattle: The Seahawks, who relied heavily on the crowd at Qwest Field as their 12th man, were far better at home (10-0) than on the road (5-3). Take away his 132-yard game against the Panthers, and Alexander had the lowest career yards per carry by a running back in the postseason from 1970-2005, 2.29 yards.

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IMPACT PLAYERS

* Pittsburgh: Roethlisberger, receiver Hines Ward, safety Troy Polamalu, linebacker Joey Porter.

* Seattle: Alexander, linebacker Lofa Tatupu, receiver Darrell Jackson, tight end Jerramy Stevens, left tackle Walter Jones.

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SUPER BOWL HISTORY

* Pittsburgh: The Steelers, behind Terry Bradshaw and the Steel Curtain defense, won three Super Bowl titles in the 1970s and a fourth in January 1980 under Chuck Noll. But they lost to the Dallas Cowboys in 1996 in their only appearance under Bill Cowher.

* Seattle: The Seahawks have never played in the Super Bowl.

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