When I wrote my last article previewing the upcoming match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, I never thought I would get the kind of reaction I have gotten. Five years later and Seahawks fans are still upset about calls that were made in the game and how they were “jobbed” out of a Super Bowl win.
I’ve even read comments that the NFL fixed the game to allow the Steelers to win because more money would be made if the Steelers won than if the Seahawks did.
Were there bad calls made? Maybe, maybe not. Are there bad calls made in many football game played every week in the NFL. Yes, there are. Because of the subjective nature of some calls (pass interference, holding) it is impossible to say that every call made is correct or incorrect. A lot of calls are judgement calls, interpretations in the minds of the officials.
Blaming the refs, however, is the easy way out and always comes off sounding like sour grapes.
With that, I would like to present my case as to why the Steelers won SB40 and the Seahawks lost it, through no collusion by the NFL or the game officials.
Fact No. 1 – During the 2005 season and playoffs, the Seahawks weren’t as good as the Steelers on the road.
Despite the fact Ford Field was filled with Terrible Towel-waving Citizens of the one and only Nation on Feb. 5, 2006, the Super Bowl has never had a true home team. Therefore, a team that can win consistently on the road will have an advantage in the neutral-site Super Bowl.
If you look at the eight games the Seahawks played on the road that season aside from the Super Bowl, they won five and lost three. That is a win percentage of 62.5.
The Steelers, on the other hand, won more games on the road than the Seahawks played during the regular season and playoffs. They had to play eight regular season games on the road, and then three playoff games away from home as the sixth seed. In those 11 road games, the Steelers won nine times for a 81.8 win percentage.
All of this tells us that the Steelers performed better on the road that year than the ‘Hawks did, which is an advantage.
Fact No. 2 – The Steelers played a much harder schedule.
I know a team can’t control their schedule of opponents, but it bears examining in this case. Tougher games against tougher opponents, means a tougher, more resilient team.
The Seahawks played four eventual playoff teams in the 2005 season and had two games each against the Cardinals, Rams, and 49ers in their division. This is not exactly a murderer’s row of teams you have to play. Not one of their division opponents finished with more than 6 wins on the season.
The Steelers, on the other hand, had to play five eventual playoffs teams during the regular season. They eventually played three games against the AFC North champion Bengals (two in the regular season once in the playoffs), and two games against the Colts, who were the number one seed in the AFC. Plus, the usual gritty games against the Browns and Ravens in their division.
The combined win percentage for the teams the Seahawks played during the regular season was 45.7%. The Steelers’ regular season opponents finished with a combined win percentage of 52.0%.
All of this leads me to…