Hours before Super Bowl 40 kicks-off, the Seattle Seahawks have the National Football League's most valuable player, running back Shaun Alexander, Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Holmgren and Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. But even so, they are still four-point underdogs to the Pittsburg Steelers.
The Seattle Seahawks are looking for respect. Their offensive firepower made them the highest scoring team in the league, with 452 points. Hasselbeck was the NFC's top-rated passer, and Alexander scored a league-record 28 touchdowns. Add a defense that led the league in sacks, yet they are still not the favorites.
Part of the problem is that Seattle is from the Pacific Northwest, far away from the glare of media attention. But more importantly, they will be facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, the first sixth-seeded team to reach the Super Bowl after winning three straight road playoff games.
The Steelers' offense is led by 23-year-old Ben Roethlisberger, who could become the youngest winning quarterback in Super Bowl history. The second-year passer is 26-4 as a starter, and threw for 17 touchdowns this season. He is supported by running backs Willie Parker, who gained over 1,200 yards, and Jerome Bettis, who is expected to retire after this game. Bettis, the team's emotional leader, is in his hometown, making a bid for his first Super Bowl title.
"For 12 years, I have watched other players go through the build-up for the Super Bowl, and I have always wished that it could have been me," said Jerome Bettis. "And now that I have the opportunity, I relish every moment of it."
On the other side of the ball, Seattle will be facing a swarming "Blitzburg" defense, which allowed foes the fewest rushing yards (3.4 per carry) in the league. It is led by Joey Porter, who led all NFL linebackers with 10.5 sacks, and hard-hitting Samoan safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers are also motivated to win the franchise's fifth Super Bowl ring, or 'one for the thumb,' as they call it, and a first for coach Bill Cowher. The team won four NFL titles during its glory years in the 1970's.
But the time for preparation is over. The teams are ready to play. Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, who won one Super Bowl title in two tries leading the Green Bay Packers, says, there is just one thing left for him to do.
"The biggest thing I can do is kind of explain to them what they can expect on that particular day," said Mike Holmgren. "And it makes it a little bit easier to deal with it."
In an interesting sidelight, Holmgren's wife, Kathy, will not be able to see or hear the game, because she is in the Democratic Republic of Congo with their daughter to do medical missionary work.