1:00 PM ET, October 7, 2007
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Seattle Seahawks won't go to the replay on this one.
Their Super Bowl loss to the Steelers 20 months ago remains too painful for their 11 starters remaining from that game, the mistakes and questionable officiating calls too troubling for them to forget so soon.
But when the Seahawks travel cross country to meet the Steelers on Sunday for the first time since Pittsburgh's only NFL championship game victory in the past 28 years, coach Mike Holmgren won't be replaying that game in his mind or reliving that major career disappointment.
Glancing across the field and seeing Mike Tomlin running the Steelers, and not Bill Cowher, will be reminder enough that the times and teams have changed.
"I'll look across there -- Bill and I are good friends," Holmgren said. "It is going to be different. Clearly, Mike has grabbed hold of this team and they are off to a great start."
So are the Seahawks, who, like the Steelers, are 3-1 and have lost only to Arizona. Pittsburgh won its first three by an average of three touchdowns, only to bog down in the desert during a 21-14 loss to the Cardinals marked by special teams breakdowns and numerous mistakes.
That bothered Tomlin, who knew a loss was coming sooner or later but certainly didn't like how it finally occurred -- not with two interceptions, three fumbles, a 73-yard punt return touchdown allowed and 72 yards in penalties.
"Believe it or not, I anticipated that at some point I would lose a game," said Tomlin, who matched Cowher's debut in 1992 by winning his first three. "It may happen again at some point."
As long as it's not this week. The Steelers are off next week, and there's a big difference between being 4-1 rather than 3-2, not only in the standings but with a team's state of mind.
Especially a team that's still trying to shake off last season's 8-8 record, one repeatedly marked by self-inflicted losses resembling that in Arizona.
"We'd like to be 4-1 going into the bye," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
The Seahawks, coming off a 23-3 win over San Francisco, also sense a great chance to build some early season momentum. They return home to play winless New Orleans and St. Louis before their bye week and, if they can win in Pittsburgh, have a realistic shot of being 6-1.
"It's going to be tough, though," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "We are going to have to play our best football, obviously, playing a team like this on the road -- a West Coast team like we are, we haven't had much success at all playing that early game on the East Coast."
Some of the principal characters from that Super Bowl are gone, including Cowher, ever-talkative linebacker Joey Porter and Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens, who caught Porter's wrath for several days after essentially predicting a victory.
Plenty of key figures are back, including both quarterbacks and running backs -- Pittsburgh's Willie Parker, the NFL's No. 4 rusher, and Seattle's Shaun Alexander, who is No. 9. Alexander has 782 yards and 11 touchdowns in his past six games against AFC teams, but the Steelers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 29 games.
The Steelers hope to get back Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward, whose sprained right knee forced him to miss only his fourth game in 10 seasons last week.
One all-too-familiar name for the Steelers is wide receiver Deion Branch, whose 60-yard touchdown catch put New England on the path to its 41-27 win over Pittsburgh in the January 2005 AFC championship game. Branch has 16 catches for 277 yards and two touchdowns and a TD run in three career games against Pittsburgh.
That's a concern to the Steelers because Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald made 11 catches against a Pittsburgh secondary weakened by the loss of safety Troy Polamalu (abdominal strain). Polamalu expects to play against Seattle.
Another Steelers worry is middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who has already forced three fumbles and made an interception.
"He's as good of a UFO linebacker as I've seen here recently," Tomlin said. "By UFO, I mean the ability to get deep after play action and search for unidentified flying objects. He searches those guys out. He had an interception this year already on a play action about 18 yards downfield. That's impressive."
There's so much for both teams to worry about, the Steelers are glad this isn't being built up as Part II of that Super Bowl in Detroit.
Even if Holmgren shouldn't expect a warm reception in Heinz Field. His post-Super Bowl complaining about a half-dozen or so debatable calls struck a sore-loser nerve among many Steelers fans, even if Holmgren insists he's finally let go of that game.
"That was two years ago," Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "If they still talk about it, that's crazy. It's just another game. They're in a different division, we don't see them that much."
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Steelers look to rebound at home against Seahawks
This Super Bowl XL rematch could easily come down to which quarterback handles the assortment of pressure packages, while making the right decisions in the passing game. Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren will rely on the Seahawks West Coast passing attack to set-up the run.
Look for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau unleash his multiple zone blitzes to attack the pocket, while being physical on the outside to try and disrupt the Seahawks' passing attack. The Steelers need to get RB Willie Parker back on track to take pressure off QB Ben Roethlisberger. Expect defensive coordinator John Marshall to load-up the box and force the Steelers into being a one-dimensional team through the air.
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