I was off by a factor of 2/3, but I got it right. The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 21-10. It was by no means pretty. Ben Roethlisberger threw 2 interceptions and the Seahawks terribly mismanaged their final drive. Yes, there were some "mistakes" by the officials. No, I don't think it would have changed the net outcome.
Willie Parker broke a record 75-yard run but was disappointing otherwise; Jerome Bettis, who retired on the spot after the win, was the more consistent of the night. MVP Himes Ward was the leading receiver, with 5 catches for 123 yards and one TD, thrown by WR Antwaan Randle-El in an expected "trick play." The special teams for Seattle messed up numerous times, with K Josh Brown going 1/3 and P Tom Rouen seemingly unable to keep its punts outside the end zone.

There is a significant amount of controversy brewing in the sports-talk world. Sports talk fans from Seattle to Buffalo are complaining that the game was apparently fixed. It's really unusual for sports fans to suggest that the NFL is rigged, but after a few "mis-calls," that's exactly what's happening. The funny thing is that I have never even hesitated to suggest it in the past, but not this time. I didn't think that the officiating was all that bad; however, the game may have been a little closer but I think that it still would have come out as a Pittsburgh win. AGAIN, I'M NOT A STEELERS FAN, JUST TO REITERATE THAT. The calls in question were the issue of a pass interference call that called back a would-be touchdown and an ill-timed holding penalty on another similar play, the next play leading to an interception return. Also under question was a questionable horsecollaring penalty on QB Matt Hasselbeck when he stopped an interception return. Some also questioned a goal-line rushing TD by Ben Roethlisberger, but fourth-and-inches would have been a given TD pretty much anyway. Then there was the issue of "down but not down by contact" would-be fumble by Hasselbeck, a completely ridiculous made-up rule that was fortunately reversed.

This is getting ridiculous. Almost every national story (save and their partner, CBS Sportsline) is dealing with how horribly incompetent or biased the officiating in that game was. Sports Illustrated's Andrew Perloff  identified the game as the "worst Super Bowl of all time." Fans across the nation are angry. I have NEVER, and I mean NEVER, seen such a backlash. I've known for years that the NFL was biased, if not outright rigged. Most of the time, though, people don't take that seriously. Now many are.
Now, for my 2 cents: there are calls for officials to become full-time. What's that going to do? Nothing but make the refs' pockets fatter, that's what, and that won't do anything to fix the product. My suggestion: dump this union and hire replacements like back in 2001. They conducted themselves with such professionalism and competence, as opposed to the morons officiating in this league. Besides, the NFL is four months per year, at most five hours per week. THAT'S PART-TIME BY ANY BOOK.
This also brings up the question of the NFL's staying power. There is an upcoming conflict with the NFLPA. If the players are deserting and a sizable chunk of fans backlash against Tagliabue and desert, say, for the CFL, college, the arena leagues or other sports, this could spell trouble for the most popular sport in America. Not that I think it'll be all that significant, but it's very much possible.

- The Rolling Stones put on a very entertaining and lively show. Apparently those dropouts in Mick Jagger's voice were the work of NFL editors. (It sure beats having to bleep out nearly half of the words of a lyricist that some Detroiters recommended perform in place of the Stones: EMINEM. I can't believe anyone could take that suggestion seriously.) It was a great idea to have a Motown tribute right before the game.
- The commericals, once again, disappointed. Someone call Anheuser-Busch, tell them that we're sick of the Bud Light ads. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH ALREADY! There were a few in the entire batch that made me laugh, but over all, a disappointing batch much like last year. Way too many movie ads.
- I don't know whether it was partly a satellite problem or the network, but the last game ever aired on ABC looked like the first game ever aired on public access. There were quite a few technical glitches and cameras going black, cameras cutting to cheerleaders right after big plays. Who are you, OLN?
- Shame, shame, shame on the NFL. I say that because this is the one game of the season that they offer live audio play-by-play of the game-- for FREE. AND without commercials, thanks to the BBC. You're taking me down here!... Honestly, though, it actually reaffirms the legitimacy of my free NFL page in the first place, as the local broadcasts were still subscription-only as they have been all year. I primarily used Westwood One/Jones Radio syndicated feeds. For that, I'm quite relieved. On that note, I have discontinued the Free NFL Radio page for the 2005-06 year. I'm not carrying it from year to year because the sources change from year to year and trying to save all my sources would be impractical (and dangerous since the NFL could hunt them and shut them down). But IT WILL BE BACK in 2006.



DATE/TIME: Sunday, February 5, 2006, 6:15 PM

LOCATION: Ford Field, Detroit, MI

ABC Television Network
WKBW-TV 7 [DT 38] Buffalo, WHAM-TV 13 [DT 58] Rochester, WSYR-TV 9 Syracuse, WUTR-TV 20 Utica, WWTI-TV 50 [DT 21] Watertown, WJET-TV 24 [DT 58] Erie, WENY-TV 36 [DT 55] Elmira, WIVT-TV 34 Binghamton, WATM-TV 23 State College PA, WTEN-TV 10 Albany
The game will be broadcast in high-definition where available.

Westwood One/CBS Radio Network
Italics indicate 50 kW broadcast
WGR-AM 550 Buffalo, WJTN-AM 1240 Jamestown, WHAM-AM 1180 Rochester, WACK-AM 1420 Finger Lakes/Newark, WHEN-AM 620 Syracuse, WIXT / WRNY / WADR / WUTQ-AM Utica,WELM-AM 1310 Elmira, WOFX-AM 980 Albany, WPIE-AM 1160 Ithaca, WPSE-AM 1450 Erie, WESB-AM 1490 Bradford, WFAN-AM 660 New York City, WTAM-AM 1100 Cleveland, WSCR-AM 670 Chicago

via Fullervision's Free NFL Radio Page


The Pittsburgh Steelers
A tough, gritty, blue-collar team that's been built behind a running game powered by its two stars, aging powerhouse Jerome Bettis and young upstart Willie Parker, an efficient but not spectacular passing attack led by QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antwaan Randle-El, and WR Hines Ward, and a bone-crushing 3/4 defense boasting Joey Porter and Troy Polamalu as the kingpins. The Steelers were last in the AFC bracket coming in but had a few chips fall in their favor as the teams ahead of them faltered. The Steelers are perennial playoff contenders with Bill Cowher, the longest-tenured coach still in the league, at the helm. Pittsburgh is entering its sixth world championship and ranks tied for second in all-time Super Bowl appearances (Denver also has made 6 while Dallas has played in 8). Pittsburgh is third in all-time Super Bowl wins with four, trailing only to the 5 held by Dallas and San Francisco.

The Seattle Seahawks
It doesn't get any more incognito than this. No stellar defensive stars. A below-average special teams. Their starting wide receiver, Joe Jurevicius, stands out because he's Caucasian. That's right, a white guy playing a skill position in the NFL. But when your schedule includes Houston, Tennessee, Arizona twice, and San Francisco twice, you can simply be above average and still have a phenomenal season. Ask Shaun Alexander, who had a banner year rushing, or Matt Hasselbeck, who had a decent year at quarterback. [Or Indianapolis, who had a similar schedule but fell apart.] The Seahawks are a good team in a bad division. (Heck, even their first playoff win was against Washington, who boasts Mark Brunell, one of the most rusted QBs in the NFL, at the helm.) The one thing that Seattle has working for them is that coach Mike Holmgren has won the Super Bowl and Bill Cowher has not. This is Seattle's first ever Super Bowl appearance.

The Sunday morning line: Pittsburgh was a 4-point favorite with a 47-point over under. (Score format: Steelers 25½, Seahawks 21½.)
Money line: Pittsburgh -195, Seattle +165.
Odds details: Click here

Seattle is going to need a miracle to stay in this game. The only other time this year that Seattle faced a 3/4 was Dallas, and the offense was stuffed. Pittsburgh is a whole lot better than Dallas. The Steelers should be able to attack the inside of the Seahawks' defense with power running and short passing plays.
Pittsburgh 31, Seattle 14.
And no, I'm not a Steelers fan in particular, but I was very close in my prediction last year (I predicted 26-23 NE when the score was 24-21 NE).