Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ONE-RING CIRCUS; after All the Hype, It's Time to Crown an NFL Champion

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ONE-RING CIRCUS; after All the Hype, It's Time to Crown an NFL Champion

Article excerpt

Byline: VITO STELLINO

DETROIT -- The Jerome Bettis Victory Tour will make its last stop tonight at Ford Field as the Pittsburgh Steelers continue their elusive quest for "One for the Thumb" in Super Bowl XL.

The Seattle Seahawks, who are overshadowed as an attraction not only by the Steelers but by halftime act The Rolling Stones, are just trying to win one for their ring finger.

The contrast between the Steelers -- with their four championship rings from the 1970s and diehard fans -- and the Seahawks -- the new kids on the block who are playing in their first NFL title game -- has provided an unusual backdrop for this Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh will try to join the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys as the only teams to win five Super Bowls. Add in that Bettis likely will play his last game in his hometown, and it has made this a virtual coronation for the Steelers.

Not even in the 1970s, when Pittsburgh had nine Hall of Famers, has it overshadowed the opposing team as it has leading up to this game.

And not since New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath made his Super Bowl III guarantee has a player dominated the game's hype like Bettis. He has received the key to the city, invited his teammates to his mother's house for dinner and bowled with the mayor. Even Bettis' parents now are celebrities.

The casual football fan who tunes in to tonight's game will be surprised to learn that Bettis is a part-time player who gained only 368 yards this season. Bettis likely isn't going to Disneyland if the Steelers win, but he's booked for Leno on Wednesday.

What Bettis really provides in this game is extra motivation. He's one of the most liked and respected players in the NFL, and his teammates truly want to help him go out a winner.

When Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked what Bettis would say before the game, he said, "I'm going to tell him not to say too much because I don't want to start getting teary-eyed. When Jerome starts talking, you start getting teary-eyed because of how much he means to you. We don't want a bunch of guys crying coming out of the locker room."

The Steelers are favored, but that's because they're more popular. Whether they're better remains to be seen.

The Seahawks posted a better record, scored more points, gained more yards, compiled even more rushing yards, and boast the league's MVP (running back Shaun Alexander) and a more experienced quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck).

Hasselbeck leads an up-tempo offense that likely will give the Steelers' aggressive defense problems. And he can hand off the ball to Alexander, the NFL's rushing leader who knows he will be a free agent in March if the Seahawks don't throw money at him.

This Super Bowl also will feature an intriguing chess match pitting Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt against John Marshall, who runs the Seattle defense for ailing defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes. …

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