Prior to this season, I didn't think there would ever be a Super Bowl playoff run equivalent to that of the Steelers during their road to Super Bowl XL. Now, I'm not so sure...1. Seeding
We all know the Steelers were a 6, and the Giants were a 5. No 6 has ever won the Super Bowl before the Steelers did it, though I believe 1 other 5-seed (Baltimore?) has won it before.
There isn't much difference, aside from playing a 3 in the first round vs. a 4. Otherwise, both teams are basically on the road throughout. Still, I'd have to give a slight edge to Pittsburgh here- they had the mathematically most difficult road.
Edge: Steelers2. Wild Card Opponent
The Giants matched up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which, in my opinion, were typical NFC fodder- only really there because of the overall weakness of the conference. The Steelers were playing a fairly high-power Bengals team, a divisional rival, and facing them for the third time to boot.
Edge: Steelers3. Divisional Opponent
This is where it begins to get tricky. Both the 2005 Colts and 2007 Cowboys dominated their respective divisions, and both were favored to represent their conference in the Super Bowl. I want to say the Colts were a better team, but it's also hard to say the Cowboys were that much worse. This one's a tad too close to call for me.
Edge: Push4. Conference Championship Opponent
The one thing that I think keeps Pittsburgh's run from being a perfect utopian scenario for me is that they never got to avenge the Patriots along the way. Obviously, the Broncos team that they beat bested NE the week before, but I don't think it was quite the same. The Giants avenged their early season loss to the Packers a week after avenging their early season loss to the Cowboys, and did it in arguably the most hostile environment in the NFL.
Edge: Giants5. Super Bowl
Although the Steelers were the AFC 6-seed, taking on the 1-seed Seahawks of the NFC, they were basically favored in the game, and rightly should have been. The gap between AFC and NFC was around its peak in 2005, I believe, and I don't really think the Seahawks would've been there during a normal year.
Meanwhile, the Giants took down arguably the best regular season team in NFL history, and did it with some last minute heroics during a season in which no other team was able to do so. Absolutely epic.
Edge: GiantsFinal Verdict, IMO
It's no slight against the Steelers- XL was an amazing run, and I felt blessed to be a part of it as a fan- but I tend to think the Giants' run was a tad more impressive. Even if I leaned toward giving the Colts' victory (PIT) the nod over the Cowboys' victory (NYG), it will still be tough to say Pittsburgh's run was better. I think the Steelers clearly had the more difficult start, but the Giants' Conference Championship and Super Bowl victories were fairly epic.