— Conference Championship Sunday is over, which means we have 14 days without real football to survive. (Sorry, the Pro Bowl doesn’t count.)
All this time gives a nation of sportswriters a long time to break out themes for Packers-Steelers, and then beat fans over the head with them.
Here are nine storylines we’re already tired of just thinking about:
Let the man pretend to retire in peace. Please. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is going to get bombarded all over again with questions about what it was like to take over for a legend. That was three years ago.
G.M. Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy will be lauded for their decision to draft Rodgers, and asked about the events leading up to Favre’s trade. It’s a natural angle, but Rodgers deserves to have the spotlight to himself this time.
The thing that scares me the most in this equation: Hearing Favre’s thoughts on the game.
Well, we can’t avoid this one. The most written about man of last offseason is back on the game’s biggest stage. Roethlisberger has, by all accounts, behaved well off the field since his latest sexual assault allegations. He’s been a better teammate and stayed out of trouble.
The only reason anyone will still be writing about Roethlisberger, however, is because of his improvements on the field. That’s what I’ll focus on.
He’s cut down on his mistakes without hurting his freelancing skills. It’s going to be awkward and contrived for everyone to publicly embrace the same guy that was despised and suspended not long ago. It would be more natural to just recognize what a fantastic player he’s been all along.
It’s not quite “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit!” but we’ll hear plenty about Steelers right tackle Flozell Adams’ return to Dallas after 12 years with the Cowboys. Adams is one of many long-time veterans who will be looking for his first ring. Green Bay’s Charles Woodson, Chad Clifton, and Donald Driver also should get some love as long-time great players searching for a title.
Steelers receiver Hines Ward said before the season that he would retire with one more Super Bowl ring. It’s safe to say he’ll be reminded about that comment a few hundred times in the next two weeks.
Ward has been one of the game’s best ambassadors over the last decade and he’s still a useful player. But his speed is gone, and he could have his eye on a storybook ending.
(Ward’s young receiver teammates Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders are great stories in their own right.)
The team with the most total championships (Green Bay, 12) faces off against the team with the most Super Bowl victories (Pittsburgh, 6.) It really doesn’t get any better than this in terms of matching teams with terrific history.
This is one storyline I won’t get tired of. It should make for a fun week in Dallas full of two fanbases that travel well. It should make for a less corporate crowd. It should create huge television ratings and interest.
If we see a lot of Bart Starr and Franco Harris highlights along the way, all the better.
The Packers are the latest team to show that injuries are only an excuse. Sixteen Packers are on injured reserve, including tight end Jermichael Finley, running back Ryan Grant, and linebacker Nick Barnett.
The Packers do a great job drafting and developing quality depth. They suffered almost all their injuries early in the year, and were able to figure out how best to plug the holes as they went along. Green Bay didn’t lose a game by more than four points all year.
We are a fickle football populace. When Peyton Manning was readying for last year’s Super Bowl, we wondered if he was the greatest quarterback ever. When Drew Brees won the game, we decided he deserved to be placed alongside Manning and Tom Brady as the game’s best.
During the 2010 regular season, Brady seemed to take over the mantle again as football’s best quarterback. Now Aaron Rodgers looks ready to be crowned the newest football king.
There’s no doubt Rodgers is playing at an extremely high level. It doesn’t hurt that he’s paired with one of the best defenses in the league, just like his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger.
Oh yeah, Big Ben is looking for his third title. Doesn’t he belong in this discussion too?
If you don’t think the hair of Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk will get attention, well, you just haven’t been to enough Media Days. (Troy Polamalu knows this well.)
Mathews and Hawk’s flowing locks really are no competition for Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel’s beard though. That thing is the seventh wonder of the world, and it would be hard to devote too much attention to it. Two weeks of hype for Keisel’s beard wouldn’t be enough.
JerryWorld is ready for its big close up. While the Cowboys didn’t come close to making it, Jones has to be thrilled that he doesn’t have to host an NFC East team.
We’ll hear a lot about the gigantic videoboard and the huge seating capacity, but we’ve already been over all this in Dallas. It’s a stadium. Let’s focus on the game shall we?
How Packers G.M. Ted Thompson put this team together. … A matchup of the two top scoring defenses in the league. … Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau: Can never get enough LeBeau. … Same goes for Mike Tomlin. … Two of the defining defensive backs of their eras face off: Polamalu vs. Woodson. … Mike McCarthy gets his due as a great playcaller.