— In the 1990s, it seemed inevitable that the Steelers and the Packers would meet in the Super Bowl. But they never did.
They will now, and before the two weeks of hype can begin we need to begin the process of putting to rest the games that got them there.
How about a 10-pack?
When the Team of the ’60s meets the Team of the ’70s on the new home field of the Team of the ’90s, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will be feeling a little giddy — and a little queasy.
On one hand, the involvement in the Super Bowl of two teams with enormous national followings guarantees that Cowboys Stadium will host enough people to break the single-game attendance record, especially when considering the folks who’ll pay $200 each for the privilege of watching the game on an oversized television. (Who said the drive-in movie industry was dead?)
On the other hand, Jones will have to watch two of his team’s top non-division rivals duke it out on his pride-and-joy playing surface for the right to run around the place with the Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys and the Steelers have met three times in the Super Bowl; the Cowboys and the Packers have squared off six times in the postseason, from the Ice Bowl to the ’95 NFC title game, which if Green Bay had won would have allowed the Packers and Steelers to reprise a 24-19 thriller from the final week of the regular season.
The battle of two historic and proud NFL franchises presents a great Super Bowl for the league.
But it comes with a catch for the league office. Lost is a brash, up-and-coming team from the New York market that could have driven the hype for this one even higher.
More importantly, and as a reader already has pointed out, the presence of the Steelers in the Super Bowl gives team chairman Dan Rooney a national platform for further discussion about the ongoing labor dispute.
Rooney’s candid comments regarding the process were greeted by fans as a breath of fresh air. The rest of the league could be thinking that they’ve inhaled a jar of farts after getting a whiff of what Rooney may be saying over the following fortnight.
When Bill Cowher became head coach of the Steelers in 1992, he hired Dom Capers to install the zone-blitzing, 3-4 scheme that became a staple of the Pittsburgh defense for more than a generation.
After three seasons in Pittsburgh, Capers became the first head coach of the Panthers. He later became the first head coach of the Texans. Now, in his second season as coordinator of the Packers’ 3-4 scheme, Capers goes to his first-ever Super Bowl, against the Steelers.
He’ll square off against Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who was hired along with Capers in 1992.
In the end, Super Bowl XLV likely will be decided by which of these two men can do a better job of devising a game plan and shutting down the other team’s offense.
Six years ago, the Patriots knocked off the 15-1 Steelers in the AFC title game, en route to New England’s third Super Bowl in four years. It was the second time in four seasons that the Pats came to Pittsburgh and stole a ticket to the biggest stage in sports.
Since that game, the Steelers are 9-1 in the postseason.
It’s an amazing feat. Sure, they missed the playoffs twice since 2005. But when they qualify for the playoffs, the Steelers make it count.
Pittsburgh will now play in their third Super Bowl in six years, and the Steelers have a chance to convert Sixburgh to something catchy with “seven” worked into the title.
Or maybe they should just call the place “Seven.”
Speaking of seven, the guy who wears that number in Pittsburgh has had an interesting year.
Love him or hate him (and there currently are still a lot more people in the latter group than the former), Ben Roethlisberger already has a solid claim for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. Indeed, there’s only one retired quarterback with two Super Bowl wins who has yet to make it to Canton: Jim Plunkett.
Roethlisberger could cement his immortality with a third Super Bowl win, even though he didn’t do much to secure the first one — and even though he didn’t have a huge game on Sunday to qualify for a third ring.
Still, big wins mean more than any stats, and a third win in the Super Bowl will be enough to earn a bronze bust for Big Ben.
The stat that came from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News was stunning. With a win on Sunday at Heinz Field, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez would have set the all-time record for playoff road wins.
Not just for a guy with two years or fewer in the league. For anyone.
As it stands, Sanchez remains tied with Joe Flacco, Roger Staubach, Len Dawson, and Jake Delhomme. But with Aaron Rodgers picking up his third — and with Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, and Eli Manning already having three each — it won’t be long until someone has five.
Regardless of whether Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was or wasn’t too injured to return to Sunday’s game, the disappointing and deflating loss by the Bears and the controversy regarding the perception by some that Cutler didn’t do everything he could to try to pull out the win will cast a dark cloud over the franchise for the 2011 offseason.
The best way to move forward would be to send a clear message that the Bears will move forward with Cutler by keeping coach Lovie Smith over the long haul.
Though Smith is in no danger of being fired, he’ll be a lame duck in 2011, absent a new contract. Though a blowout loss to the Packers in the NFC title game may have justified requiring Smith to finish up his contract, the smart move after the seven-point loss would be to make it clear that Smith is the long-term coach — and that Cutler is the long-term quarterback.
We offer up this observation in part because it’s hard to come up with 10 separate takes out of only two games. That said, with the advent of new designs for the Halas (NFC) and Hunt (AFC) trophies, we think the NFL has fixed something that wasn’t broken.
The prior designs were part of NFL history, familiar shapes and sizes that we saw every January. Though not as iconic as the Lombardi Trophy, they shouldn’t be.
But, apparently, someone at 280 Park Avenue didn’t like the old designs. And so someone kept pushing and pushing and pushing for change until enough other people agreed.
Hopefully, someone will start pushing for the old designs to return. Now.
We don’t agree with Jets coach Rex Ryan about many things, but we’ll agree with him on one.
Sooner rather than later, the Jets will win the Super Bowl.
Until then, they’ll continue to enhance the experience of following football. Love them or hate them (and there currently are still a lot more people in the latter group than the former), the Jets make an already interesting game even more intriguing. And for that reason alone, football fans should like what the Jets bring to the table.
Beyond the bravado, Ryan has shown that he’s a good coach, and that he’s deceptively smart. Also, G.M. Mike Tannenbaum has proven that he’s willing to take big risks — and that they tend to pay off.
They’ll eventually pay off with a Lombardi Trophy, two weeks after winning the ugly new Lamar Hunt model.
Tony Kornheiser supposedly said last week that former Steelers coach Bill Cowher desperately doesn’t want to be the guy who’s remembered as the coach who bridged the gap between the Chuck Noll and Mike Tomlin eras.
That same thinking could apply to Brett Favre. With the Lombardi/Bart Starr Packers setting the tone for the franchise in the 1960s, Favre’s 16 seasons with the team and one Super Bowl win could end up being remembered as a stopover en route to the Aaron Rodgers dynasty.
Much remains to be written, both in Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and elsewhere. But Cowher is close to becoming an afterthought in Pittsburgh, and Favre could be heading for that same fate in Green Bay.