Steelers boast decorated Super Bowl-experienced veterans
By Rob Reischel, Journal-Sentinel
~Green Bay — The Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster is dotted with Super Bowl heroes. From Ben Roethlisberger to James Harrison to Hines Ward, the Steelers have a “been there, done that” attitude about the world’s biggest sporting event.
In all, Pittsburgh has 14 current starters who have won a Super Bowl championship. The Steelers have 10 players with two rings and 25 players who have competed in a Super Bowl.
The Green Bay Packers haven’t been in a Super Bowl since 1997. The only Packers to play in a Super Bowl are cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive end Ryan Pickett, and both played on losing teams.
When these teams meet for the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 6, the Steelers will have an enormous advantage in experience. The Packers are going to try convincing themselves over the next eight days that component doesn’t matter.
“I look at it like the hungry dog hunts harder than the fat dog,” Packers tight end Donald Lee said. “And we have a lot of hungry dogs in this locker room that are willing to do whatever it takes to win that game. I’m sure they’re willing to do what it takes, too, but if I was a betting man, I’d bet my money on the hungry dog.”
This is the Steelers’ third Super Bowl appearance in six years. Pittsburgh defeated Seattle and Arizona in Super Bowls XL and XLIII, respectively, and many of its key players from those teams remain.
Ward was the MVP of Super Bowl XL after catching five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Harrison had one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII. And Roethlisberger was the winning quarterback in each of those games.
Others like Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, mammoth nose tackle Casey Hampton, steady tight end Heath Miller and splendid linebackers LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior and Larry Foote have all played a role in Pittsburgh’s recent dominance. Even 38-year-old head coach Mike Tomlin, now in his fourth year, has a Super Bowl win on his résumé.
Pittsburgh’s roster is packed with players who have enjoyed great success on Super Sunday.
“It’s meaningful,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy admitted. “But we’re aware of it and understand that we haven’t been there before, and that’s something we’ll talk about and make sure expectations and responsibilities (are) clear for everybody.”
Packers running back John Kuhn was on the Steelers’ practice squad in 2006 and got a ring after Pittsburgh beat Seattle that year. Kuhn never played in that game, though.
Pickett was a rookie with St. Louis in 2001 when the Rams lost to New England in Super Bowl XXXVI. And Woodson was part of Oakland’s 2002 team that was routed by Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Beyond that, Green Bay’s roster is devoid of Super Bowl experience.
“I believe if we stay calm and stay cool and understand what’s going on, everything will work out,” Packers running back Brandon Jackson said. “We’ve been on the big stage before, not as big as this, but as far as playoffs and everything like that, we’ve been on that type of stage. We’re going to handle our business, stay calm and cool and everything will work out.”
On Friday, several Packers said they believed Pittsburgh’s experience might be more beneficial during the week leading up to the game than the actual game. Super Bowl week is packed with potential distractions, and that experience will be new to most of Green Bay’s players.
“I think the only advantage they have on us is getting through the week and dealing with the distractions,” Kuhn said. “They will have experienced that before and they know how to play that game. We are well aware of that and we know the advantage they might have in the distraction game.
“But when we get into the game, then it’s just the Super Bowl. Then it’s just a football game. We’ve all experienced plenty of football games, but it’s the event around the Super Bowl that nobody has experienced.”
Last season, a New Orleans team making its first trip to the Super Bowl upset a veteran Indianapolis team. In Super Bowl XLII, a New York Giants team with little Super Bowl experience stunned New England, which had won three Super Bowls earlier in the decade.
The inexperienced Packers believe they’ve earned their stripes with three straight postseason road wins. Now, a veteran Pittsburgh team stands in Green Bay’s way of greatness.
“When it comes down to it, it’s still about playing the game,” Packers rookie tight end Tom Crabtree said. “It’s not about what you’ve done in the past, or if we’ve been to Super Bowls before. When it comes down to it, it’s the same game we’ve played all year.”
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