IRVING, Texas — The Pittsburgh Steelers entered this week as slight underdogs in Super Bowl XLV against the Green Bay Packers, and Las Vegas” “jab” has the black-and-gold mini-dynasty barking that they love being overlooked and playing against so-called favorites.
Of course, it”s the Steelers who have the two Super Bowls in the past half-decade and the Packers who have none. But though Green Bay is taking that into consideration loudly, its players have expressed that Super Bowl rings won in the past might not be the deciding factor when it comes to determining who gets the next one. The Packers think it might come down to a case of the hungriest dog fighting hardest to get its fill.
“The character of the men that we have is incredible — a lot of resolve in this locker room,” Chico”s Aaron Rodgers said. “The best thing about this team is that when the injuries hit and the adversity hit we bounced back.”
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Rodgers said it. The rest of the Packers staff has shown it over the course of the season.
Cornerback Charles Woodson, a year removed from being the NFL”s Defensive Player of the Year, cites the pain of making it to the big game with Oakland and not winning it. This is a redemption trip for him.
Fullback John Kuhn, a small-school pile-driver with a resume that includes a cut from the Steelers, has taken on a cult-hero role but his work is clearly not finished. He has a Super Bowl ring from his role as a practice-squad player during Pittsburgh”s last championship in 2009, but hasn”t shown it to his Packer teammates for motivation. He still has plenty himself.
“It is pretty funny and fitting even, that I would get the opportunity to play against them in the Super Bowl, and I am very happy for that,” Kuhn said. “But it would not have mattered. It could have been any team in the AFC and we”d have the same focus and determination that we do in this game.”
Running back James Starks was an injury liability all season long, beginning the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list, and has started to make an impact late in the year. Still, the running back has much to prove from a talent standpoint on Sunday — the Packers” running game has been hit-or-miss all season, and Pittsburgh is notorious for being tough against opposing rushers.
It doesn”t even begin to taper off there. Receiver Donald Driver, a veteran of the league, knows this chance could be his last. He is preaching that to his younger teammates.
“Just don”t let this one slip away. It is hard getting here and that is what we stress to these guys all season long,” Driver said. “When you get to this point in your career, you just want to win it all. This separates you from all other great guys that play this game, by winning that championship.”
Linebacker Frank Zombo is a practice-squad-grunt-turned-starter. Cornerback Sam Shields is a converted receiver who has been part of the playoffs” best secondary. Howard Green, Diyral Briggs, Matt Wilhelm, Erik Walden and Charlie Peprah were all roster cuts before joining Green Bay”s Arlington-bound cause.
Rodgers loves that about this team. And yes, even he has his own ax to grind.
“We all have stuff that drives us. There”s some things that just should drive a man,” he said. “For me, it”s an intense desire to be a better player. It”s why I wake up in the morning, to be better every season, every day.”
The Packers believe in the sanctity of Green Bay”s “Titletown” nickname. Head coach Mike McCarthy made it clear that it”s what is at stake on Sunday.
“The history of tradition with the Green Bay Packers is a tremendous asset for us as a football team and for us as an organization. It”s something that”s embraced on a daily basis,” McCarthy said. “We understand where we are. It”s the standard of the Green Bay Packers — it”s about winning Super Bowl trophies, and it”s time for the Lombardi Trophy to go back home.”